On January 19th, joystiq published a rumor that Mythic had layed off “21 customer service employees, half of QA and all of the playtest group”. This seems to be attached to previously announced plans by Mythic owners Electronic Arts to reduce their workforce by 10%. The article also mentioned that “specific questions about the future of Warhammer Online were not answered”, leaving many to speculate whether these layoffs spell doom for the RvR game and the company that created it.
It’s now a few days later, and Mythic boss Mark Jacobs has cleared a number of things up through a dialogue with users at Warhammer Alliance, the site that the developers seem to have taken to using primarily in lieu of Mythic-run official forums:
First, Jacobs answers the question of whether or no the rumor was true by saying that “EA corporate communication has already commented on that, it was in the article”, in reference to the 10% workforce reduction eluded to earlier.
Jacobs goes on to say that while he wishes that he could discuss layoffs (both actual and possible) in greater detail than he has, that he has “very specific guidelines” that he needs to follow in regards to that topic. This isn’t a particularly unusual thing to hear in issues surrounding layoffs.
On Monday, Jacobs made the following post:
Two things to keep in mind:
It isn't any more complicated than that other than to say that we have a very large studio and pretty much every person there has been and will continue to work on WAR for quite a while (meaning we haven't started work on another game yet). When we launched, we had over 400+ people working on the game in one capacity or another so it's not like we had a small team at launch or even a small team now.
Oh, and the whole (OMG, we're losing 1/2 the developer (or even of the total team) thing) is total nonsense. This is one of the times I really, really wish I could comment more than I can but if you look at what JR has said in terms of cost cutting, that should give you a good idea about what is happening throughout EA.
*In the post, JR is a reference to John Riccitiello, the CEO of Electronic Arts.
Another interesting post that Jacobs made revolved around sales. One of the forum users brings up the point that Warhammer might be in more trouble than is being indicated based on the fact that it is not currently within the top 20 sales charts. This same user goes on to draw similarities between Warhammer and Age of Conan, stating that both companies (Mythic and Funcom) claimed the economy as a reason for layoffs and while the results on Warhammer are yet to be seen, Conan has recently merged their servers to a much smaller number than original launch. To this, Jacobs said:
“You do know that we were one the best selling PC games of the year right? In 3 weeks we'll be able to say just how well we did sell both through retail and digital downloads. We sold fantastically in Sept/Oct (top five game), dropped in Nov, went back up in Dec (but still didn't crack the top 20 for retail sales) and are doing nicely in January.
In terms of AoC, I wouldn't call them one of the biggest failures ever. They launched a game, sold a lot of copies, kept subscribers for a short while and are trying to improve the game. I'd save the "biggest failures ever" line for some of hundreds of MMORPGs that have gone into development and never been released or released and closed right away. Funcom managed to at least release a game and have been working for months on it. Eve Online didn't launch well (brutal sales in the US) and the CCP guys have done a brilliant job of turning that around. I hope that the guys at Funcom, with a much better start than CCP had, can do the same with AoC.
And by the way, I'm not using the economy or Blizzard as an excuse for any layoffs. Unless you consider the CEO of EA saying that EA needs to cut costs as an excuse.
It is important to note from this response that while Jacobs doesn’t come right out and say that things are rosy and well at Mythic, he does make implications that sales are at least relatively steady and that in 3 weeks (presumably at or around EA’s next earnings call), he should be able to tell us more.
All in all, based on what can be gathered from these forum posts, it seems as though while tough times at EA (and indeed for the entire industry) have forced Mythic to make a number of layoffs, the studio has not (at least yet) been targeted specifically for a massive round of layoffs, or even a studio closure.
For now, Jacobs seems confident that Warhammer will continue to be supported and developed by mythic as best that they can: “I have a very large team continuing to work on WAR now and going forward and we'll continue to build with that.”