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.

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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.
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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