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BioWare restructures SWTOR team, announces lay-offs

Tuesday, 22nd May 2012 17:43 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

BioWare heads Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka have confirmed a round of layoffs for Star Wars: The Old Republic. A post on the official website confirms the layoffs but is scant on details, and only states the following alongside praise for the team: “We still have a very substantial development team working on supporting and growing the game, and we feel we are in a strong position, with your continued involvement and feedback, to continue to build Star Wars: The Old Republic as one of the most compelling and successful online experiences in the world today.” The statement goes on to say the team remains “dedicated to delivering a high quality service in SWTOR” over “the weeks, months and years to come.”

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26 Comments

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  1. Maximum Payne

    INB4GrimRita :D

    #1 2 years ago
  2. DSB

    Holy crap. Are we watching a rerun of the Mythic/WAR saga?

    http://www.destructoid.com/restructuring-layoffs-forthcoming-at-ea-mythic-studios-50896.phtml

    That’s almost the same exact headline.

    I figured SWTOR wasn’t doing stellar, but I didn’t think it was that bad.

    GrimRita 1 – Bioware 0 I guess :P

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Phoenixblight

    @2

    This is what happens after a game has met its release which it has they haven’t laid off anyone since release so it was going to happen. It happens all the time you hire as much people to meet a goal and once that goal is done time to cut some costs.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. DSB

    @3 To a certain extent. That would certainly go for a normal release, but this game is in continual development, and I’m pretty sure that Blizzard had more people working on WoW within the first two years, than what they started out with.

    You have to consider the similarities here. WAR was named a winner by EA right up until the point where they could no longer refute it, and keep a straight face. What’s to say that things are different this time? SWTOR has more players, but it also has a much bigger pricetag.

    This doesn’t strike me as the kind of move you would put on a promising growth business.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Stephany Nunneley

    It could also be temps, contract employees etc. The post didn’t detail it, but that’s a normal occurrence.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. DSB

    @5 Definitely, but those wouldn’t be described as layoffs, unless those contracts were forcibly ended by EA.

    At least to my mind, not renewing contracts would fall under something like “restructuring”. A layoff to me means someone who is part of the company, is let go.

    I’m sure that there are idle hands once the game is done, but I don’t think it’ll be anything like a regular game, where you might use a release to trim the herd.

    Getting rid of the experienced guys, in favor of new blood once it becomes time to crunch an expansion, or content patch, seems pretty risky to me.

    I guess we’ll hear more on that soon.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Hunam

    +1

    I’ve been part of a 40+ QA team and everyone got let go at the end of the game, it’s just normal and needed no announcements.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Phoenixblight

    @4

    This is happening in the first quarter of the fiscal year this is the best time to trim the fat which this game development has had with 7 years of development with constant hiring and very little laying off. The game has released, its time to trim the fat which will be laying off all the project managers and leads. Start merging teams together like the level designers with the environmental artists under a single management team when they have had multiple manager between those teams.

    THis is what happened when I worked at CIsco when we were working on a project and we had a goal we would hire in bulk and then when that goal was met 80% were either laid off or put into other departments. If it was close to end of the fiscal year and they had goal OMG they would hire 500% of the team we had which was normally 12 people.

    THis is the same thing happening here. I have two professors that work on TOR, one is a lead animator and another a lead artist and they talk about this type of stuff without going into detail.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. TheWulf

    I feel bad for the people being laid off, they likely figured that they had fairly steady jobs at a company like Bioware. Well, I hope they’ll all find replacement jobs soon enough. Or even better, that some of them will take their earnings and form successful indie studios (since that would be even better for them).

    Either way, whenever this happens, I just feel for the people who’ve been given the pink slip. I’m not a fan of TOR (it’s way too much like WoW for my tastes), but… yeah, I still empathise.

    Good luck, ladies and gents!

    #9 2 years ago
  10. GrimRita

    I will ask a few of my friends who work for Bioware. But once any MMO has been released, teams are normally scaled down.

    However, Bioware do have a huge useless Community team who appear to be doing fuck all and a QA team who are blind and clueless. Throw in a couple of clueless Producers and bingo, you have your cull.

    It wont be long before more heads roll as the numbers fall under 1 million by next EA investors call and the game struggles to roll out regular content.

    @2 – dont like keeping score when people are losing their jobs. I wish them all well and hopefully get to work in a better studio with some creative flair.

    And this ‘high quality service’ they speak of. Did anyone actually see this? Because I never did when I needed help after losing 150k in their bugged in game mail service.

    The response was a classic. ‘After careful investigation, we cant help you’. that was it.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Phoenixblight

    The people that were laid off at Mythic went to TES: Online. Not sure if thats good or bad but they have a job until the game is released.

