The studio confirmed the layoffs Thursday. It didn’t say how many people were affected, but rumors are the “H1Z1” team was majorly impacted.
The lack of information is nothing new, a former employee who wishes to remain anonymous told Variety. Having survived a number of layoffs while at the company, they said Daybreak never officially notified employees when it was making cuts. “I would just look around and notice people were gone,” they said. “We had ten employees before. Now we only had three. We had to establish new guidelines about what we could and couldn’t do going forward. How are we going to handle this?”
“They’ve always been tight-lipped,” they said.
The layoffs come two months after “H1Z1” officially left Early Access on Steam and launched a new car mode in beta called Auto Royale. It also recently launched the first professional battle royale esports league. The inaugural season premiered on April 21.
“H1Z1” is a free-to-play battle royale game set during a zombie apocalypse. It first launched in January 2015 and reportedly sold over one million copies in two months. It’s one of the earliest examples of the standalone battle royale titles currently dominating the gaming industry thanks to the meteoric success of Epic Games’ “Fortnite” and PUBG Corp.’s “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.”
Daybreak said in a statement it’s realigning its workforce to “better position our company for the future.”
“Because of this, we have had to make an extremely difficult decision to part ways with some of our employees across various disciplines at the studio,” it said. “We are doing everything we can to take care of each affected individual by providing them appropriate transition assistance. Daybreak remains focused on publishing and developing large-scale online games and will continue to service our existing and long-standing games and franchises.”
Daybreak, formerly Sony Online Entertainment, is known for massively multiplayer online franchises like “Everquest,” “Planetside,” and “DC Universe Online.” Sony sold it to Columbus Nova in 2015. At the time, Jason Epstein, who was listed as a senior partner at Columbus Nova, said in a press release from the company that “We see tremendous opportunities for growth with the expansion of the company’s game portfolio through multiplatform 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.”
Prior to 2018, multiple sources, including a bio for the former CEO of Columbus Nova, listed Columbus Nova as the “U.S.-based affiliate of the Renova Group of companies,” but recently those sources have been disappearing from the internet, though not from archives of those pages. Renova, the official website of which listed Columbus Nova as one of its companies as recently as November 2017, is reportedly part of recent U.S. sanctions levied against Russia for its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The entire website for Renova was apparently taken offline on April 6, according to archives of saved versions of the site from Archive.Org.
“Daybreak Game Company has no affiliation with Columbus Nova,” Joy Fox, director of Global Communications for Daybreak Games, told Variety in a statement. “Jason Epstein purchased Daybreak (then SOE) from Sony in February 2015. Mr. Epstein was a senior partner at Columbus Nova at the time he acquired the company. He left Columbus Nova in 2017 and remains the primary shareholder of Daybreak.”