NCsoft-Austin lays off 70

[UPDATE] Company undergoes "immediate restructuring"; slowdown in number of planned game launches leads to "streamlining" of operations.

Late yesterday, word circulated online that massively multiplayer online game publisher NCsoft had undergone a significant round of layoffs. This morning, the publisher acknowledged that pink slips were, in fact, handed out at the Austin-based organization this week.

The company said approximately 70 of its 300 employees had been terminated.

In a statement, the company called the move, which affects NCsoft's Austin operation only, "an immediate restructuring ...that included the difficult task of reducing members of its workforce."

A spokesperson told GameSpot that none of the publisher's development teams have been affected by the move, noting that the Tabula Rasa team is still in hiring mode.

The company's prepared comment sought to cast the layoffs as a response to vagaries all publishers in the online space are subject to. "The online games industry is one that is continually changing with the scaling up and down of business based on product launches and product development schedules," the statement read in part.

But it also points to a more localized reason behind the layoffs--a slowdown in upcoming NCsoft launches: "As the company continues to grow its live products and prepares its next set of major online game releases for later in 2006 and 2007, the company sees a slowdown in its launch pattern and the need to streamline its business."

First word of the layoffs was traced back to a report on fan site f13.net. A post cited a developer-only forum which listed the layoffs as a percentage of various NCsoft departments. Today, NCsoft staffers called the post incorrect, stating the figures listed were off by "high, double digit percentages." An NC rep said that while it is company policy not to break out layoffs by department, the numbers posted anonymously were incorrect, and "not just barely wrong, but all wrong."

Referring to two NC franchises, Auto Assault and City of Heroes/City of Villians, another NC rep said, "we are still assessing Auto Assault’s performance and can't comment on its current status. We can say that these sorts of changes are a result of many factors in our business, all of which are constantly being checked and rechecked as part of our regular assessment process." He added, "that COH/COV has been at 150,000 subscribers or more during the two years the franchise has been on the market."

While today's layoffs are dramatic, all is not doom and gloom for the publisher--its Guild Wars MMO title, released in April to favorable reviews, remains a constant tenant on the NPD Top 10 Best-Selling PC game chart. The most recent chart sees the title ranked at number nine.

In Korea, where NCsoft shares are traded (and where its headquarters are based), the stock has lost roughly a third of its value since May 3.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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57 comments
saeoh
saeoh

well i did try AA in beta and i really did not enjoyed it..probabaly because i hate any kind of driving/racing game...

rynmls
rynmls

i hope all employees that being lay-offs prove to ncsoft that they made a big mistake....

bobreturns
bobreturns

as long as they dont go bankrupt it is ok cos we need more great free of monthly charge MMO's like Guild Wars

Collaborator
Collaborator

All the Auto Assaultbeta testers, Myself being probably the most vocal, said again and again that the game wasn't remotely finished and needed another 3-6 months. There was never a buggier, broken, unfinished, unpolished MMORPG at launch than Auto Assault, and it is in fact still unfinished and highly unstable. Thus, everyone did not want to play it, and canceled their subscriptions. Many of us refused to buy it at all, because of the politics, mainly NCSoft rushing the development. NCsoft dug it's own grave on this one, the only reason AA was a failure was because NCSoft couldn't wait a few months for a quality product on release.

Ikthog
Ikthog

Where was it claimed that AA has 10,000 subscribers? Not that I find it hard to believe, as it's kind of a ghost town, but I didn't see that actually said anywhere. Too bad about NCsoft-Austin... it will be interesting to see where the MMO business goes in the next few years, as WoW ages and other games test the waters. On one hand, you have big publishers salivating at the giant money tree that is WoW, but on the other, you have high-profile competitors falling by the wayside. My hope is that more publishers will find ways to reduce development costs so a small but loyal following won't be seen as a failure.

nintendorocks
nintendorocks

When you havn't released a game since late April, some people are going to be fired. That's business for you. And that's MMOs. MMOs are always in need of new ideas and sometimes people run out of ideas. I hope the best to the layed off empolyees.

SirChuckalot
SirChuckalot

I know those layed off will find jobs. There are plenty out there. I must say, whether you like NCsoft games or not, they DO know how to run them and keep their subscribers happy. But, sadly, the mmos they have do not keep your attention. COH/COV are good pick up games but too repetitive. Auto-Assault was a game I had high hopes for. Remember Interstate '76? I was hoping it would play a little like that in combat. I think that's why I was let down after 3 hours into it. I admire the fact that they tried something new(only Santa should play with Elves) AA just missed the mark with me. 10k? It's more than I thought it would get. I don't see it lasting long and wonder if it's "failure" had anything to do with these lay-offs.

