Axe drops at Warhammer dev as subs sink to 300K

With MMORPG's subscriber base shrinking rapidly, Mark Jacobs confirms his studio is "resizing"; rumors put cuts at up to 130.

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As part of its grim earnings report yesterday, Electronic Arts announced that it lost $641 million during the October-December quarter of last year. One reason behind the shortfall was the declining subscriber base of the Mythic Entertainment-developed Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Though the game hit 750,000 subscribers three weeks after the game's launch in September, EA said yesterday that the North American and European base had fallen to just 300,000.

The headsman cometh.
The headsman cometh.

Now, it appears as if Warhammer Online's dwindling user base is having an adverse effect on its developer. In a post to Warhammer Online's official Web site, Mythic studio GM Mark Jacobs confirmed that his studio is undergoing a measure of downsizing, maintaining that the head-count reduction is a product of the game's life cycle.

"Mythic has always been committed to maintaining a high level of development and customer service to our MMO players," said Jacobs. "Though we are resizing the team to move from a prelaunch to a postlaunch size, we remain fully committed to creating and delivering the best WAR experience."

Jacobs went on to say that staff reductions in the customer service, quality assurance, and play-testing departments were a result of decreased demand, now that players have become acclimated to the massively multiplayer online game. "Staffing numbers will always map to consumer needs--it goes up when we launch new products and expand popular ones, and comes back down as players become familiar with the game," said Jacobs.

The Mythic GM did not specifically say how much lighter his studio is running. However, game blog Joystiq asserts that the total layoffs ranged between 60 and 130, with a number of senior designers among those served their walking papers.

EA expects to drop head count across its many studios by 1,100 in the coming months. The publisher has already enacted a number of these cuts, with such studios as Skate 2 and Need for Speed developer Black Box and Madden NFL office EA Tiburon both having confirmed layoffs in the past month.

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