Harmonix hit by layoffs, Rock Band: Beatles sells 1M

MTV Games confirms elimination of 39 positions as Rock Band development studio restructures QA department; no games canceled or delayed as a result.

Economic woes are forcing game makers large and small to tighten their belts. Last month Electronic Arts announced a round of 1,500 layoffs, and today one of the megapublisher's smaller partners instituted its own cuts.

The Beatles: Rock Band outsold Guitar Hero 5 in September but still fell short of analysts' expectations.

As first reported by Joystiq, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Rock Band developer Harmonix laid off dozens of employees today. A spokesperson for MTV Games confirmed the news for GameSpot and passed along the company's official statement on the cuts.

"We can confirm that 39 positions were eliminated today at Harmonix as part of re-structuring to better align our staffing to best suit our product development plans and schedules moving forward," the representative said. "Those affected were primarily in QA. The others affected ranged from administrative to other various roles within the company."

The MTV Games representative described the restructuring as a chance to bring the studio's development model "in line with how other game developers manage their QA departments." Going forward, the studio will rely on a mix of temporary and part-time help, outsourced QA, and assistance from external partners.

The spokesperson said the layoffs represent a downsizing of about 13 percent for the developer, suggesting it previously employed around 300 people. The representative also confirmed that no future Harmonix projects were canceled or delayed by the restructuring and emphasized that the cuts were not a reaction to sales of any of the company's existing products.

"MTV Games and Harmonix are very pleased with the sales of our Rock Band titles and we expect to continue to see strong sales throughout the holidays across all of our titles," the representative said, noting that sales of The Beatles: Rock Band have surpassed 1 million units worldwide.

Harmonix is best known as the developer of the Rock Band franchise of games, including the original game, its sequel, The Beatles: Rock Band, and Rock Band: Unplugged. It also created the first two Guitar Hero games, the cult PlayStation 2 titles Frequency and Amplitude, and the original Karaoke Revolution games.

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Discussion

65 comments
Beta_Ray_Thor
Beta_Ray_Thor

I dont like Rock band beatles it was to easy

MADDjoe
MADDjoe

This is what happens when you over saturate the market. They should of made a lot of these tiles as downloadable content.

ibanezdropd
ibanezdropd

I amazed that a company can have a million seller... multiple in fact and still have layoffs

gob__bluth
gob__bluth

A good reminder that video companies are 1% millionaire execs and 99% honest people trying to make a living doing their best to bring you awesome entertainment.

CaptainHerlock
CaptainHerlock

The economy has finally caught up to the industry.

snake289
snake289

@Savvy30039 Your getting Rock Band confused with Guitar Hero.

im-a-roustabout
im-a-roustabout

Right in December as well. Some companies just don't care about their employees. Hope they get a little severance.

cajunstrike
cajunstrike

Agreed. This after 'strong' sales of The Beatles: Rock Band? Interesting...

littlestreakier
littlestreakier

man that really sucks, i hope the 39 people find another job somewhere else. I know this is not the time to be job hunting comfortably

BoondockSaint66
BoondockSaint66

That's really a shame...here's to hoping those 39 people get their feet down at another company soon. Now is not the time to go job hunting.

Poison_Me_Rum
Poison_Me_Rum

To all the people who constantly say: "learn a real instrument", change the freakin' record. Harmonix are one of my favourite developers. You can argue that their games are the same, but each title brings so much quality and something new to the table. Rock Band 2 is, by far, the best music game out there. It's sad that there have been layoffs, but it's happening everywhere. My sympathies go out to all those effected and their families.

Tarmac_Hunter
Tarmac_Hunter

How about these lousy execs cut back on the million dollar bonuses and let the guys who do the REAL work keep their jobs?

buft
buft

sucks for those guys, maybe this will inspire the rest of the team to get off there butts and make a proper sequel

LqdSnk
LqdSnk

That sucks, the poor QA guys, who're already on the bottom rung as it is, lose their jobs. I also don't understand why people complain about "rehashes". If people are buying the games they're going to keep making them, and at least Harmonix keeps the quality high. Last time I checked, businesses were primarily about making money.

charma
charma

That's sad, I hate layoffs. I think outside companies do the ports to the PS2 and the Wii. I know it was a different company that did the Wii port.

Seto53
Seto53

@savvy30039 I agree all they do is rehash the same game

SDBusDriver1979
SDBusDriver1979

I wonder if they just cut the team who did the ports to the PS2 or the team who did the Rock Band Unplugged or both. How big the studio really is? Sympathy to the people and their families who were laid off.

witide
witide

I guess this is how Harmonix likes to wish its employees a Merry Christmas. Although if they're mainly QA, it's not a big problem for the company. It would be a worry if they were laying off developers and other core workers.

imperial_agent
imperial_agent

working in the game industry is highly unstable. you can't raise a family or buy a house if you're constantly under the threat of being laid-off from your job. we all like to play games, but making them is another story. you work long hours, crunch like crazy, get paid at a barely sustainable level, and in the end you gaid laid off so Bobby Kotick can raise his market share by 3/4 of a dollar.

jordan1
jordan1

About time, this is what you get for whoring out an otherwise blande and overdone game genre, Im getting sick of these stupid music games, for the amount of time people spend learning to play these "fake" instruments, they could have gone out and learned a real one and got more satisfaction out of it, and probably spent less on it too

Savvy30039
Savvy30039

300 people working at a company that makes essentially the same games over and over again? How does that work?

farrlinn
farrlinn

It's a shame... Nice parting gift right when you need it the most...

