Update: Gearbox president Randy Pitchford tells us that the Sega published Aliens project is still on, that the independent developer has been undergoing "some transformative changes" resulting in "some talent changes." His full statement is after the original report. We've heard from multiple sources that Gearbox Software has laid off a number of its employees today, with lower than expected sales of Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway being blamed for the cutbacks. Estimates for those affected range from as little as 15 to as many as 26 staffers, on top of the 15 to 20 let go earlier in the month. Another factor said to be contributing to staff reductions by one source was the alleged cancellation of Gearbox's Aliens project for Sega.Aliens: Colonial Marines was announced in 2006 as one of two games using the Aliens license that would be published by Sega. The project has been relatively quiet since then, with Sega dropping details on the first-person shooter in February of 2008 and a teaser trailer sneaking out in the early Fall. The title was planned to ship at the end of 2008 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, but retailers are currently listing it for a mid-2009 release. The second Aliens project, a role-playing game, is in development at Obsidian Entertainment. According to an anonymous source, Sega has cut funding on the Colonial Marines project amid concerns that the project couldn't be delivered on time and on budget. Gearbox is said to have shifted its development focus to Borderlands, the open world sci-fi shooter it is working on for 2K Games. We haven't confirmed any of this with Sega or Gearbox yet, but are actively attempting to do so. While it sounds suspicious that Sega would nix the game this late in development, it wouldn't be unheard of. Consider the updates on Aliens as well as Gearbox's staffing situation as rumor for now. We'll update when we hear more. Update: Gearbox president Randy Pitchford provided the following statement:
In 2005, after having a lot of success with games from Half-Life: Opposing Force to Halo on the PC to our original Brothers in Arms Road to Hill 30, we embarked upon a strategy where opportunity in the industry and the ambition of key talent here was driving a lot of growth for us. The strategy has been amazingly transformative for us. We’ve been growing *very* fast – more than doubling in size between 2007 and 2008 and outpacing general industry growth in staff and revenue by an order of magnitude. This growth has catapulted us to become one of the most powerful independent studios in the world. Our mission has always driven us to always want to strive to do better and better. Our experience has never been greater and we love applying our experience to the benefit of our games. Over the last six weeks, we’ve been adjusting our internal strategy to move from being about Opportunity, Ambition and Growth to a strategy that is oriented towards Quality, Focus and Performance. A number of recent tactical decisions here are a reflection of this new commitment and strategy. The timing of these tactical decisions relates more to natural maneuvering that all studios should only consider after they finish a big effort than anything else. I know there is a tendency in the press to get the maximum value out of a story, but unless we have a *lot* more fans that are *much* more rabid about what we are doing than I thought we did, I don’t imagine there to be much of an exciting story here after all. But, since we do seem to be getting some attention this evening and I am flattered by that and I may as well use the attention. While our commitment to focus and quality may slow the speed of our growth in numbers, we are, in fact, currently hiring. We have exciting, exciting things going on that offer tremendous opportunity for us and our interest is for the best talent in the world to join us and be a part of it. Borderlands is shaping up to be astonishingly fresh and I am very excited to reveal more about that soon, Aliens: Colonial Marines is very exciting and I look forward to the right moment we can more fully unveil our efforts there and we have other incredible unannounced projects in development and a lot of opportunity for the future – a future I am increasingly excited about.
We attempted to clarify with Pitchford the status of the Aliens: Colonial Marines project. He told us that, yes, the game is still in production but couldn't provide an update on its ship date. "But I will say that I am as eager as anyone for us to reach the point where we should reveal it with more detail," Pitchford added.