Sony Online lays off hundreds, cancels Agency

DC Universe Online developer shuttering Seattle, Denver, and Tucson studios, refocusing on new PlanetSide and Everquest MMOGs.


Last July, Sony Online Entertainment cut 4 percent of its workforce. Now, if reports are correct, the layoffs are continuing…at a heftier rate.

The Agency was originally announced in 2007.
The Agency was originally announced in 2007.

As has become somewhat common with game industry layoffs, the news was first reported by 3D Realms president George Broussard on his Twitter feed. Broussard initially reported yesterday that SOE Seattle was undergoing layoffs and The Agency studio may even be closed. Within hours, he followed that up with word that the layoffs expanded beyond the Seattle shop and that multiple SOE studios would be closed today, with Denver among the rumored cuts.

As of press time, representatives with Sony and Sony Computer Entertainment had not responded to GameSpot's request for comment or clarification on the matter.

However, gaming blog Kotaku cites "a source familiar with the matter" as saying Sony Online Entertainment has closed three entire studios, laying off one-third of its staff in the process. The studios reportedly shut down are Sony's branches in Denver, Co.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Seattle, Wash. Additionally, Kotaku reports that half of the workforce at SOE's Austin, Texas branch were given the pink slip, as well as a "sizeable" portion of Sony's San Diego, Calif., studio.

The news comes in the wake of two major launches for Sony Online Entertainment. In January, the company released DC Universe Online--SOE's fastest selling game of all time--after more than five years in the works. Additionally, the publisher launched its free-to-play online game Free Realms on the PlayStation 3 earlier this week.

This would be the third major round of layoffs at SOE in as many years. In July of 2009, the company let 41 staffers go, barely a month after Free Realms' original PC launch. That downsizing eliminated 5 percent of the company's workforce, or 41 positions.

Broussard has proven regrettably accurate when tweeting about the latest layoffs in the game industry. In the past year alone, the 3D Realms veteran has been among the first to detail developer downsizings at LucasArts, IO Interactive, EA Canada, and Black Box, among others.

[UPDATE]: Sony Online Entertainment confirmed for GameSpot today that it is closing the Seattle, Tucson, and Denver studios, and is shedding 205 positions in the process. The long-in-development online game The Agency has also been canceled. SOE's full statement follows below:

As part of a strategic decision to reduce costs and streamline its global workforce, SOE announced today that it will eliminate 205 positions and close its Denver, Seattle and Tucson studios. As part of this restructuring, SOE is discontinuing production of The Agency so it can focus development resources on delivering two new MMOs based on its renowned PlanetSide and EverQuest properties, while also maintaining its current portfolio of online games. All possible steps are being taken to ensure team members affected by the transition are treated with appropriate concern.

This strategic decision will have no impact on SOE's current portfolio of live games; additionally SOE will transition development efforts for the Denver and Tucson studios’ suite of products to its San Diego headquarters. This strategic alignment of development resources better positions SOE to remain a global leader in online gaming and deliver on its promise of creating entertaining games for players of all ages, and servicing the 20 million players that visited SOE servers in just the past year.

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Avatar image for sangieredwolf

Reading this four years later is rather interesting.

Avatar image for GetafixOz

So Smedley..... I guess you still believe you know something about online gaming huh? You may go down in history as the most deluded individual since that guy who thought he was the son of god.

Avatar image for wedran123

Yup....SOE games rule Nr. 4500091....their most popular games are gonna be P2p till they start loosing people(everquest 2) and then they go free.....Estimated time: 1 to 2 years

Avatar image for shadowhunter0

I hope the new planet side will be avaible on the ps3

Avatar image for ziproy

I was really looking foreward to the Agency since it was anounced and now all I get is this crappy DC MMO, its more of the same generic WoW clones. If I wanted to play WoW (I don't) I would

Avatar image for starduke

Wait-a-minute, they canceled a game that could've been different and are focusing on making games that'll be more of the same. Typical.