zakkss
zakkss

Might be time to consider that ads-supported model. Make your MMO fun and free in order to have it played by as many people as possible and then make your monthly revenues from advertisers instead of gamer. They got bigger wallets too. Not many people are going to want to or be able to pay for more than one MMO monthly subscription. The future and diversity of the MMO market might depend on publishers willingness to consider other revenue models. They have to look beyond the user for revenues much like network TV does. For instance a lot more people would play Auto Assault, even if it's not that great, if there was no monthly fee. Wouldn't matter much to have branded cars, parts, garages. Might even be fun if done properly, hey look at my corvette C9, etc.

winnazdaluza
winnazdaluza

they should focus on guild wars instead I 'm still playing it now and hav'n't even touched the free COV game trial that came with it.and I'm not even gonna touch auto assault. Guildwars is their Gem and they should do all they can to support this awesome game. and banshe02 should S*T*F*U about bringin in monthly fees to Guild wars--some of us don't play WOW specifically because of that.

runstalker
runstalker

While I played the trial I concluded that the quest writing in Auto Assault is good. As in, the actual text describing the story, world and characters surrounding a particular quest string is well-written and interesting. Of course, most gamers don't actually read quest text nowadays. They find the key words/location/item highlighted in the text, press Accept, and close the window.

Tencteri
Tencteri

I've been playing Auto Assault for awhile, and I do enjoy the game a lot. I agree that it can get boring, but if you play it on and off without actually just playing it constantly, it actually doesn't get boring in that case. Also, even with all those workers being layed off, it doesn't affect Auto Assault because Netdevil is a third-party developer. They aren't owned by NC Soft or anyone. The only thing NC Soft did with Auto Assault is publish it.

chikahiro94
chikahiro94

I find it interesting that while WOW is mentioned here and there, nobody's mentioned that NCSoft has the #2 MMO out there - Lineage II - which has about 2 million paying players.

Oni
Oni

I've played both Auto Assult and CoX games and they both got boring really fast. Seriously NC sodt .. try at least to make PvP fun or make the missions have variety. Something. CoV just got that I7 update and they gave me a few days to try it out. To be honest, it didn't do anything for me.

chikahiro94
chikahiro94

COH/COV doesn't drive me away like WOW did because it felt too much like work. It's very much a personal preference there. And NCSoft is trying different revenue models - Tradional MMO, the expansion based one for GW, and Dungeon Runners and eXteel will be free to play but with paid perks (possibly in-game advertising). I think hourly rates are only good if the game has few or no time sinks, and if you only play that little. Otherwise its not a good deal. Could imagine farming in WOW for XP, gold, etc, how much that would cost in real life? Forget it! Might as well have Blizzard introduce $10 for 10 levels offers or something.

99problems
99problems

i dunno . i've been keeping an eye on Tabula Rasa for a long time . i can't wait for that one to come out . i'm definitly gonna buy that one .

Mrjoemama
Mrjoemama

Problem is Auto Assault is flat out garbage when compared to the free Guild Wars, in fact so are COH and COV.

meimnobody
meimnobody

At least Auto Assault isn't another fantasy mmo filled with elves. But NCsoft definetly should consider doing a one fee for all subsriction games. As lineage 2 gms yes they have gms and they respond fairly fast. You have to use the petetion system and it tells you how many petetions are ahead of you.

zanothmir
zanothmir

I have to applaud Ragnarok Online's creators for thinking outside the box. As with every MMORPG out there, you /have/ to pay by the month for NCSOFT's games. As brought up before, I'd like to expand on the fact that there ARE other payment options. Take a hint from Gravity (RO's creators) and allow people to buy HOURS, not just MONTHS. Some of us don't feel that playing an MMORPG only something like 1 hour, 3 days a week, is worth paying over 100$$ per year for. Let us buy HOURS!

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

NCSoft is a very smart company. Looking forward to 2006-2007 releases. BIG TIME.

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

I hope they work things out. World of Warcraft is too SLOW and the graphics are too puffy.

glitch24
glitch24

CRAP aren't they the force behind Guild Wars??? Wait a minute...does it even affect GW?

quietcool72
quietcool72

Blazer88, I assume you are one of the beta testers for WoW Burning Crusade, and can tell us just how weak the expansion is? Plus I know "stale" old WoW really is hurting in terms of subscribers, right Blazer? Gimme a break.

pred890
pred890

The 10,000 for Auto Assault is a real shocker. I agree with others here, MMO's are oversaturated (and dominated by WOW). They need to try other things.

runstalker
runstalker

==> The marketing on Auto Assault was terrible. They had no idea how to pitch the game. For all the haters taking the opportunity to diss AA despite having not played it (this news story makes it easy for people to bash), it's actually a fairly well-constructed game. But seriously...why come out with a $14.99/month vehicular MMO against a WoW-dominated subscriber market? Auto Assault should have been $4.99/month. Nobody has the ballz to try a new subscription model. Why is it either $14.99 or Free? Can't there be another number somewhere in between? I blame lack of flexibility on NCsoft's part. God, cars...perfect chance to try micro-transactions for parts. Instead they went for $14.99 and lost a lot of interest.

ghostadv
ghostadv

wow, only 10,000 for auto assault? that's really bad :(

skemaal
skemaal

Well it just shows that there are too many MMO out there. People have time for only a few (one is enough for me) and people aren`t willing to pay 15$ a month for each either. It`s always sad when people get laid off but it`s also a lesson that other companies should look at when it comes to that type of gaming. There are way too many MMO`s out there.

