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CCP's Petursson: 'It Is My Responsibility To Avoid' Layoffs
Yesterday, EVE Online developer CCP had a 20 percent staff reduction; today, CEO Hilmar Petursson talks to Gamasutra about those layoffs, and the company's renewed focus on its core product, EVE Online.
October 20, 2011
5 Min Read
Yesterday, CCP Games, the developer and publisher of spacefaring MMO EVE Online announced major layoffs -- cutting its staff by 20 percent. For a company of 600, this means roughly 120 were let go: big numbers. The layoffs primarily hit the Atlanta studio, but occurred across the entire CCP organization globally, Gamasutra has confirmed. "This is a major thing, and it's something which it is my responsibility to avoid," CEO Hilmar Petursson told Gamasutra in a phone interview from the CCP Atlanta offices. His voice was quavering with emotion during this part of the call, in which he pondered his responsibilities to these displaced staff. CCP merged with tabletop role playing game publisher White Wolf in 2006 and announced intentions to create an MMO based on its flagship pen-and-paper property, World of Darkness. That project is "moving forward in a slower pace, and also more decoupled from the overall development roadmap for CCP," Petursson told Gamasutra today. The World of Darkness MMO is in development at its studio in Atlanta, Georgia; CCP has also opened a Shanghai, China-based studio to spearhead development of Dust 514, a PlayStation 3 shooter which ties into EVE. Gamasutra recently spoke to EVE creative director Torfi Frans Olafsson about that project. "We have good people remaining here, which are going to advance World of Darkness on a much slower pace. So we still very much have an operation here in Atlanta, but it's much smaller than it was before. It's about 100 people that are here remaining, working on customer support and World of Darkness, but they are also adding value to EVE Online this winter, and there will also be a team here working on Dust as well." As for the affected staff, Petursson told Gamasutra that the company is making efforts to help place them with new industry jobs. "We're doing a lot of things," he said. "I've personally been contacted by many CEOs in the industry which have offered to help with finding employment for the people who are leaving, and that's a great thing to see. So we are connecting people with our industry friends, we are helping them with their resumes, we are helping them to make contacts, and things like that." Petursson said that "even EVE players from the community [are] offering assistance," which is less surprising when you consider the tight connection the developer has traditionally had with its players. EVE lead designer Noah Ward was recruited from the community, for example. While the layoffs deeply affected the future of World of Darkness, said Petursson, they are "also relating to the restructuring of EVE. There were people in Iceland, and people globally, that were affected. Because this... is really around the company restructuring around fewer priorities, so it was effected throughout the company." The decision comes after "soul searching" on the part of Petursson, who recently wrote a heartfelt letter to the EVE Online community detailing the ways in which CCP had failed them with its Incarna expansion and the introduction of virtual items to EVE. CCP associate producer Ben Cockerill delivered a speech last week at GDC Online which detailed the company's failure to execute on virtual goods. In July, the company was forced to convene an emergency meeting of its EVE player government, the Council of Stellar Management, to resolve the virtual goods issue. Developing these new EVE initiatives alongside a full-scale World of Darkness MMO in Atlanta and Dust 514 in Shanghai took its toll on the company, Petursson told Gamasutra. "A lot of coordination needed to occur, and it was very straining for the company to have to focus on so many fronts," he said. This layoff is not just a layoff; it marks a full reprioritization for the company: on making sure EVE Online, its core product, is what it needs to be. "Now we're super focused on adding value to EVE Online and getting Dust to market next year," he said. Development of World of Darkness will continue, and the game will launch in a less ambitious form, he said -- and will be driven, as EVE has been, by its community, not by internal initiatives. "We lost focus on taking care of EVE, and it became more important for us to battle-test features in our strategic roadmap by adding them to EVE, rather than adding value to EVE," Petursson admitted to Gamasutra. "At some point we were just spreading ourselves too thin, and we were not focused enough on EVE Online, for sure." "It's a trap which we basically fell into -- where we thought we could achieve three impossible things at the same time," he said. "Now we really have to focus as a company on just really showing our commitment to EVE Online, and giving the game the love from CCP which people claim we have lost," he said. He also said that plans to add out-of-ship play to EVE via Incarna "will now not be a big priority for us; the biggest priority is EVE Online, the spaceship game." Meanwhile, he said, "Dust is on its way to open up private trials at the beginning of January, where we will have a sort of trial phase on the PlayStation Network, in collaboration with Sony." This "sort of a closed beta" will be an important proof for the CCP Shanghai-developed shooter, which is an attempt tp "broaden the kind of experiences we can offer players in New Eden," producer Thomas Farrer told Gamasutra in a recent interview.
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