Daybreak Games CEO John Smedley is retiring from the top job at the studio he helped establish.
Smedley co-founded Everquest, DC Universe Online, Planetside 2 and H1Z1 developer Sony Online Entertainment, which was renamed Daybreak Game Company after parting ways with Sony.
Despite his prominent role in the developer’s growth and his regular gig as its public face, Smedley is stepping down as president and CEO.
Daybreak told VentureBeat that chief operating officer Russell Shanks will take over as president, taking over all of Smedley’s duties and overseeing the company in collaboration with a committee.
Smedley will remain at Daybreak in a different role, details of which have not been locked down.
“John Smedley will be taking some time off from the company for the near-term and transitioning to a different role to be determined,” a Daybreak representative said in a statement. “Upon finalization of his plans, further communication will be provided.”
It’s hard not to speculate on a possible connection between Smedley’s surprising exit and his recent online vitriol against Julius Kivimaki, a Finnish Lizard Squad member who received a commuted two-year sentence in the face of some 50,000 convictions.
SoE was hit hard by Lizard Squad’s DDoS activities, but Smedley was also personally affected by Lizard Squad’s activities when his plane was grounded by a bomb threat. He was also allegedly the target of various other forms of harassment, some of them quite serious. Smedley threatened to personally sue, saying he was “coming for” Kivimaki. Lizard Squad responded with more attacks on Daybreak titles.
If the incident is related to Smedley’s sudden decision to take a holiday and a backseat, it’s something of an ignoble departure for the veteran developer. He was one of the key developers on seminal MMORPG EverQuest, and has been a major force behind Planetside 2, H1Z1 and EverQuest Next.
Smedley is well known for his outspokenness and willingness to engage with players personally via social media rather than keeping behind PR barriers, but he has not yet commented on this latest development.