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Big Layoffs At EverQuest Studio Today [UPDATE]

Illustration for article titled Big Layoffs At iEverQuest/i Studio Today [UPDATE]

Daybreak, the game studio behind EverQuest and H1Z1, is laying off a number of staff including David Georgeson, the man who has served as the face of EverQuest for many years, Kotaku has learned.

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We don't know just how many people Daybreak is letting go, as staff are being informed right now whether or not they will remain employed with the company.

The newly-titled Daybreak, which was called Sony Online Entertainment for close to two decades, went independent and changed its name last week after Sony sold it to a New York-based management firm. Although the company was all smiles about the deal in public, staff were immediately told that the company would be laying people off in order to become "profitable," according to a person close to the studio.

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"Most of management keeps trying to get people pumped up about the new direction, but no one knows for sure they'll be a part of it yet," said that person, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with press about the layoffs.

We'll keep you updated as we hear more. PR representatives for Daybreak did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

UPDATE (2:02pm): Shortly after publication of this article, Daybreak sent over a statement:

As part of a strategic decision to rationalize the business, Daybreak Game Company announced today that it will eliminate positions in both its San Diego and Austin studios. This alignment of resources better positions the newly independent studio for future growth opportunities and developments, including delivering on its legacy of making top online games and establishing a solid foundation for future multi-platform success. These reductions will not affect the operation of current games and the company will continue on its mission to partner with its player community to drive the future and push the boundaries of online gaming.

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You can reach the author of this post at jason@kotaku.com or on Twitter at @jasonschreier.

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DISCUSSION

GraceIsUnfair
GraceIsUnfair

What I seem to hear whenever there is a layoff:

"Money-grubbing jerks!"

"Poor management!"

"Big studios are evil!"

This seems so short-sighted to me. As a dev who's gone through two layoffs at two different studios (survived one, not the other), I'm not emotionally distant from this problem, believe me. The games industry is broken in general, and it's due to many factors. Players expect more and more for less and less money. Studios are sometimes labelled "greedy" because their game isn't free to play. As a result, studios know they need to ramp up hires on a massive scale and push games out very quickly, otherwise the long development cycle would be unsustainable (staff is the #1 cost of production). Therefore, it's understood in the industry that unless a game is a runaway success, there will likely be a layoff in staff shortly after launch. We devs buff up our resumés around launch time, in anticipation of layoffs. Large staffs are unsustainable, and small staffs are too small to get a game out in a relevant time frame.

It's simply a business decision. It's rarely that the management is making poor decisions and the studio is busted, it's that they're not making enough money to stay afloat. I know it sucks. Layoffs are awful for everyone involved (even the survivors, believe me). But what's the alternative? I hear lots of complaining, perhaps rightly so, but the aggression is often misdirected.

What would you have the studio do?

Hire a smaller, more manageable staff? Then you wouldn't get a game out in a reasonable time frame, or it would be immediately dated upon release, or infinitely shelved, or cost too much to make in the long run, as to cause a layoff anyway.

How about NOT have a massive layoff, and keep everyone employed? Then it's a matter of months before the entire studio goes under. Then you've lost 3 times the employees you otherwise would have, not to mention the games that studio would have produced.

Have a less bulky management? It may save you for a few months, but the salaries of the upper crust only staves off the problem. The cumulative salaries of the devs are almost always vastly outweighing the salaries of choice upper management positions. The first studio I worked at had too much management, my current studio does not. Yet we both went through layoffs, regardless of fat-cat salaries. Besides that, management does actually do valuable work (contrary to common opinion). I know, that's the evil capitalist speaking.

The truth is, management tries to get staff pumped up because it's important to the success of the studio. They want people to stay, and care about the project. They typically try really hard. Why? We live in an age of zero loyalty, compared to 50 years ago. Someone staying at a game studio 10+ years is all but unheard of, these days. People will jump ship on a studio in a second if something doesn't suite their desires, yet nobody blinks an eye when they only look out for #1. But as soon as the studio acts in ITS best interest, they're suddenly greedy jerks. Case in point: I worked with a dev at what I'll call "Studio A" which laid us both off. He moved to studio B for less than 6 months, before moving to Studio C, where I was employed. A matter of months later, he decided to move to Studio D. In less than a year and a half, he'd used 4 studios to bolster his resumé. He doesn't care about the individual projects or studios, only himself. He has the freedom to do this, and rightly so. But we champion this kind of loyalty-free self-promotion, while vilifying companies that do the "same", even though the companies survival is necessary to the survival of it's employees.

In short, I want everyone to be more thoughtful. It's not a simple equation every time there's a layoff. It's not always greed, corruption, and heartlessness. Devs care, management cares, studios care. It's just a difficult industry right now, and sustainability is very challenging. We can all be a little more understanding and helpful during these hard times, however. I know people like a villain to hate t though, so it's a tough pill to swallow.