Note: We’ve updated this piece heavily at the end with Daybreak’s statements and further links.
A chain of business connections could have a real and dire impact on Daybreak Games Company following the freezing of company assets by the U.S. government.
On April 6th, the U.S. Department of the Treasury targeted several Russian oligarchs and froze their assets due to “destabilizing activities” by these figures (including suspected interference in the 2016 U.S. election). One of the oligarchs so punished was Viktor Vekselberg, who owns the Renova Group conglomerate and its subsidiary, Columbus Nova. [Eds.: Daybreak began disputing this part as of April 27th; see updates below.]
Columbus Nova, you may recall, is the parent company of Daybreak Games. The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control has given Renova and other Russian companies until June 5th to “wind down operations, contracts, or other agreements” involving these figures.
Between $1.5 and $2 billion assets from Vekselberg have been frozen as the result of these sanctions. It is unclear if any of Columbus Nova’s assets are part of this. Renova isn’t commenting on the situation, but EverQuest II players and other Daybreak Games users are starting to legitimately worry about the future of their games as this information has come to life.
Worth pointing out is that the company announced H1Z1’s PS4 port this morning, which doesn’t seem like the actions of a studio about to go up in flames – but then tell that to the CCP team blindsided at last year’s EVE Vegas.
We reached out to Daybreak’s PR last night about the status of Daybreak, its titles, and the Standing Stone Games titles it publishes; we’ll keep you posted when we receive a response. [Updated below.]
Daybreak issued to Massively OP the following statement stating that it is not in fact owned by Columbus Nova, which should lift more than a few eyebrows:
“Daybreak Game Company has no affiliation with Columbus Nova. Jason Epstein, former member of Columbus Nova, is and has always been the primary owner and executive chairman of Daybreak Game Company (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) which he acquired from Sony in February 2015.”
Readers will recall that it was widely reported that investment firm Columbus Nova bought SOE from Sony in 2015. In fact, in the original announcement on February 2nd, 2015, John Smedley himself said exactly that: “Today, we are pleased to announce that we have been acquired by Columbus Nova, an investment management firm well known for its success with its existing portfolio of technology, media and entertainment focused companies.” That wasn’t just Smed talking it up; here’s the original press release, complete with quote from Epstein.Click to reveal 2015 press release from Daybreak
Best known for its community-first approach, and blockbuster hits and franchises including EverQuest®, PlanetSide®2, DC Universe™ Online, H1Z1™, Landmark™ and the highly-anticipated EverQuest Next™, SOE has developed compelling online entertainment for a variety of platforms since 1999.
With the completion of the transaction, SOE will now operate as an independent game development studio and will continue to focus on creating quality online games, providing excellent service to its extensive player base, while centering on its untapped potential as a multi-platform online gaming company. Along with the transaction, SOE will be rebranded and operate under the new name of Daybreak Game Company LLC (www.DaybreakGameCompany.com).
“Sony Online Entertainment, newly rebranded as Daybreak, is a great addition to our existing portfolio of technology, media and entertainment focused companies. We see tremendous opportunities for growth with the expansion of the company’s game portfolio through multi-platform offerings as well as an exciting portfolio of new quality games coming up, including the recently launched H1Z1 and the highly anticipated EverQuest Next to be released in the near future,” said Jason Epstein, Senior Partner of Columbus Nova. “The recent Early Access launch success of H1Z1 is just one testament to the talent and dedication of the studio’s developers to create great online gaming experiences.”
“We are excited to join Columbus Nova’s impressive roster of companies. They have a proven track record in similar and related industries and we are eager to move forward to see how we can push the boundaries of online gaming,” said John Smedley, President, Daybreak Game Company. “We will continue to focus on delivering exceptional games to players around the world, as well as bringing our portfolio to new platforms, fully embracing the multi-platform world in which we all live.”
The company has seen multiple Columbus Nova representatives cycle through leadership positions in the last three years. It is not clear when exactly Columbus Nova, Daybreak, and Jason Epstein severed ties. As MOP commenters have pointed out, Bloomberg still lists Epstein as a managing partner at Columbus Nova, though Epstein’s personal Linkedin claims he left at the end of 2017. We have reached out to Daybreak again for clarification. -Bree
Daybreak tells us that its original press statements about Columbus Nova acquiring Daybreak were an error on the part of the company and that it is correcting that error now.
“It was current executive chairman Jason Epstein, former senior managing partner of Columbus Nova that acquired Daybreak, not Columbus Nova itself. That distinction was never corrected in the past, so we are correcting that now,” a Daybreak spokesperson told us.
MOP commenters have pointed out that a Wikipedia account called Daybreakpr was blocked earlier this month – right around the time the sanctions were announced – for editing the Daybreak wikipedia entry to reiterate the claim that Epstein, not CN, has always owned the company. -Bree
Final update (4/27)
As Daybreak now claims Renova also doesn’t own Columbus Nova, we are amending our title once again. Additional updates – and there are many – can all be found in the posts below.
Get caught up on the whole Daybreak/Columbus Nova ordeal: