(I hear some, perhaps many employees, were willing to work without pay until the company got things situated. I'm not sure I would have been in that camp. As a co-worker once said, "If I am getting zero dollars a week you can expect me to work zero hours a week.")
Sad news for all involved.
I suspect the majority of the laid-off employees will be able to find work soon. 38 Studios had a lot of good talent and there appears to be a lot of jobs in Boston and nearby areas.
All that isn't the point of my post however. This is: what the heck were they thinking, making yet another fantasy MMO?!?
A fantasy MMO is perhaps the riskiest venture a fledgling game company can take right now, consider:
- The market is dominated by the largest gorilla the game industry has ever seen: WoW
- The market is crowded
- The market expectations are very, very high (see #1)
- The market is in transition between subscription and freemium pay model
Using my amazing powers of hindsight, I believe 38 Studios should have made a sci-fi MMO, a Red Dead-type MMO, a Gamma World sort of game, a Skate or Die MMO or a or invent something new.
Of all the things 38 Studios could have done, the one thing they should NOT have done was to venture into the shark-infested ocean that is the world of fantasy MMOs.
This is exactly what they did.
I see no shortage of safe harbors for new genres in the MMO landscape to be developed. Where a new game can be nurtured and grown away from the WoW and WoW-clone sharks. Develop an IP, establish a brand, gain the trust of gamers, then venture out into the deeper ocean (perhaps I am taking this metaphor too far) and take your shot at the WoW sharks.
All in all I can't blame them for shooting high. If I had access to a $100 million I can't say I would take the safe route either. What game designer wouldn't want to make his or her own version of WoW?