StephenBassford
StephenBassford

Rock Band, Rock Band 2, Rock Band Beatles? It's tough for a single company to live off the profits of one game (Rock Band Beatles) after the first two have sold to saturation. Still unfortunate though :(

smbius
smbius

This is the worst time to layoff anyone

Jak_Napier
Jak_Napier

Beatles Rockband is wicked fun and entertaining. Its unfortunate the due to these tough economic times that almost everyone cant escape the inevitable, job losses and high unemployment rates. We'll have to take it as it comes. We can only go up since we've been down.

okassar
okassar

I hope they hire some back within the next 2 years because in a little while the recession's going to start turning around, but frankly they could have just waited it out...I mean comeon Harmonix, you're making successful games and you have a steady revenue stream, you're not going to buckle paying the salary of the mere 39 workers you just fired.

Miroku_of_Nite1
Miroku_of_Nite1

A damn shame for those who where laid off. But it was mostly QA positions, so its not exactly the most secure area in the game development process. Best of luck to everyone especially now.

squidracerX
squidracerX

wonder how Alex Navaro faired? (old gamespot employee). he was just like a guy who showed the game off at events, seemed fairly expendable to me.... hope not though.

captainkill001
captainkill001

Can people just get tired of this genre already? I enjoyed guitar hero 1 and even 2, but Rockband and the following sequels are just the same thing. It's just a money maker at this point and no pun intended, played out.

gnbfd
gnbfd

That's not good... I'm glad no projects or DLC or anything is affected but it sucks for the 39 people. I hope they can find new jobs quickly.

cjasko94
cjasko94

Course the last Guitar Hero game I bought was GH3.

cjasko94
cjasko94

To many music games! Enough!

PostedOval
PostedOval

As a consumer and music lover, I feel we've reached over-saturation with these rhythm games. They're everywhere including major consoles, DS & PSP and now the iPhone. Time to slow down with the releases and focus on just a few..

weisguy119
weisguy119

The problem is, they had to build up the brand to attract the big bands that everyone wanted. However, by the time they built the brand up big enough to attract the big bands, most everyone got bored of the genre and moved on.

tremor33
tremor33

Thanks for helping us develop this game. We're really pleased with the sales and are pushing for it to be a big contender this holiday season. By the way... we're going to have to let you go. It's nothing personal. Merry Christmas.

polsci1503
polsci1503

hope Alex is still working there.

CyleM
CyleM

Harmonix is a great company!

Cobra5
Cobra5

Getting rid of QA isn't a big deal. My friend worked for QA for uh... the puzzle quest guys (D3 I think they're called?) people were fired off and hired on all the time. It the lowest entry level of the industry. The "Fast Food Technician" of the gaming industry. They don't activly participate in the game growth and development, typically, other then the bug catching.

Urlacher54
Urlacher54

This is a real shame. Rock Band is quite possibly the best video game idea ever, and the people at Harmonix definitely deserve all the praise they've received for Rock Band. After all, the whole point of a video game is being able to do things that you cannot actually do in real life, but in a fantasy setting. And honestly, who hasn't day-dreamed about being a rock star?

SnakeEyesX80
SnakeEyesX80

Aren't QA people some of the lowest paid in the industry? We're talking about game testers, right? Getting rid of 39 of your lowest paid employees doesn't seem like a very good strategy. Especially when they're responsible for the end result.

FallenAngel
FallenAngel

Waldkrieger Lighten up. It's a game, just because someone can pull off a 100% on the guitars in 'Peace Sells' doesn't mean he thinks he's the next Marty Friedman ok? By your analogy, then people should start actually killing hookers rather than control Niko Belic in GTA IV. Playing games like Rock Band and/or Guitar Hero has nothing to do with people being too lazy to learn to play real instruments. It's a mode of entertainment, too bad if you're too dense or stuck up to figure that out.

bschroth
bschroth

It always sucks to hear that people lost their jobs. When will the day come that none of the people from the dev side get fired, but some bumbling moron of an executive gets the axe instead? I wanna see that press release. It's always lots of smaller wage making employees to get fired, instead of just acouple big wigs whose salaries probably add up to several smaller employees.

Dualmask
Dualmask

@Daian Yeah, I was being sarcastic, should have made that clearer. I know what you mean. But the real problem is that the companies aren't actually making millions. They're pouring millions into developing these giant bombs and barely recouping their losses even when the games sell well. Thus, in order to try to stem the flow of lost money, they keep milking the franchise, hoping that whatever gimmick they can attach to the label will get more people to buy it. It doesn't work, and the profit margin grows more narrow. Thus, they need to cut spending. But instead of cutting the game franchise (which is the source of the problem), they instead cut off the people who make it work. Bad business...

CoH_freak
CoH_freak

@MooseMcDowell I doubt most kids fantasize about working in the QA of their company. Though, you do make a good point nonetheless.

Daian
Daian

Don't "thumbs down" Dualmask, i'm pretty sure he's being sarcastic. This kind of news stomps on any possibility of me joining this industry. I guess all those big shots in gaming aren't satisfied with all the millions and millions they're making, they need a few more thousands $ by making layoffs. Stop laying off people u greedy *(#*(@&$*(#&$*(@#%&*(@%&$*%#$ !

Waldkrieger
Waldkrieger

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