    @10
    Never lost money but when I needed to call the CSR to fix an account issue in January and I got a person within 10 mins on a Friday. Try doing that with Blizzard and you will be waiting for hours. I know I had to when my account was hacked was on hold for 4 hours before I could talk to someone.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. GrimRita

    @11 – Theres a big difference. Blizzard handles millions whilst Bioware probably handle a 100.

    My problem wasnt an account issue as such but something to do with the in game mail problems at launch and a few bugs.

    Another thing about this announcement, is that it probably couldnt have come at a worse time for this flagging game. With low populated servers, players screaming for server mergers(early summer..another carrot dangled) probably more will think ‘fuck it, im off’

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Phoenixblight

    @12

    Doubt it especially since 1.3 will be allowing free transfers and a transfer service and the fact the majority of gamers could care less about lay offs, profits, and how the company does their business unless its related to the game which it really isn’t. As I said they will be removing project managers and unneccessary leads not so much the actual development of the game.

    Also CSR for TOR do not handle 100 people they take in a lot of calls more than Xbox live does in December. I have a few friends who do CSR for TOR who have a far more streamlined system than at Blizzard at least that’s what my friend said who also worked at Blizzard.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. GrimRita

    I dont think there will be anyone left by the time 1.3 arrives. Players and probably staff.

    And theres no point even debating the facts with a fanboi now is there? This game isnt the success they wanted and once an MMO starts to see a decline in numbers, 95% of the time, they will never claw them back unless major changes happen – and 1.3 isnt that game changer.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. endgame

    Ownd EA/Bioware! Well, maybe next time you’ll learn how to properly price a WoW clone.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. DSB

    @10 Oh, I certainly wasn’t pointing and laughing at the news. If it really is like it was with Mythic, that’s very sad indeed.

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_213/6341-Casualty-of-Warhammer

    That’s a pretty good article on it. Sad story.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Phoenixblight

    @14

    Well seeing how the people that are being laid off already knew about it last month and the fact that the game still is making a profit from the investors call they won’t be losing half or more of their subs within 3 months. You are just as illogical as a fanboy and base everything on your opinion. Where I have professors who work at Bioware and quite open about what goes on at work when it comes to this type of stuff and they even hint at stuff that most people don’t know about. I am done arguing with you because I actually have the facts where you do not.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. GrimRita

    @17 – see fanboi response.

    I wont go over too much history but you are yet to prove me wrong on anything to do with this turd of a game. You questioned my stance about falling numbers – I was right – TWICE.

    If they can return a profit on a player base of 100k since that’s who will be left playing it by this time next year, then good luck to them. SWG managed to last 8 years at £15 a month, despite all the crap thrown at it by a dumb development team and Producer with NGE, CU etc – it managed to yield a profit with a small player base.

    But EA are cut throat. The second this game doesnt make any money, they will switch it off with probably 7 days notice.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. daytripper

    Sorry for those losing jobs, always felt a Knights of the Old Republic 3 would of been a better strategy.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Phoenixblight

    @18

    You do realize there is quite a few employees from SWG that are working in TOR? One of them being the professor that is the lead artist. He had worked at SWG as the lead artist there too and most of the lead development team from SWG went to TOR. SO maybe when you are praising SWG you should think that some of those people that worked on that game are also working on TOR right now.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. GrimRita

    There is an interesting post on the SWTOR forums about the recent history of claims and counter claims http://www.swtor.com/community/showpost.php?p=4436883&postcount=214

    The denial by EA about job losses, the denial about dropping server numbers etc and now both have been proven true.

    Essentially, if this game doesnt succeed, it could break EA. Their investors will be very angry, and some of them already off loaded their stock once the SWTOR decline in subs was announced.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. GrimRita

    @20 – Like an artist has a hand in design mechanics.

    And I am fully aware of who came from SWG. Before EA took over everything and fucked the game up, the Producer – Jake Nerri worked on the final stages of SWG and brought back many features removed by fuck face Juilo Torres with NGE.

    Jake then moved on to this – he worked for LucasArts. Under their direction, the game looked promising but after the shuffle, its almost like EA cut out lots of stuff because it wasnt ready and just pushed this out before xmas.

    Now, you drone on about 1.3 – but whats so great about something introducing mostly key features to a game some SEVEN MONTHS after launch, that should have been there from day one, and probably could have helped combat the decline in numbers.

    Why? Cross server looking for groups, would have at least eased the pain for those on low populated servers until they merged but right now, they have fuck all.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. Phoenixblight

    @21

    I don’t read forums they provide nothing but bickering much like you and I are. The people that were going to be fired got a few months telling them when they will be let go so that those that knew can update their resumes and prepare for it most studios don’t do that stuff look at article DSB posted. We will see but if Warhammer is still going with P2P and having less than 100k subs than there is no reason why TOR can if what you were saying was true which it isn’t.

