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Back in business: John Smedley leads San Diego division of Amazon Game Studios

Why it matters to you

Amazon Game Studios has yet to release its first title, but with John Smedley aboard, the publisher seems to be serious about carving its way into the industry in a big way.

Amazon announced its Amazon Game Studios venture will receive a San Diego branch. The branch, which joins existing AGS Orange County and Seattle, will be led by John Smedley, the creator of the Everquest franchise.

“John’s pioneering work helped define the modern MMO, and his influence can be felt in thousands of games that followed. He helped create the blueprint for fusing massive game worlds with vibrant player communities, a vision that we share at Amazon Game Studios,” the press release read.

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Smedley and his team are already working on their first project. Specifics have yet to be revealed, but the game will utilize the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud and Twitch to create an ambitious, social experience.

It’s hard to predict the game’s genre based on Smedley’s experience, other than that the project will be online multiplayer-oriented. During his tenure as president of Daybreak Game Company (formerly Sony Online Entertainment), Smedley helped develop a diverse array of online games, including the first-person shooter PlanetSide and the apocalyptic sandbox sim H1Z1: Just Survive. His lasting legacy, however, is Everquest, which paved the way for MMOs such as World of Warcraft.

Smedley stepped down from his leadership role at Daybreak in July 2015, shortly after enduring nearly a year of online harassment from the black hat hacking group Lizard Squad. Smedley’s main tormenter, Finnish hacker Julius Kivimäki, released all of Smedley’s personal information online, applied for credit cards in his name, and filed false tax returns on Smedley’s behalf. Lizard Squad even managed to force an emergency landing for a commercial flight Smedley was on by reporting a bomb threat. Kivimäki, 17 at the time, was convicted on more than 50,000 counts of computer crimes in July 2015, but only received a two-year suspended sentence, avoiding jail time.

Now, it appears Smedley is ready to move forward with his new position at Amazon Game Studios. At TwitchCon 2016, Amazon Game Studios announced its first three games: Breakaway, Crucible, and New World. None of these games, nor Smedley’s San Diego studio project, have release dates at this time.