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Matt Higby Speaks Out on Smed Stepping Down as CEO

Posted Jul 23, 2015 by Suzie Ford

Matt Higby Speaks Out on Smed Stepping Down as CEO

Matt Higby, formerly with SOE and Daybreak Game Company, has penned his thoughts about John Smedley stepping down as president and CEO of DBC. It's an interesting, inside look at the man and his profound effect on those he has worked with. We present it here in its entirety without comment.

It's tough to overstate how gigantic of an influence Smed has had on my life and the lives of many of my friends, both through the games he helped create, the company he built, the mentorship he shared and the opportunities he opened up. Although we argued about a ton of things over the years, one of the best things about him as a leader is I never felt like I wasn't allowed to make my case - I even won a couple of those arguments from time to time. He taught me a ton and always treated me super well - I owe him a great deal.

John ran SOE like a family, he knew just about everybody and did everything he could to take care of people over profits, promote from within, and make the workplace fun and rewarding for everyone. Loads of people there are 5,10,15 year vets - that's not normal in games. I think his loyalty to the people he worked with is something generally omitted from his public persona which is really a shame since it feels so central to his identity to me.

Something else a lot of people don't really get is that he was also extremely hands on - with everything - at all levels. I remember watching him do tech support for a network routing issue at a place we were doing a market research study for FreeRealms - 5 other engineers in the room and John was the first one rolling up his sleeves to diagnose the DMZ problems. He would personally approve game design docs for sub-features, webpage layouts, advertising verbage, art style, promotions - the works. If it happened at SOE, Smed was involved; he knew everything about it, and if he didn't write the original plan he sure has hell made some changes to the original plan for it at some point. Definitely not a corner-office, bean counting CEO type - he wanted to get his hands dirty.

For us gamers, he's the kind of maverick, passionate, risk-taking leader you want running a company. He loves to push the envelope - for better or worse. One of the #1 things I always hear said about Smed is that he's a "bull in a china shop" - couldn't agree more. This can create a lot of havoc of course and makes reliable product development & management a bit of a challenge, but it's better than the alternative of insipid reliably-profitable clones that most industry CEOs are interested in cranking out of the cookie-cutters. The games landscape today would be way more bland without Smed - there can be no arguing this.

Smed will be back pushing a giant envelope full of something that will blow our minds over a mountain of freshly smashed china soon. For now, I am happy he's taking some time off to get some rest, I hope he takes plenty. I think he needs it, and I know he deserves it.

Participate in the discussion on Reddit, linked above.

Suzie Ford / Suzie is the Associate Editor and News Manager at Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom

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