SOE president John Smedley: “People that don’t play games have no business in this business”

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As president of Sony Online Entertainment, John Smedley oversees Sony’s online game business. He’s been company president for a decade, overseeing development of the likes of Planetside, DCUniverse Online and Free Realms. He’s a senior executive at one of the biggest online gaming companies in the world. And he actually plays games – not just the ones he makes, but other people’s, too.

Speaking to us yesterday as part of our week-long focus on free-to-play, Smedley admits that his oft-expressed love of Eve Online has inspired several elements in Planetside 2, the epic MMO shooter that’s currently in beta. He’s looking forward to upcoming Eve-linked PS3 FPS Dust 514, admitting that he made the trip to CCP’s annual Eve Fanfest in Reykjavik. He’s that hardcore?

“Yeah, yeah, I really am,” he tells us. “I really play. I’m in a Null-sec corp, the whole bit. The games I’m playing right now are Planetside 2, Dota 2 and Eve. Eve used to be the forefront game, but now it’s the background game because I don’t have a choice, I’m having too much fun in Planetside 2. And Dota 2 I’m playing a lot with my kids right now.”

Few people of Smedley’s seniority in the industry are quite so comfortable talking about games, and the people that play them. Players are consumers, or users; games are products or services. Smedley – who in further contrast to his peers is candid and outspoken throughout our interview – believes people like that have no place in the game industry.

“In my opinion, people that don’t play games have no business in this business,” he says. “It should be the gamers-only club, I think. I can’t stand people that don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to playing these things.”

As we’ll explain in detail when our full interview with Smedley is published later this week, his level of awareness and engagement has enabled SOE to see change coming, and adapt accordingly, quicker than many of its peers. After the success of DC Universe Online’s switch to free-to-play, Smedley is spearheading a company-wide shift to F2P, helping position PlayStation as the only console to take it seriously.

Microsoft is only now opening up its console to free-to-play games, and Nintendo continues to show no interest in them – even if, as we pointed out yesterday, free-to-play could be just what Nintendo needs. Look out for more from John Smedley, and Planetside 2, later this week.