There is a lot of buzz in forums and the blogosphere about the recent layoffs from Mythic (and later THQ). The extremes can be found at Broken Toys (sympathetic view from the inside) and Tobold’s MMORPG Blog (harsh view from the outside). What I want to comment on comes from the statement from Mark Jacobs (top boss of Mythic) concerning the layoffs at Mythic after the launch of Warhammer Online.
With respect to customer service, quality assurance and play testing, prior to the launch of WAR, we hired additional people to deal with the rush of demand associated with an MMO launch and to insure the best possible experience for our players.
This seems to be commonplace with the development of MMO’s these days. Age of Conan had to have layoffs from their pre-launch bloat as well. Is the MMO development culture now one filled with migrant developers?
The two most recent posts at one of my new favorite blogs, Eating Bees, sets an interesting stage. Sanya writes that many people who were laid off were people that figured they would retire with Mythic, but in the same breath endorses EA’s (and thereby Mythic’s) quality of life. Earlier she wrote about how the industry seems to be cannibalizing talent by taking cheap, “passionate” labor over experienced, “expensive” labor. (By the way, if you are hiring give her a buzz regarding the recently affected.)
This leads directly into the Cheyenne Mountain incident (current developers of Stargate Worlds), where the company could not pay their developers right before the holidays. A company that is not EA (or Mythic), and probably had to buy a bunch of “passionate” labor. I read rumors that Cheyenne Mountain was actually trying to help some of their employees find other jobs.
These are incidents we know of. How many start-up MMOs get shut down forcing the employees to emigrate before we even hear whispers of the game? One must assume that the person has to know what they are getting in to on some level, but Mythic’s front man makes it seem like even the big, stable companies unabashedly pull a bait and switch on the migrant population. Anybody getting hired for Mythic likely felt they just hit the golden handcuffs of job stability.
It’s a dour thought that there is a large group of migrant developers floating out there trying to land on a successful MMO. Players, I think, want a human face to their service, and the concept of layoffs is a very inhuman ideal, as rational as it may be. That is the main problem with Mark Jacobs’ post. It is chock-full-o-rational in the creation of this migrant workforce, but he doesn’t apologize for the masses he let go once.
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