Having to release any employee at any time is a difficult decision and one I’ve had the misfortunate of having to make in the past. To come to terms with the loss of a team member when it’s outside of your control and when it’s no reflection on their work, is also particularly hard to stomach. Unfortunately and in this industry, when budgets don’t necessarily align or when delays are necessary, staff are the first to go. The news on Friday that Motiga have release 16 employees as a result of Gigantic’s launch being delayed came as a shock to everyone and no doubt to those who were let go. Two of the known employees were well loved: Allie Murdock, famed for her work on Guild Wars 2 and its competitive community, alongside Forrest Raynard, the infectiously brilliant streaming community manager, will be sorely missed. The press release from Chris Chung, the CEO of Motiga, had this to say:
Motiga is committed to making Gigantic a great game, and we’ve established deep connections to our community to help us do just that. We've received lots of valuable feedback throughout our testing phases, and as we reflect on the things we must accomplish to meet the expectations we have set for ourselves, it is clear that we need to move the launch window for Gigantic into 2016.
Unfortunately this change in schedule has meant Motiga had to make some difficult decisions this week. As a pre-revenue startup, our resources are finite. Stretching Gigantic development milestones over more time requires that we stretch those resources in the same fashion. As a result, today Motiga has had to lay off 16 employees at the studio. All impacted employees are receiving severances and job placement assistance.
Saying goodbye to these dear friends and talented colleagues is painful, but we remain committed to delivering Gigantic at the highest possible quality. As part of that ongoing commitment, we will soon share our updated production roadmap, within a post detailing the state, and direction, of our game.
For now, we are wishing our friends a sad but very fond farewell, and we hope to cross paths with them again soon.
I watched the reaction to this news with interest on Friday not only because of my professional appreciation of Gigantic but my personal as well. The online space is already crowded and in 2016 it’s only going to become even busier as development studios muscle in on the competitive scene. A number of online games in the same vein as many MOBA’s are already vying for attention and yet Gigantic remains not only the best I’ve played out of all of them, but one that has both polish and a unique artstyle.
The delay to its release will unquestionably have an impact on their budget and as Chris Chung rightly points out, their resources like any other development studio are finite. Microsoft might have waded in and provided them with additional funding as part of its commitment to bring unique titles to XBOX and Windows 10 but that doesn’t mean they’ll continue to hand out funds during delays, irrespective of their faith in the product.
Having seen much of what Motiga are working on behind closed doors and not yet being at liberty to discuss them, there’s no question of how hard they’re working behind the scenes to make Gigantic the best game it can be. Does it need further development time? Yes, but that’s why Motiga have made this difficult decision.
Game development is unique and as the creation of any game progresses, the roadmap will change and so will priorities and roles. Certainly from being part of the industry (even if it is on the fringes as a reporter of these events) it’s most often non-priority roles that are shed first and in this instance, you could argue that streaming and competitive isn’t yet at the forefront when the product has yet to reach a mass of people. It’s a luxury expense that is befitting a post-launch team and I’ve no doubt that Motiga will once again bolster their headcount.
So what does the delay mean for Gigantic? Firstly and as detailed by Troy Hewitt, Motiga’s Community Coordinator, a road map is due to be published later this week, “Our focus remains on getting Gigantic ready for launch. We'll be posting our development roadmap publicly in the next week or so, which will speak more clearly to our efforts moving forward.” It will be a huge help to see what milestones are outstanding and what the target date is for launch not only for positive PR but because it’ll clarify any niggling doubts those looking in might have about Gigantic’s development
Gigantic simply needs to complete its Hero rosta and map selection but to also bring back its party functionality, make a small amount of tweaks to the Focus system and add drafting (similar to Ranked matches in Heroes of the Storm). Post launch they can continue to balance Heroes to their hearts content but even then, the Heroes are already in a very good spot. I look at the likes of Paladins by Hi-Rez which has a poor art style, pretty awful balance and only two maps (that are completely devoid of character and interest) and it makes me wonder what there is to worry about, especially considering people are already spending considerable amounts of time and money in Paladins.
If Motiga can regroup and march on through this difficult time, I’m confident they’ll launch with a product that stands head and shoulders above its competition. Until then, I’ll continue to give the game as much support as I possibly can. Games like this don’t come along very often and if I can help in any way, I’ll do so.
I’ll keep you posted on any future developments and I’ll hopefully, in the coming weeks, have an interview lined up with Troy to discuss the roadmap and Gigantic’s launch.
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