Midway trims fat, cuts to the bone

Mortal Kombat and Wheelman publisher to lay off 25 percent of workforce, close Austin studio, cease development on multiple unannounced titles.

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Earlier this month, Midway Games lost its highest-profile supporter when media mogul Sumner Redstone ditched his majority stake in the publisher for just $100,000. That triggered change-of-ownership clauses in the company's loans, allowing creditors to demand repayment of $150 million within 30 days.

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While it's still unclear how Midway (whose total assets amounted to less than $168 million as of September 30) will pay that debt, the publisher today instituted an array of cost-cutting measures to keep afloat. To start, the company will lay off 25 percent of its global workforce, roughly 180 full-time employees. Additionally, Midway plans to shut down its Austin, Texas, studio entirely and has suspended development on multiple unannounced "non-core" games previously scheduled for release in 2010 and 2011.

"The cost-reduction measures are vital for us to rationalize our operations and provide the resources necessary for our core properties to succeed," Midway president and CEO Matt Booty said in a statement. "These initiatives, along with the other steps we have taken this year, are a response to the specific challenges we are facing at Midway, many of which have been amplified by the current economic conditions."

The shuttering of Midway Studios Austin comes just months after the publisher had already made deep cuts to the operation. In August, Midway laid off roughly 90 of the 130 or so employees there, equal at the time to 10 percent of the publisher's global workforce.

Midway Studios Austin was originally known as Inevitable Entertainment until October of 2004, when Midway purchased the studio outright. Its previous games included Sierra Entertainment's multiplatform The Hobbit in 2003 and Tribes: Aerial Assault on the PlayStation 2. For Midway, the Austin studio revamped the Area 51 franchise with a 2005 first-person shooter on the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2. Midway Austin's final released project was last year's Blacksite: Area 51 for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

As of press time, Midway shares were trading at $0.17, down about 10 percent from their previous close of $0.19.

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