Avatar image for awheaten

@rasterror you said, " ...And it's know and not no. And just because you don't like MGS doesn't mean you can't be biased towards Sony. Not every PS3 owner, I included, bought that game. Think before you type please. In fact, by noting all of the thumbs down, don't type at all." Know and no are text notation. Also, last time I heard this was a forum to voice oppinions. Also, what does MGS have to do w/anything. And finally, I don't care about thumbs down you do. I do this in my spare time you do this as a homage and career for GameXboxSpot. Now tell me whos the looser? Lastly, I don't care about them reporting it, I have a problem w/them always glorifying and giving Sony top news when Sony has problems, IMO. Its just a story that I could have lived w/o seeing as a top story. Ohh, and just in case you don't know what IMO means: it stands for In my oppinion. I think you need to Take Your Own Advice!

Avatar image for mindyobizniz

Not really suprising. Sony hasn't become one of the largest companies in the world by coddling it's staff "Your not making as much money as we'd like're fired" I feel especially bad for all the creative teams who've brought some good titles to a pretty cold and faceless corporation. Best wishes to them and I hope they land somwehere more conductive to the creative way of thinking

Avatar image for DitchyJ

Planet Side - Simply the best MMOG ever. Had everything you wanted in an online game (fantasy mmo (e.g. WoW) not included). Seriously though i cant wait for this game, and im sure Sony (although its a shame for those effected) are making the right moves.

Avatar image for King_Wii

Honestly its sad to hear, not because I wanted the game but just because its hard to hear that the game industry is suffering so much. Its funny about 6 years ago I was trining at AI to become a game artist but for some reason or another I decided to shift gears into another field. Seeing all the cuts only reasures me that I made the right choice. Still though I feel for all those who are losing their jobs, I too have felt the wrath of the times, pramotions are a no-go for the current future in my industry.

Avatar image for Ailith

@garland51 I was not implying that the free part was a good thing actually, since I said the "only" good thing about it is that it's free was meant to mean I wouldn't pay money for Sony's s***ty online capabilities, so it's good that it's at least free.

Avatar image for gbrading

The Agency being cancelled doesn't surprise me. The MMO market at the moment is already stagnant, and WoW has achieved such a dominance over it.

Avatar image for Tylendal

Woo-hoo! Focusing on Planetside Next. Wait, there's other stuff in this article? Whatever... Woo-hoo! Planetside! Got Pulsar, will travel.

Avatar image for thuban

a good question to ask... which figure is greater? the top Sony Execs incomes or the total value of the 205 salary's combined another example of corporate greed i see

Avatar image for tidus89

Honestly couldn't care less about the game. However, I do feel bad for all those poor people who lost their jobs. Curse you economic depression!! CURSE YOOOU!!!!!!

Avatar image for nocoolnamejim

Oh joy. Yet more MMOs.

Avatar image for -HaloHitman-

I kinda saw this coming.

Avatar image for Zloth2

@Jaykray, game industry? It's a lot more of the programming industry than just games. I've been layed off three times and quit twice all with one company! If you're going to be a programmer, it's best to keep a good six months worth of pay just sitting around so you can live off it when the job ends.

Avatar image for DoomRider13

The Wii and Xbox360 put a good fight to PS3! Again don't get me wrong because I own all of them! Since PS3 is the most expensive of the three and also the less popular, Sony has less money income than other companies!

Avatar image for DoomRider13

Sony is trouble for a couple of years now and they have to make hard choice like fired employees and by the same process canceling games. And if that wasn't enough the recent Tsunami and nuclear plant disaster didn't help! Japan has to focus on surviving somehow! I wish them luck!

Avatar image for moddyn2004

if this is the case, then couldn't we see a gain in independently run studios. in times like these its crippling to even try but there is a gain to be had surely?

Avatar image for KC_Hokie

@ CaptainHerlock - Gamespot in the article states SOE is a developer. Period. So why would they have to say the PS3 is or is not in trouble? That has absolutely nothing to do with the article.

Avatar image for CaptainHerlock

Before anyone starts saying "The PS3 is in trouble", what GameSpot neglects to tell you is that Sony Online Entertainment is primarily their PC game division. GameSpot; Fair and Balanced.

Avatar image for 4quarters

I know Free Realms is free, but this game is about 10 years dated looking/playing. You get what you pay for, I played for an hour but clunky controls, no eplanation what to do, and horrid graphics mean this is only for kids or people that can't afford games...sorry Sony....FAIL

Avatar image for Zartan3000

The Great Recession strikes again....Crap.

