Shot at Daybreak – First Casualties of the Acquisition

Today we learned that Linda “Brasse” Carlson has been let go as head of the community management team for the company formerly known as Sony Online Entertainment.

Brasse with beer and axe

Brasse with beer and axe

According to the post over at EQ2 Wire, she has been part of the community team at SOE for six years at this point, though it hardly seems like that much time could have passed.  It seems like only recently that her map of the Old Forest in Lord of the Rings Online, posted up on her site, was saving my ass from being completely lost.  But that must have been years ago at this point, as the game has had a built in map for that zone for a while now.

Anyway, her maps made their way into a number of official guides for Dark Age of Camelot, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and of course, EverQuest and EverQuest II, in addition to all those LOTRO maps that have helped me over the years. (I used her hedge maze map last time I was playing in Middle-earth.  Still worth its weight in pixels.)

So she has had an impact on the community, both before as well as during her tenure.

A community team, by its very nature, can become the public face of a company.  So a departure of a prominent member of the community team can alter the relationship people have with a company.  I remember no small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth (and a bit of cheering) when Greg Street, Ghostcrawler, announced he was leaving Blizzard.  That changed the community dynamic.  The same could be said for the departure of Rick “Sapience” Heaton from the LOTRO team.  Whether the change was good or bad is subjective, but things changed.

Things were different when Alan “Brenlo” Crosby was running the community team for SOE, things will be different when the next person steps up to run it under the Daybreak banner.  How different and how it will affect people… well, we shall see.

The real surprise here is how soon this move came.  I know there had been some doom and gloom regarding the whole acquisition, from myself included.   Bad news was expected by many.  But Daybreak Gaming Company doesn’t even have a new logo yet (though they were quick to pull down the old one), but already they are letting people go from jobs that I think are unlikely to be considered redundant.  Then again, they don’t need anybody running the SOE Live event this year, since that has been cancelled.  Maybe Smed, who has been out in the front lines engaging with the community… at least on Reddit, the new official SOE community home… will be the sole face of the company for now.  We will see how secure his job is.

Anyway, I hope Brasse will find another job waiting for her.

Somebody out there must need a proper dwarf.

Addendum:  It wasn’t just Brasse.  I wrote a post about her just in time for more bad news to seep out.  Dave Georgeson is out as well and there are reports of more people being given their pink slip today.  Good luck to all those affected.

Follow up: MMORPG.com has a list of those laid off posted.

16 thoughts on “Shot at Daybreak – First Casualties of the Acquisition

  1. SynCaine

    I remember that LotRO map very well, and wasn’t Brasse on a Virgin Worlds podcast at one point? My guess is someone will pick her up quickly, never heard a bad thing related to her (which is amazing because SOE).

    As for the rest of the bad news, Smed being Smed.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Yes, Brasse did well at what can be a crap job… even your biggest fans give you shit… and doubly so because she had Smed out talking things up at times that were not always the party line. I cannot recall if she was ever on VirginWorlds, but that era is a blur at this point. Seems like yesterday and forever ago.

    I wrote a post years ago about how many more expansions I thought EverQuest would get. We might be getting the answer for that in 2015.

    The problem with that EFF thing is that something like EverQuest is an enterprise application that no doubt integrates with 3rd party middleware that they can’t just open source or given people have.

    Also, I see that the H1Z1 Twitter account is retweeting “Player Wipe 1” tweets even as this is going on. I realize that the show must go on, but when you’re suffering a partial dev wipe, that might not seem in the best of taste. Maybe HR just didn’t get to them yet.

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  3. Isey

    Profits before people, the corporate dream!

    Still, strategically, you would think they would build a bit of goodwill with the fans of their games before this display of “look investors, we are turning the profitability ship already!” display.

    They are probably hiring now.

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  4. bhagpuss

    This is changing as we comment. Feldon is posting the casualties as they come in. Lyndro, Endymion, Gnobrin, Amnerys, Ashlanne all gone. All from EQ2, too.

    Not sure if Feldon is filtering just the EQ2 names or whether the axeman is going round the offices title by title. Given the strong statements so far about none of the games closing you do have to wonder what the plan is here. Are they going to re-hire and re-imagine the franchises? Put them on maintenance mode with no further development? Sell them off? Close them down?

