Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Turbine starts the downsize

Announced today, another MMO developer takes a cut.

Turbine announced layoffs in the QA and Accounting areas of their offices. This is almost along the lines of the Funcom layoffs.

I am assured that most could see this as an issue with the recession, and this could be possible. Yet, with the recent launch of the expansion pack, sales should have been brisk, especially so late in the year.
Add to this a steady player base, it is unclear why they felt the need to do this before Christmas even.

As noted by the Turbine rep.

"As part of this transition some of our talented colleagues will not be with us going forward."

But, as another commenter noted...

"is it not counter-productive to sack your talented colleagues in order to achieve your strategic goals?"

Again, this takes me back to the SOE argument. Turbine, don't you have a dead weight MMO sitting around to shut down instead, and put your 100% focus into the one which IS doing ok?

This begs the question of what happened with the recent influx of cash Turbine received. Where did this money go? What exactly is a private company doing? The worst part is their privacy, as no one really knows what is going on behind closed doors. This can lead to frustration on a perspective customers part if they believe (based on what type of impression this layoff gives) the company may not be around for long.

We know why Funcom did their layoffs. AoC really messed them up. Yet, they only laid off their American brethren, while the European offices are doing fine.

This is quite odd at this point, and I question their motives, and of course we must ask the question "Are the games really not doing that well"? It has been noted over and over that Turbine is profitable. If so, why these layoffs?

This is really sad for the genre as a whole, and hopefully the economy starts a turn around. Otherwise, the only MMO choice will end up being WoW.


Hudson said...

Honestly I dont think Moria did that well. As for DDO, you may take some heat on that one but I agree, if something had to go why not that game.

Openedge1 said...

Why heat for DDO. Do you honestly think THAT game is doing well?

I think not.

Trends show populations like Tabula Rasa, and that is what makes me shocked it still lives.

Turbine is a glutton for punishment, as they tried to keep AC2 afloat...

But, overall, LOTRO is their biggest hit, and unless they focus there, they might as well, continue laying off..

Unwise said...

Blizzard sacked 300 people in September. Guess we should expect them to go under any day now ;)

Seriously guys, I'll start to worry when Turbine start sacking developers.

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Openedge1 said...

Your kidding right?

Did you read the news story on Blizzard?

As quoted

"The recently merged Blizzard Activision, which is the parent company of Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine, is laying off nearly 300 employees starting this month, according to the California Employment Development Department.

Blizzard Entertainment, developer of one of the biggest online PC games called World of Warcraft, was not affected by the job cuts, said Shon Damron, a Blizzard spokesman."

Oops...story here

Also, it has been discussed that issues have been existent since MoM released, and letting QA go is just going to be a slippery slope.
No, this is a bigger issue than is being let on.

Openedge1 said...

(PS: Free MMO Gamer, added you to my bloglist...if you wish, please add me as well...thanks)

Tesh said...

Yikes, they booted QA guys? I can see some of that, since they are usually transitory and not required for the full period of a given project, but if they are shortchanging the QA process, that's big trouble.

I've written before that the QA testers are the unsung heroes of game production. In an era where unpolished games get (rightfully) lambasted by the players, those QA professionals are a gold mine.

If anything, they should cut the art staff. (Yes, I'm an artist in the game industry, yes, it pains me to say that, but still...) Chasing the bleeding edge of graphics for games isn't the way to run a smart business based on MMOs.

Tesh said...

Oh, and they should trim middle management. If my experience with EA is any indication, there are typically at least twice as many layers of "managers" as there really need to be. Not only is that expensive, but they can often stall or derail projects. The Dilbert principle is alive and well.

Unwise said...

Trust me, you are making a mountain out of a molehill. LotRO is doing great, and Turbine won't be going anywhere anytime soon. They are still actively recruiting developers!

These layoffs are more than likely just the trimming of a bit of excess fat. I'd be surprised if these layoffs have any noticeable impact on either game quality or Turbine's future developmental plans.

Anonymous said...

Unless the people affected knew already that their contracts would end around this time far in advance I think it was a bit shitty to fire people just before Xmas.

Openedge1 said...

I am unsure of where your data is on the health of LOTRO, but if you could share that, I would appreciate it.
The problem stems from them being a private company. No information is forthcoming on scrips or overall company health. No need thanks to privacy.
My favorite is of course everyone who says "I see tons of people playing", and this is subjective at best.
All I know is that it is not just Turbine hurting right now. MMO's as a whole are suffering.
Until I see that Turbine is healthy, I take any persons word as fanboyism at best...especially for LOTRO.

Unwise said...

Maybe fanboyism, and mostly subjective, yes, but there are undoubtedly more people playing LotRO now than there were 12 months ago or 6 months ago. I'm pretty sure every player would tell you the same thing.

I think one thing I've learnt about Turbine over the last couple of years hanging around on their forums and listening to the various devs post, is that they don't develop beyond their means. DDO gets exactly as much new content as the player base can support, as does LotRO.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Moria content had already been paid for before it even hit the shelves. And if Turbine can survive AC2 and DDO numbers, I'd be very surprised if they're now suddenly struggling with the much higher amount of revenue that LotRO is generating.

Of course, the current economic crisis is putting a squeeze on many companies, but if Turbine were really in trouble they'd be sacking alot more than a few QA and accountants.

As you said, Turbine don't release the numbers so both of our judgements are ultimately subjective. However, as a long term LotRO player and a close follower of Turbine, I'd be willing to put a sizeable amount of money on LotRO still being a very popular MMO for at least another couple of years.