WildStar developer Carbine Studios lays off 40% of staff | PCGamesN

WildStar developer Carbine Studios lays off 40% of staff

The developers of sci-fi MMO WildStar have reportedly suffered massive layoffs according to their Korean publisher NCSoft.

Word of the layoffs at Carbine Studios reached Polygon via a source close to the company who claims more than 70 employees were let go, representing 40% of the studio's total workforce.

Need to know what WildStar is competing against? Here are the top 10 MMOs on PC

NCSoft addressed the rumours with a forum post confirming some of the details, though playing down the extent of the layoffs while citing the cancelation of the Chinese port as reason for the 'reorganisation'.

"Unfortunately, as a result of these changes, we've had to reduce staff," wrote NCSoft's director of community and social Omeed Dariani. "These cuts are directly tied to WildStar's evolution from a product in development to a live title, to the cancelation of work to bring WildStar to China, and to the overall performance of WildStar since launch in 2014."

The MMO has been in troubled waters over the past year, with the radical decision to switch from a subscription-based payment model to free-to-play six months ago indicating problems with a small userbase.

Product director for WildStar Mike Donatelli claimed the move to free-to-play would 'drive millions of players into the game' after the announcement last May.

In NCSoft's most recent quarterly earnings report, WildStar generated higher sales ($2.2million) in Q4 after going free-to-play than the $1.5million slump it suffered before the switch in Q3.

The full statement released by NCSoft can be found below:

Earlier this morning, Carbine Studios completed a reorganization of its operating structure. Moving forward, the studio will focus on operating and updatingWildStar as a live game in the US and Europe. As part of this change, the studio has canceled its plans to bring WildStar to China.

Unfortunately, as a result of these changes, we've had to reduce staff. These cuts are directly tied to WildStar's evolution from a product in development to a live title, to the cancelation of work to bring WildStar to China, and to the overall performance of WildStar since launch in 2014.

These kinds of decisions are exceptionally difficult. The talented and passionate professionals who are impacted by these cuts have been valuable team members and respected colleagues. We wish everyone well for the future and will be providing severance and employment search assistance.

As for WildStar, we remain committed to the game. Over the next few weeks and months we will deliver a significant update to the game, kick off a variety of community events, and continue our work on new content that we will talk more about in the near future.

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Esivo avatarJenks avatarAnAuldWolf avatar
Esivo Avatar
2 Years ago

And that's how Wildstar joins EQNext.

Jenks Avatar
2 Years ago

Looney Tunes art style and tone is not something I would spend months of my life immersing myself in, its not a good fit for an MMORPG for me. I'm a big fan of games like TF2 and Viva Pinata, just not the right theme for that genre.

AnAuldWolf Avatar
2 Years ago

I'm not surprised. Their development was all over the place, not unlike GW2 in many, many ways.

One faction received all the attention whilst another was so, so woefully ignored and heartlessly abandoned that there was incomplete and buggy content everywhere (they really could've learned from ESO, here, and had separate teams for the factions); The writing was just all sass & 'tude without any charm or clevernesss to back it up, resulting in something worse than a bad Nickelodeon cartoon; They aimed their game almost exclusively at a demographic that never really existed (hardcore raiders); And the art style was so obviously just lifted straight from Ratchet & Clank (the PS3 installments especially) that it came over as cynical.

It had no identity, really. It had no real personality of its own. All that it had was stolen. And it was just a series of bad design decisions. If WildStar's postmortem should say anything. It's "This is how you shouldn't design an MMO."

And that's a little harsh, yes. The gameplay mechanics were fun. Until the grind sets in. Early on, though, I could see the potential. I know what they were trying to do, they were attempting to be Blizzard. Blizzard stole its ideas and assets, it also carefully groomed a demographic into existence, but what they aren't considering? Well...

Blizzard has some of the best social engineers in the business. Their business is pretty much just short of brainwashing. Tap-dancing on the edge of the will of their customers is what they do. Many Blizzard job descriptions actually REQUIRE social engineering experience. They have some of the best marketers and psychologists in the business. Blizzard made a business out of tricking people long before the likes of King or Zynga were but a twinkling in a corporate shark's mind's eye.

I remember talking about this years ago. I was regularly laughed out of the room, despite pointing out job recruitment pages at Blizzard where they even explicitly said they require social engineering experience. I remember that the average gamer back then was so inexorably clueless that they didn't even realise that social engineering was a thing. (Education is uncommon, I suppose.)

These days, however, people are FINALLY much more savvy. Aware of social engineering and skinner box trickery. It's much less easy to trick people into becoming addicted like that. And mobile games are so much easier to use as a platform for it that the kinds of people with the personality flaws and ignorance required to actually fall for it can be found there in abundance. But MMO players, having gone through that, are a little smarter now. Not much, but a little. So you have to be much more clever to actually pull off something like that again.

Even Blizzard realised they couldn't. That's why Titan was cancelled. You get to do that once, then you'd have to wait a bloody long time and be really clever before you get to do something like that again.

WildStar wasn't clever enough, and it was just too soon. Gamers were coming down off of their addiction to WoW. And yes, whilst there's always a small minority that gags for the feeling of just being addicted like that again, the majority wouldn't want to go there again. WoW ruined lives, after all. Then what you have to ask yourself is whether those who enjoy that slavish feeling would play something else instead of WoW?

I could tell what they were trying to do. But they didn't have the right people to actually brainwash a horde of peons (heh) into being a demographic as Blizzard once had. I still think that's a marvel of grand scale manipulation, frankly. It just proves how easy to control the average person is if they're presented with something they think they want. Use greed as a motivator and you can have even a seemingly smart person become a drooling imbecile.

MMOs from this point either have to accept that they're either going to be a tiny niche and that they're going to have to milk their tiny, manipulated audience out of every penny they're worth (Perfect World games et al), or they're going to have to be more honest and straightforward than that.

I'll be interested in what future MMOs bring. Though at this point the genre might be dead. If, indeed, it ever really existed in the first place.