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

i dont think i have anygames from ncsoft

banshe02
banshe02

They should start making GW have monthly fees so they can keep up

Hellswrath99
Hellswrath99

I agree with all that this is a shame for those ppl who lost their jobs. I will say that NCsoft had it coming though. While CoH was a great game, it wasn't designed to keep people's attention for the long haul like WoW was. And Guild Wars isn't bringing in any subscription money, so the only thing they can hope for out of that is expansion profits. Combine that with Auto Assault being a fairly worthless game, and it becomes no surprise that they had to dump so much of their workforce. While the MMO market is and will continue expanding, it will remain a very competitive market where only the best games will succeed. I'm still holding out hope for Tabula Rasa, though.

chikahiro94
chikahiro94

Pity for NCSoft and the folks laid off. Although I'm one of the reasons Auto Assault didn't do well (ie, I didn't buy it - not interested), I think they're publishing some great games and trying (more than some other companies I've seen) to expand the MMO/online gaming arena. COH/COV is great, although I think the engine needs to be licensed out to Viz or Jump for a manga/anime game. Guild Wars is fantasic, and buying the expansion is still cheaper than paying for 6 months worth of any MMO out there (6x$15=$90 versus an optional $50). I will agree they could use diversification into other genres. It'd be nice to see their innovative spirit brought to offline games. I think Exteel is a good start, even if it is Windows only (console port, please?). While I don't think they're in danger of going out of business, this could be good in maybe they will start to expand to ensure the company's long-term profitability.

Karjah
Karjah

NC soft makes some great RPGs while the MMO market is totally being dominated by WoW it would be great to see them make a single player game. Maybe in the auto assult or Guild wars universe?

abelmaestro
abelmaestro

WTF !!!!!! why do they make such a horible game like auto assault? the one who made that game, thats the one they should trow away like a dog.Meh...that game sucks!!!

vaejas
vaejas

Ouch, so much for a blue response. Warm fuzzies to the short straw folks. If you can't consider City of Heroes to be a "runaway hit" then I don't see what other potential there is... But it's a ridiculously difficult market, catering to (face it) a select minority of people with "discretionary entertainment time". I don't have time for online competitive play, and I did in fact enjoy SWG (at launch) and COH/V very much. Make a single player version and I'll buy it. Works for Oblivion.

yboucher
yboucher

Didn't they just open that studio ???

Icekxg
Icekxg

"timts guild war was okay, but I dont want to play the add on package, plus they charge too much for it." are you serious??? how do they charge too much for a stand alone expansion? But as far as Auto Assault goes...yeah, that was a waste. A shame all those ppl lost their jobs. Guess it's better to be with a small and growing company than a big and falling one.

squarephreak
squarephreak

Goodbye City of Heroes, hello City of Unemployed People. Bummer! Well, with the increasing wealth of MMOs out there, hopefully those people can find employment with a competitor... if "no copete" clauses don't screw them.

Seymour47
Seymour47

This is really too bad. Unfortunately for NCSoft they haven't really had a GREAT game since City of Heros. And unfortunately for City of Heros it was launched around the time of WoW. Just as was said earlier this week, until WoW slows down MMO development is basically a failure waiting to happen.

flatline711
flatline711

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

jared81799
jared81799

they had it too good for too long

adolfogomez
adolfogomez

I've been in Lineage 2 since beta,... and all can say is what GMs???... they had a tech support???? they could have fooled me.

timts
timts

guild war was okay, but I dont want to play the add on package, plus they charge too much for it. auto assault? what kind of idea is that?

Neoyamaneko
Neoyamaneko

Perhaps they should stop saturating the market with lackluster MMOs

DS_fan_atic
DS_fan_atic

more lay offs in the video game industry, bad sign. Maybe there are to many companies, and it's harder for devs to compete

UGD_Nathan0490
UGD_Nathan0490

Thats really too bad 80% of their GM staff gone, is horrible...

Disinfo
Disinfo

That is a real shame for all those people to lose their jobs. The game development business is a tough business to be in, despite all of those late night commercials. The MMO market is just oversaturated, I don't really see that genre being able to grow much bigger than it already has. It doesn't make sense to keep pumping out MMO's like they have been. Still, you have to feel bad for those laid off though.