Thursday, March 1, 2012

A World Ends Amid Layoffs and a Departure

Before I write about yesterday's big story, I want to go back to the subject with which I started the week: Sony Online Entertainment.  Monday's post wondered about whether EverQuest 2 is a AAA game and SOE a major game studio anymore.  The story of decline continued yesterday as SOE announced that it was shutting down four games, including a member of the EverQuest franchise, EverQuest Online Adventures.  The adventure will end for EverQuest's console players on 29 March.

The big story of the day was Blizzard's announcement of a 600 employee layoff.  According to the press release, 90% of layoffs will occur outside of development teams and none of the developers working on World of Warcraft will be affected.

“Constant evaluation of teams and processes is necessary for the long-term health of any business. Over the last several years, we've grown our organization tremendously and made large investments in our infrastructure in order to better serve our global community. However, as Blizzard and the industry have evolved we've also had to make some difficult decisions in order to address the changing needs of our company,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “Knowing that, it still does not make letting go of some of our team members any easier. We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the people impacted by today’s announcement, we’re proud of the contributions they made here at Blizzard, and we wish them well as they move forward.”
A piece in the Wall Street Journal implies that the job cuts are partly the result of the emergence of Star Wars: The Old Republic, although the author was careful to say the effects would not be clear for many months.  I disagree with that analysis.  Blizzard has seen a drop of 2 million players since October 2010 and eventually the support staff (GMs, forum moderators, etc) was going to be cut as workload decreased.  I also wonder which developers were laid off as the press release stated that Blizzard was looking for qualified developers and even included a link to the Blizzard jobs page.

Given the heavy emphasis I put on Eve Online, I'll conclude with some personnel news from CCP.  Yesterday was the last day for CCP's North American President Mike Tinney.  Tinney had been with White Wolf Games for 14 years, eventually becoming the company's CEO before CCP acquired White Wolf in 2006.  Given that in the wake of last year's layoffs CCP started moving staff from the U.S. to Iceland in addition to the large number of layoffs in Georgia, this move could signal a further delay in the launch of a World of Darkness MMO, assuming that the game is not vaporware at this point in time.

Fun posts hopefully will resume tomorrow.

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