If Everything's Fine At Daybreak, Why Doesn't Anyone Want To Talk On The Record?
“Victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.”
That quote is often attributed to John F. Kennedy, but there are references to it, or something similar, being said by Benito Mussolini's son-in-law during World War II and Roman senator/historian Tacitus. Regardless of its true source, the meaning is clear: Everyone wants to attach their names to good news, and nobody wants to take the blame for bad news.
There are exceptions, though, especially in an industry that usually prides itself on having highly placed individuals who are as passionate about the games as their players. I've been critical of Guild Wars 2's missteps over the past couple of years, but it's a mark of high character that ArenaNet President Mike O'Brien often has spoken personally to fans in the attempt to explain the company's position or smooth things over. Neverwinter Lead Designer Scott Shicoff did the same thing when he apologized to fans in 2015. Warframe Game Director Steve Sinclair said “Sorry for the mess” regarding and unpopular update in 2016. Four employees of Wargaming attached their names to the apology for one of their reps issuing DMCA threats against a YouTuber last year. All of these controversies had relatively short-lived news cycles. Chances are, you've all but forgotten about them by now.
In the week-plus since we first learned of the unusual circumstances regarding Daybreak Game Company's ownership, we've been in contact with personnel at the company. Magicman has had multiple phone conversations, spanning several hours, and many e-mails have been exchanged. We even have a story in our system, ready to publish. We haven't hit the button yet to make it go live, though, for two reasons. First, we're really unsure about some of the details, which, even after all that explanation, still seem sketchy to us (and we haven't ruled out the possibility that even our contacts at Daybreak might not be getting reliable info from their higher-ups). And second, we want someone – anyone – at Daybreak to attach their names to the information.
You've probably seen articles on other websites referring to a “source at Daybreak.” Those sources – or, more likely, the same source we've been talking to – offer up basically the same information that we've acquired. Daybreak also posted an explanation of the whole affair on its various forums, posted not by a named employee but by “Daybreak Games.”
"Even when there was bad news to announce, Daybreak was willing to put someone front and center to deliver it."
This stands in stark contrast to the original news of SOE's “acquisition” by Columbus Nova and its rebranding as Daybreak. John Smedley and Jason Epstein offered quotes. While signed by “The Team at Daybreak,” posts on forums were made by individuals' accounts. Shortly after the sale, Smedley and the now-departed Laura Naviaux gave a roundtable interview with the press. Everyone was up-front about the news and nobody was hiding behind a title or company name. Even the disastrous news of EverQuest Next's scuttling was delivered by then-President Russell Shanks, showing that even when there was bad news to announce, Daybreak was willing to put someone front and center to deliver it (though I still think it should have been handled differently).
Even a deception or misstatement on this level – regarding a company's ownership – isn't unprecedented. Motiga CEO Chris Chung announced in May 2016 that Perfect World Entertainment would be the publisher of Gigantic. When the studio announced its closure in November 2017, Chung admitted that wasn't the truth, that Motiga was wholly acquired by PWE and that it was PWE's decision to announce it as a “partnership by the directions from corporate for the reason we were not privy to.” He later tried to walk back (unspecified) parts of his statement, saying they were made “at a vulnerable moment” – which sounds to me like he told the truth and then was told by PWE to walk it back a bit.
This, however, is a different matter. Absolutely nobody wants to attach their names to the news regarding Daybreak's dubious ownership charade. As we said on the F2P Cast, either Daybreak was lying three years ago (when it said Columbus Nova owned the company) or is lying now (when it says it's owned by Jason Epstein). It's not a “misunderstanding” or “error,” as Daybreak wants to claim; it's an outright falsehood, one way or another. Nobody wants to be branded a liar, and, given the whole Russian sanctions fiasco, nobody wants to be potentially legally liable for what comes from all that. At least Chris Chung didn't have that to worry about.
"Absolutely nobody wants to attach their names to the news regarding Daybreak's dubious ownership charade."
Chung also didn't have to worry about his company's future; his part in it was over, and while he thought Gigantic would continue on, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that that wouldn't the case. Daybreak, however, still wants you to believe it's as active as ever, despite H1Z1's tumble, Just Survive's murky future following layoffs, and everything that happened with EverQuest Next and Landmark. That's why the company is pulling out all the stops to distance itself from its potential annihilation from being connected with Renova, Columbus Nova, and Viktor Vekselberg (all claims one Daybreak source tells us aren't true, going so far as to say that Renova doesn't own Columbus Nova, despite years' worth of articles and even company websites showing otherwise). Any PR hit is acceptable, as long as it means the company can continue to limp along.
Or maybe we're overestimating the potential damage to Daybreak and the company won't shut down in six months or less, as our Zach Sharpes predicted on the F2P Cast. H1Z1, the only one of its titles solely available via Steam, seems no worse off than you'd expect over the past week. It's down a little bit, but it's been doing that ever since the F2P announcement.
So if that's the case, Daybreak, if everything's fine and nobody's in any kind of legal trouble, put a name to the news. Stand behind your products and your company, as you, and many others, have done in the past, even when there was bad news to deliver.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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