    Investors know shit about anything but money and the game is making a profit the issue is the investors are not seeing a WOW killer which this game was never going to be. Bioware had this stated multiple times. There will be no more WOW’s. WoW will be the last game that will yield the amount of subscribers or players that it has had. Thats one thing I can promise.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. TheWulf

    I’m actually feeling bad for Bioware at the moment.

    You know, GrimRita makes a lot of good points. Please, I’d prefer to deal with reality than the unreality borne of cognitive dissonance, so let’s not go there. Anyway, I wonder how much of what was wrong with TOR and thus the reasons for its continuing failure were down to corporate bods sticking their fingers in too many pies?

    I mean, I remember the Bioware guys feeding us some fairly desperate lines. My favourite one was “If you disobey any of the rules of WoW, then you’re an idiot. The way to be successful is to clone WoW.” and I got a good laugh. I mean, I’m sure anyone who wasn’t a fan did. It was a very silly statement to make. But here’s where hindsight comes in.

    Back then, I had the idea that TOR would be success because of its name, based upon the ‘people will buy any old thing if it happens to be marketed well enough’ idea. (See: Diablo III.) Therefore I didn’t see the harm in having a go at them for not breaking out of the norm, because I figured that if anything could be a mediocre game and yet still a grand success, it would be TOR.

    Now look at where things are.

    TOR is failing, Bioware are suffering layoffs, and things aren’t looking good. I look back at what the Bioware head honchos said and… it looks like a lot of bluster and panic, now. They were terrified, they didn’t want to lose their jobs, they were basically talking head robots bent to the will of the more corporate EA. They were speaking the line EA fed them, because they didn’t want Bioware to fail.

    It was a case of “We’re all in this shitty ship together, sink or sail.”

    On that note, I wonder if videogame developers can suffer with Stockholm syndrome? Because at this point, I feel that Bioware are just going along with whatever EA wants in order to secure a future for both of them. Yet the poor management and terrible PR of EA is just driving them both into the ground. But they can’t detach from EA, of course.

    I actually feel really sorry for them. I really do. The kind of pressure that’s on them right now is enough to drive anyone to drink, and I really can imagine that a lot of this is EA’s fault. I’m betting that before EA’s tampering, TOR was a hell of a lot different. But there was always that corporate suit, watching their progress, and then saying ‘my kid loves WoW and he says this isn’t enough like it, make it more like WoW.’

    And they did. Their pay-cheques depended on it.

    Thus my hatred of EA increases tenfold.

    Still, whatever happens in regards to Bioware/EA in the future is going to be interesting. Very interesting. I mean, I liked ME3, but even I could see the EA-ification of Mass Effect 3. In 2 you were given lots of free DLC and post game patches, 3 is monetised out the wazoo. And I can’t imagine that Bioware made that choice consciously. Again it’s going to be Mr. Suit, offering his sage advice.

    “You could charge a microtransaction for those unlocks, couldn’t you? Do it.”

    Bioware…

    This is actually depressing.

    Going to stop thinking about this, now.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. GrimRita

    @21 Warhammer isnt SWTOR. EA have thrown alot of money behind this and, its a much bigger licence. Investors put up their cash because they were led to believe they were on to a winner (Star Wars licence combined with Biowares track record)and one that could or come close to, beating WoW.

    Fast forward and Investors are worried because the game is failing. Yes, investors know fuck all about gaming but this is a price you pay when you use someone elses money.

    EA just do not know or understand the MMORPG market – other wise they wouldnt have tried and failed twice to topple WoW. WAR was released way too early and that killed it before it even got started and the same thing has happened with SWTOR.

    I was right again to say that things werent looking good once Bioware/EA decided to launch free trials so soon – their ‘metrics’, the only thing they seem too look at, clearly showed heavy declines in players, despite their PR bull shit machine saying otherwise.

    Going forward, EA are going to find it very difficult to obtain investments if SWTOR falls flat on its face which could stop future development.

    This all kind of reminds me when Govnr Tarkin was on the Death Star in the original Star Wars and about to wipe out the Rebels – so it appeared, when he was asked if he should have his shuttle prepared incase the Rebels managed to strike a killing blow.

    His arrogance is the same kind shown by EA/Bioware here. Why? Because they believed no matter how poor the game was, it would sell and people would stick around with carrots dangled to keep them. Well, they were wrong and clearly havent a plan B in place for a ‘what if we are wrong’ scenario and will end up paying the price.

    Based on EAs stats – 2.4 million copies sold. 2 million joined up. 1.7 left by Feb (down 300k). 1.3 left by end of April.(down 400k) – Thats a 700k drop in players in just 4 months. Thats ALOT of cash kissed goodbye.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. GrimRita

    And just to update. Some of these lay offs are NOT contracted staff. Some from their Community Team(Including their Senior Online Community Manager, amongst others, has been let go)

    #26 2 years ago