There's a new report over on Kotaku Australia today that Brisbane-based mobile game company Halfbrick Studios (Jetpack Joyride, Fruit Ninja) has laid off its last two game designers, Ryan Langley and Layton Hawkes, with no plans to replace them.
This is notable because Halfbrick appears to be adopting a new way of doing business that hearkens back to earlier days of game development, when teams were chiefly composed of engineers and artists and the value of dedicated design staff wasn't as appreciated.
"This change will empower everyone in our teams to contribute to design rather than concentrate design control in the hands of a few," Halfbrick chief Shainiel Deo told Kotaku Australia. "Great ideas can come from anywhere and we want to create an environment that fosters this notion."
Deo goes on to say that Halfbrick will continue to develop new games, but this comes alongside efforts to shift to more of a 'games as a service' model for the firm. Halfbrick CPO Ramine Darabiha presented at GDC Next last year on this subject, talking about how the studio successfully revived a 4-year-old game and pushed it back to the top of the charts. Darabiha has since left the company.
Halfbrick expanded into publishing last June, and since then it has seen staffers depart to start indie studios like Protostar and Prettygreat. Gamasutra has reached out to company representatives for further comment on how the studio plans to proceed without any design staff.
Update: A Halfbrick representative confirmed the details to Gamasutra via email, preferring to state that the two designers in question were "made redundant" rather than "laid off," as they lost their jobs because their department was eliminated, not because they were doing subpar work.
"Our teams are being empowered to contribute to design rather than design being in its own silo. To add to this, we have a centralized design resource to guide the teams on achieving this goal," wrote the representative, by way of explanation. "Halfbrick’s focus remains on creating new mobile games while expanding on its core brands (Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride)."