Layoffs Hit Maxis and Raven Software

Layoffs Hit Maxis and Raven Software

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Spore developer EA Maxis has been hit with a wave of layoffs, Electronic Arts confirmed today.

Bad news for the staff of Spore developer EA Maxis today, as Electronic Arts has confirmed that the studio has been hit with a series of layoffs, the most recent development in a by now regular trend in the games industry. There are no exact numbers for the layoffs, but Shacknews has it that this is a "sizable exodus."

"Often in the video game industry, the size of a studio fluctuates in response to business conditions," EA said in an official statement. ""In this case, EA has taken action to reduce the workforce at Maxis as we focus the business and focus Maxis."

This may have something to do with the Spore franchise itself, or just belt tightening all around at the EA operation. EA stated that it remains committed to Spore and other Maxis properties. The company most recently announced that Spore would be hitting Nintendo platforms this October in the form of Spore Hero and Spore Hero Arena on the Wii and DS.

Maxis wasn't the only company to receive some bad news today. Wolfenstein and X-Men Origins Wolverine developer Raven Software was hit with layoffs, possibly in amounts upwards to some 56 of its 180 staff members, Raven confirmed earlier today.

"With the recent completion of both Wolverine, based on the summer blockbuster movie, and Wolfenstein, the next chapter of the famed franchise, Raven Software is slightly reducing its workforce to better reflect the studio's upcoming slate," Raven said.

This comes after news a few days ago of layoffs at Endrant Studios, which produced the game's multiplayer portion.

While it doesn't seem to be the case for Maxis, it does seem that the practice of cutting down on staff numbers directly after a project's completion (when you no longer have need for people and are thus wasting precious resources) is becoming all too common nowadays. 2K Boston's Ken Levine spoke out on the issue in July.

"One of the reasons, I think, that you see a lot of layoffs in this industry is that you have these huge products, and you don't have a plan for what you do afterward," Levine explained. "So the product ends, and - you see this day after day, you know - teams get cut in half or shut down after the product ships, because there's no plan to move on for the future."

[Via Shacknews]

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Keane Ng:
EA stated that it remains committed to Spore and other Maxis properties...

Is this really happening? I mean so what if the economy is in a bad state... these are the same people who started the Sims franchise!! That series has a cult following!

You would think they would not be having money problems...

Either EA had too many creative workers at Maxis who didn't want to produce more and more pointless expansion packs for The Sims or the economy is just that bad.

bloody hell, so much for the 'recession-proof' industry... If this continues there won't be an industry left at all!

hansari:

Keane Ng:
EA stated that it remains committed to Spore and other Maxis properties...

Is this really happening? I mean so what if the economy is in a bad state... these are the same people who started the Sims franchise!! That series has a cult following!

You would think they would not be having money problems...

Well at this point The Sims is an EA operation, and not just a Maxis one. The Sims 3 was developed by EA Play (which I think is now Visceral Games?), and there's a whole Sims division at EA. I'm sure those guys are doing fine, though the company as a whole, like I said, has to work to keep things ship-shape in terms of finances.

Funny how it feels the more popular gaming becomes as an industry, the more layoffs are happening. In the late '80s to late '90s, layoffs weren't as common. Usually a company just didn't produce and either sold out to someone else or shut it's doors altogether. Now though, it feels like the industry is more or less abusing it's workforce. And it can't be because of recession. Ill-planning, risk-taking, quick-buck scheming, sure. But there's more gamers now than ever.

Err...must you put spore creators? It makes it hard to feel sorry for them.

SomeBritishDude:
Err...must you put spore creators? It makes it hard to feel sorry for them.

This.

Also Maxis stopped existing the moment EA consumed them. It's insulting to the history of Maxis and to the people that made Maxis something of worth to still call that group Maxis with the poor judgement of their new leadership looming overhead.

It sure as hell doesn't exist with Will Wright going batty and breaking away.

But back to the quote, any company that makes SPORE and can't figure out why its not getting rave reviews deserves layoffs.

I think what the games industry is finding is that as they grow more and more and become more akin and intertwined with the film industry, they start taking on many of the financial strategies as the film industry. They were once two entirely different beasts, but they have grown to depend on one another so much that to have two entirely different approaches to financial plans is suicidal.

A blockbuster film for example could employ thousands. From the grips to the camera ops to the loaders and drivers and craft and make-up and animators and so on and so forth. And when that movie's production is finished, they all have to find another project to sign on to. Lead Assistant Camera A doesn't head back to the studio office and keep getting paid by the hour. Some positions are held by a maintained staff, the key positions, but so much of it is dependent on the project it's easier to simply fill it when needed. Why would you have a staff of 50 editors when you may only need 10, knowing that if a time comes when you do need 50 editors you can easily pull the talent from the freelance pools or contract it to an outside studio.