Avatar image for Jaykray

This is exactly why I'll never work in the game industry again. The turn-over rate is too high. One never knows when they're going to get the shaft from their employer.

Avatar image for KC_Hokie

@BeanoFatardo - What does any of that have to do with SOE firing a third of their employees and shutting down multiple development studios?

Avatar image for BeanoFatardo

bill gates : let's fix the red ring problem by taking out the red light! *fart*

Avatar image for BeanoFatardo

of course xbox is better than playstation, monkey. but the problem is : microsoft doesn't know how to make a system. i'm on my fourth xbox 360 since 2007 and TRUST ME... i take care of my game swag

Avatar image for blasterchief

Wait . . . this isn't an April Fools thing?

Avatar image for steven141

Was looking forward to the agency but with SOEs unfortunate reputation with their games, it probably would have been average at best. Shame though, especially after all those people lost their jobs, well thats a lot of money down the drain. Not sure why they cancelled a game that was so far along in development with so much potential.

Avatar image for steven141

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

Avatar image for xFL4WL3SSx

Xbox 4 Life let's see how many thumbs down I get. ready. set. GOOOOOOOO!!!

Avatar image for punanisher

@KC_Hokie You are so right about Smed. Under his watch, SOE has gone to crap.

Avatar image for KC_Hokie

I'm surprised Sony let SOE CEO John Smedley keep his job. He's the one who mis-managed SOE. He's the one that ruined SOE's most popular game ever, Star Wars Galaxies, with the CU and NGE. He's the one who failed to properly support Vanguard, Planetside, and the Matrix Online. Can anyone name an executive of an MMO development studio responsible for that many failures AND still has their job?

Avatar image for BravoOneActual

April's fool.

Avatar image for FiSh3r4LiF3

NOT THE AGENCY! and im sorry to all those who lost their jobs

Avatar image for Jag-T1000

Guess they should've charge for online then.

Avatar image for -CoMBaT-

DC Universe Online took 5 years of development? And it had that little content at launch? What...

Avatar image for rasterror

@awheaten This article is posted in the news section, SOE is a gaming company. so is the fact that they are having a huge layoff gaming news? Most certainly. I can see if Gamespot posted news about a layoff in Sony's TV division being an issue, but this is truly relevant to gaming news. And before you say that you're so grown and that you owned somebody and try to prove that you know all these facts, please think about what you type. And it's know and not no. And just because you don't like MGS doesn't mean you can't be biased towards Sony. Not every PS3 owner, I included, bought that game. Think before you type please. In fact, by noting all of the thumbs down, don't type at all.

Avatar image for CoL0sS

Figures..... little people get laid off while pricks like Broussard are still taken seriously.

Avatar image for awheaten

@Speuj You said, "gameXboxSpot? Really? Dude... c'mon... your accusing everyone of fanboyism when your the most guilty one out of all of them!" The difference between me and them is that I can admit it. BTW, this is the great David Hayter of Metal Gear Solid, so bow down and show some respect.

Avatar image for Speuj

@awheaten and @moozeditty lol! That was quite the entertaining conversation! Thanks! =) Also... @awheaten, gameXboxSpot? Really? Dude... c'mon... your accusing everyone of fanboyism when your the most guilty one out of all of them! ...and wtf is up with that picture of Bono in your avatar? I'm trying to take you seriously... I really am! But its to do that when I'm being stared at by so much douche!

Avatar image for TriforcePlayer

I sure hope those people find new jobs very soon. I hope SOE makes DCUO free to play or fixes all of the stupid bugs soon

Avatar image for awheaten

@moozeditty Can't u understand when u r owned. Just chill out and accept it.

Avatar image for moozeditty

@awheaten Your narcissism is matched only by your stupidity. Stay precious.

Avatar image for awheaten

@moozeditty Getting back to this article... I like the way M$, I mean gameXboxSpot, I mean this blog put up another lay off story just to prove me wrong, lol. VERY funny.

Avatar image for DiscGuru101

Figures, The Agency is one of the few SOE games that interested me. --As long as the cooperate heads can make millions per year, the little people don't really matter.

Avatar image for bigg_p

I like how they refer to laying people off as a "strategic decision". It's a shame that many companies only seem to plan a fiscal year ahead...