    Can’t figure it out. If they want to make the business profitable, either to run or sell on, they have to have some product.

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  5. saucelah

    Could be a push to change the “corporate culture” — which can be a good or bad thing. If you chop the heads of departments, often the middle gets a good shakeup too as they’re expected to be like the old guard and not the new bosses.

    Or it could be a bad thing.

    Am I the only one who has worked for a company that was doing fair to middling, got sold despite not being the parent company’s worst asset, saw all of top management and some of the middle let go, and yet the company went on to be fine and thrive? I’ve watched this go down twice. Both companies still exist, though one has been sold a few more times.

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  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – One possible outcome is to trim the place down to enviable profitability, let it roll forward on sheer momentum, then sell it to somebody rich and dumb… like EA. Hrmm… is there anybody else rich enough or dumb enough?

    @saucelah – I worked for a company that managed that sort of thing through three acquisitions. The fourth was too much though. They laid us all off. But the product itself was strong and is still bringing in maintenance revenue that embarrasses some of the active products.

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  7. bhagpuss

    “Am I the only one who has worked for a company that was doing fair to middling, got sold despite not being the parent company’s worst asset, saw all of top management and some of the middle let go, and yet the company went on to be fine and thrive?”

    I’m working at one now. The big difference, though, is that we were bought by a singe private owner (a Russian billionaire no less) not an “investment” outfit. There was a very big culture change but it took several years and the company is still running at a loss. However, we are still running, moving closer to profitability and even expanding.

    I’m just puzzled about what CN are looking to get out of all this. Presumably there are no significant physical assets like real estate to make money from so the money has to come from the IPs which are EQ, H1Z1 and Planetside. DCUO may well be the most profitable game in the portfolio but it’s a licensed IP so what can they do with it?

    If they aren’t going to run the games on and take the income from operating them or sell them to another company who will, what are the alternatives? I guess they might close the older games to reduce the current losses but are they confident H1Z1/PS2/EQN/LM make a profit? In the end they have to make money somewhere on this deal unless it’s some kind of elaborate tax loss.

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  8. saucelah

    Yeah, I asked myself those questions when the sale happened. If they don’t start repackaging and selling off the existing games, then I imagine Sony did a good job of selling those four you mention to CN as having a lot of future potential.

    Which doesn’t necessarily mean they ACTUALLY have a lot of potential.

    In logic terms, I guess I’ve seen these things as sufficient causes to wonder if there’s a problem but not necessary causes that indicate nothing but concern. Probably a case of self selecting sample bias, but I see a lot more doom & gloom than wait & see reactions.

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  9. zaphod6502

    Just as I had predicted (yes I am wearing a smug look right now). Anyone who thought this would not happen is naive in the extreme.

    Hey SynCaine let’s place bets on the first Daybreak game to be closed. I’ll start – Everquest.

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  10. A Kerran

    Amnerys and Ashlanne were not on the EQ2 team. They each used to be community managers for EQ2 at one point in time so their names are well known to the players, that’s probably why Feldon included them. Looks like CM and support were hit hardest (by numbers). Also looks like it’s a bad time to be a “Director”, “Senior” or “Lead” anything at Daybreak…

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  11. Rohan

    @bhagpuss, It could just mean that they think the company has potential but is being mismanaged. In that case, you pretty much have to get rid of the management. There’s a reasonable argument that SOE has not been living up to its potential for the last few years.

    The interesting thing is what will happen to Smed. If you believe in mismanagement, he has to go. But he might have partial ownership, depending on how things were structured. My bet is that he gets a promotion, but is removed from the day-to-day affairs of the company.

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  12. bhagpuss

    @Rohan Removing Smokejumper and even some of the senior devs does sound like taking out old management and its adherents so as to allow for a new direction. If they’d been bought by an entrepreneurial group or individual or another gaming company then I’d guess that was why it was happening. Given its an “investment” company, however, I suspect it’s mostly removing the higher paid, longer serving employees and stripping the “deadwood”.

    Smed is interesting. I was also imagining he would have some kind of stakeholder security but who knows? Also, who owns all the various IPs?

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