When I was laid off from my TV station gig, it was because they didn't have enough programming to warrant having me. Now they've got another designer working what I used to, because programming has since picked up. They maybe saved 75 shifts worth of pay by not having me at the time, but they had to consider that they might not have had additional programming for some time. Just as these game studios have to assume that, especially in these rough times, a couple of bad games are enough to sink and studio and they need to be careful with their money. We've moved far beyond the days where a studio was a dozen guys and they each drove sports cars. As evil as these companies may be, it's just not financially viable to maintain a staff of literally hundreds after a project has been completed. The times are a changing, and games need to adapt to this or they'll continue suffering.

Honestly, I thought Raven Software closed down years ago. Until recently I bought a game released by them.

Well, consider that the economy is being used as an excuse more and more for corperate greed. Unlike the "old days" back in the 1950s and 1960s there is no real loyalty to the employees, employers are purely all about the profit to be made, and feel no obligation to support their employees and the families that depend on them.

It's not a matter of whether EA *COULD* keep these people on staff, and the companies of yesterday (including much more recently than I mention given that this is a skilled industry), it's a matter of the fact that by cutting them it's getting rid of X number of paychecks they have to issue that they would otherwise have to write and them keeping more money at the top. All of the downsizing and such doubtlessly being handled by some "Efficiency Expert" fairly high on the totem pole. Basically they figure if they cut these guys, if they need them again they will still need the paycheck and can pay them at that time. In between? Well there is unemployment, soup kitchens, and perhaps letting some dude pull one of your teeth out with a pair of pliers for a new "Bum Fights" inspired video.

Welcome to the corperate mentality everyone is talking about.

Also understand that the economic crisis is caused by a lot of differant factors. One of those factors is the way corperations are behaving, though it is nearly impossible to address directly for a free country. After all when you consider nearly 1/3rd of a 180 man design team is getting cut loose, and look at similar events, it's pretty obvious these guys probably aren't going to have money to be buying products.

Really it's a vicious cycle, and companies are basically downsizing while letting OTHER companies choose to absorb the loss of keeping "unnessicary" people on payroll to provide the consumers for their products. :P

This is not the entire problem, just one relatively small part of it (and this is coming from a militant right wing capitolist... a totally shattered, bitter, disabled one, but one who stands by his principles), but it's something to consider when looking at things like this.

-

Oh and Wanderfreak, it isn't just about the 75 shifts they saved by not keeping you around. They are also concerned about things like seniority and accrued benefits. See, when you were hired they doubtlessly promised you incremental raises, and probably other benefits. As you obtained more seniority and worked there longer you of course become more expensive to keep on the payroll. There is a point where an employee "peaks" and are not likely to become any more beneficial due to skill and experience and right around them is ideally when they want to get rid of that person and have another replacement coming up the pipe.

This was one of the dangers *I* faced when I was in Casino Security and before my problems brought me down, I was fairly good at ensuring that I was pretty useful so they wanted me. A lot of casino security guys with some intrresting backrounds and skill sets came and went in the time I worked there, and for a while they even reduced the manpower to the point where there were only like 15 "real" security officers on a shift, the rest were people brought in through "work exchange programs" through places like Brazil, Sweden, and Korea. The idea being that they agree to have the people come down to America and work for six months for a set fee, and then get shipped home. The money being peanuts here, but worth more in their country of origin. So we'd have a substantial part of the security staff that was even more of a dog and pony show than normal, who absolutly cared about nothing, and didn't accrue any seniority, benefits, or anything else. They would come in on rotations. Absolutly ridiculous when it was going on, and truely surprising given the amount of training they gave me which pointed out what a stupid mistake/security risk that was despite everything else (though I knew from the beginning they don't care what security is trained to do, it's all for the paperwork. They just want to ignore us and have someone to blame whens something goes wrong, understanding that was actually a big part of why I lasted until I basically broke).

But errr, the point of the rambling is that there is more to the entire point of firing certain kinds of employees than the immediate wages. See you can lure people in and seem respectable with lavish promises of medical benefits, retirement, and other things. However if nobody at the basic level jobs ever lasts until retirement, or stays on that medical coverage for a prolonged period, or other things, it really doesn't matter.

