Massive cuts were felt around the industry recently, as multiple, high-profile developers had employees cut from projects or saw their entire studio closed.
Kotaku broke the first story, declaring that 40 members of Activision’s High Moon Studios had been laid off following the completion of their programming duties for the upcoming Deadpool video game. Activision released a statement to them reading:
"Activision Publishing consistently works to align its costs with its revenues – this is an ongoing process. With the completion of development on Deadpool, we are taking a reduction in staff at High Moon Studios to better align our development talent against our slate. Approximately, 40 full-time employees will be impacted globally. We are offering those employees who are impacted outplacement counseling services."
Meanwhile, major developer and publisher Square Enix has announced that it will be undergoing “corporate restructuring” in response to lower than expected sales of Tomb Raider, Hitman: Absolution, and Sleeping Dogs. Game Informer obtained a document indicating the unrealistic expectations the dev/publisher had for those three titles and the sales numbers to date. This corporate shifting has resulted in numerous layoffs in the Los Angeles Square Enix offices, and is expected to affect both the European and Japanese offices as well. While the exact amount of layoffs are unknown in Square Enix’s case, Joystiq has had several inside sources placing the number anywhere between 40 to 50 so far.
Finally, in what might be the most shocking news of the day, Disney announced that the acclaimed LucasArts would be closing its doors as a developer. In an official statement made to Game Informer, Disney stated:
"After evaluating our position in the games market, we've decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company's risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games. As a result of this change, we've had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles."
What does this mean for projects like the highly anticipated Star Wars 1313 that was seen at E3 last year? Given how much polish the game demonstrated at the press event, it is unlikely that the project is 100% dead, though Kotaku did publish a story that indicated the game had been put on hold indefinitely. It could still be outsourced to external development studios as per the new “licensing model” that Disney’s statement seems to indicate. This also means we will still be seeing Star Wars and Indiana Jones branded games, they will just not be made by LucasArts anymore.
While the move to close LucasArts came as a surprise to many, there were plenty of warning signs in retrospect. Many of the big Star Wars titles in recent years had either been cancelled a la Battlefront III, been disasters like Kinect Star Wars, or been average as in the case of The Force Unleashed II.
Our condolences go out to everyone displaced by these cuts and closures. We hope you guys find new employment soon.