Today, Harmonix announced that it was laying off 37 of its staff and replacing its CEO.
Alex Rigopulos, who has served as Harmonix’s CEO since the company was founded in 1995, has shifted to the Chief Creative Officer role. Former head of publishing and business operations Steve Janiak is replacing Rigopulos.
Harmonix’s only comment on the situation has been vague, to say the least: “Harmonix is in the process of restructuring our organization to bring it into alignment with our current and future product development plans,” stated a company representative.
“Unfortunately, this means making the difficult decision to reduce the number of full-time staff. We sincerely appreciate the work of each and every one of these employees. Harmonix is working to ensure that those affected are well taken care of as we make this change.”
This news seems rather sudden, especially considering that Harmonix just successfully raised over $800,000 USD via Kickstarter for an Amplitude reboot. So what is going on?
2014 has been a rocky year for Harmonix, and it doesn’t look like things are going to be looking up soon, either. In January, we reported that a Harmonix designer’s CV revealed that one of Harmonix’s three projects, a Xbox One Kinect title, was given the axe. No doubt part of the reason the project was cancelled was because of Microsoft’s decision to change Kinect from being integral hardware for the Xbox One into a peripheral. It certainly doesn’t help that Harmonix’s other project for the Xbox One is the motion-control music game Fantasia: Music Evolved.
To add to the pile of bad news, Harmonix announced yesterday that Chroma, the musical first person shooter project it was working on in collaboration with Defense Grid developer Hidden Path Entertainment, is getting completely retooled.
It seems like the only positive thing that’s been going for the music game developer has been Amplitude’s Kickstarter. On closer examination, it seems even then the positive there is minimal at best. Harmonix needed to raise a minimum of $775K to make the Amplitude project happen, which meant a significant amount of the funding from the game would be coming from the company’s own pockets. The Kickstarter barely scraped by $800K in its last few hours, and only because developers and games media rallied to get Amplitude the funding it needed. With so much trouble going on at Harmonix, the company’s pockets certainly aren’t deep, and might not even be deep enough to pull off Amplitude in the way that was originally envisioned.
There's been a lot out of Harmonix's control for this year. Here's to hoping that the rest of 2014 will pick up for the company.