A good hint they are waiting to WTFpwn you after a period of time is if they offer you a flat raise (percentage or a specific amount) on a schedule. Today when they plan to keep an employee around for a prolonged period they offer an "incremental raise" which is supposed to be based on your job performance and such. Superficially sounding fair "so one person doesn't drag down the entire department" under some kind of involuted logic, or hinted that this way you'll make MORE money by doing your job well. In the end though it basically means that every evaluation period your likely to barely pass muster unless somehow you made some SERIOUS friends (above the supervisory/management level in your own department) so they can give you as a little as possible. You basically "pass" by getting to stay and making that tiny pittence more. If you get promised say 4% annually straight up, that means there is an axe with your name on it being readied the moment you start. Within 2-4 years if your not gone chances are they will make you gone any way they can.

... and yes, it is a conspiricy. I used to be the jerk with the video cameras who would watch people taking too many smoke breaks, or whatever, record it, and pass it down. Working back of the house with such equipment I was specifically told to be ready for when someone messed up, or coordinated with supervisors who would offer an extra unscheduled break, so I could record someone, and they would deny it later. Funfunfun.

The point here is that as an employee your a drain on their bottom line. They want the minimum needed to get the job done, and they want to ensure those people doing the job are as cheap as possible. Even skilled labour is not as protected as it used to be, since in a nation where pretty much everyone goes to college (a college degree doesn't open doors like it used ot, it's more of a prerequisite to make sure they aren't automatically closed) pretty much everyone is skilled at something.

Why would they keep employees no longer needed? That's a great way to lose money, and then have the whole company tank, which means even more people would be in a shitty way.

It sucks, but to label a company as "evil" because it doesn't pay people that don't have work any longer is utterly ridiculous.

CarrionRoc:
Honestly, I thought Raven Software closed down years ago. Until recently I bought a game released by them.

Raven made Star Trek Elite Force aye?

-Joe

Damn, and it's happening to some of the best developers that existed in the industry too... BEFORE they were gobbled up by that damn EA.

I think the games industry needs another collapse. Let the big conglomerates go belly up, then smaller developers can rise again and make good original games like the days of the golden age of gaming during the 90's. People under the corporate banners can always find jobs or make their own studios again and go for quality rather than make stuff while being afraid of risk or sequels with larger numbers hanging off the end of their names, or graphics engines that are so poorly programmed it takes a year for technology to be able to run it as intended (doom 3 and crysis), where you have games with nearly a movie budget to work with and its nothing but a pretty, bloomy pile of crap or washed out in "realistic" brown or grey. (think far cry two... forgot about that rather quickly didn't you?)

The growing indie scene will stop in it's tracks too, because the indie devs will produce one or two talked about games before being bought up for a corporate stragedy of casual digitally distributed games, or for the rights to any original or innovative gameplay/ideas.

a collapse would also halt the digital distribution era, which might seem 'super cool' until you realize you no longer own games you pay for and that your entire library will disappear if the company hosting the servers goes out of business (a Prey distributor did just that after release and people lost their game they paid for in a month), or they take the servers offline. Meaning you can't take an older copy of a game like Deus Ex, sam and max, or grim fandango and reinstall for a nostalgia fix when you don't actually own or have a library anymore.

wow, that really set me off didn't it? O_o

What's wrong EA? That bed full of money you sleep on, the diamond carpet, the ruby shower and hot and cold running perrier just wasn't enough, needed the gold plated Hummer so badly?

Come on, it's as simple as a bank going bust. EA overstreached itself through greed during the boom years, bought up every dev and his dog and gave away and blew money like no tomorrow on shareholders and other wasteful crap ( http://kotaku.com/5139629/ea-still-partying-at-the-super-bowl-despite-layoffs ).

And now their greed has gotten the better of them, the company is too big and bloated, the bottom line isn't what it used to be, so they do what all the other big companies who overstreached themselves stupidly do, keep the idiotic primordial slime at the top that got them into this situation (do you really think a company with so many yearly surefire hits (how many Madden's and Fifa's and God knows what else will they sell this Christmas) that there is no excuse.

I have to put it down to one of two thing, opportunism e.g, "Oooooooooooooooooh....everyone else is cutting staff, lets use it as an excuse and save some money."

Or Greed.

"Oooooooooooooooh things are bad everywhere, no-one will care...lets axe our most creative division, they're too much trouble any way...do you know they want to make original games? We can't make a sequel every year if it's original!"

Anyway, EA is a four letter word begining with C. I'll leave you to figure that out yourself, I wouldn't want to spoil the suprise.

I imagine that EA planned on Spore being a hit on the same scale as the Sims but it seemed to me to be so focussed on being buzzword compliant that it could only really sell to marketing people.

 

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