While surfing the twitter universe last Thursday, I noticed a tweet from @Freebooted linking an article from the Guardian about the tragic development and cancellation of World of Darkness, CCP’s failed attempt at making a vampire-themed MMO. Citing former Atlanta employees, the piece went into great detail about how severe management issues and resource allocation carried on over an eight year period, before finally being shuttered two months ago resulting in the mass layoffs of most of the Atlanta office. A few hours later, the video-game news site Polygon broke news that CCP had just laid off 49 employees, with strong pressure from investors being listed as the likely reason for the layoffs. The result of the two articles lead to a very public showing of sympathy to those laid off, as well as anger being expressed to the higher level executives in the company, namely CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson.
I’m going to be pretty honest; I’ve never really agreed with how the EVE community views CCP. I’ve always viewed CCP Games as a company first, while a great majority of the fanatical subscribers seem to treat CCP more like a professional sports team. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the twitter conversations with CCP employees and most of them are entertaining follows. But at the end of the day, they’re employees of a gaming company, not rock stars or celebrities. CCP Games is a business, and as such they have a responsibility to make the company thrive. As long as the layoffs were made for survival purposes and not based on greed, I understand the decision.
But with that said, there are concerning large picture issues with the company.
Over the years I’ve had a chance to network with a few ex-employees, and while I take everything I hear with a grain of salt, I’ve never heard anything particularly flattering about the upper levels of CCP management. The company reviews on Glass Door the past year have been overwhelmingly negative, with Hilmar dropping from an approval rating in the 40’s to 25% as of Monday. The article that appeared on the Guardian is fairly consistent with things that I’ve heard in the past; talented low level and mid-level employees are constantly held in-check by the problems created by people above them, that projects are constantly trashed and rebooted, and that resource allocation has been an issue for years. Whenever something negative involving CCP comes up in the wire, I typically refrain from publicly commenting because there are multiple sides to every story and there’s enough people speculating already to fill a stadium. But if you look back at all of the projects and titles CCP has worked on over the years and the problems that have arisen because of them, it gives credence to some of those negative opinions.
But if you want to judge senior leadership based on facts instead of conjecture, lets take a look at the four games that have been in active development over the years:
EVE Online – Nearly killed the golden goose with a bad overall future vision combined with incomplete features that had been rushed for years. It wasn’t until the subscriber base started flatlining that management changed development strategies.
Dust 514 – A series of bad decisions lead to the game being released on PS3 after several years of development. Less than a year after release, CCP admits their execution of that Dust vision was a colossal failure and the long-term development for Dust will take a backseat to work on Project Legion.
World of Darkness – Vampire MMO sits in development hell for eight years before finally being scrapped, resulting in 20 million dollars of code being written off as a loss.
EVE: Valkyrie – CCP’s latest announced product was not the result of any future vision or planning, but that of a handful of low-level employees building the base of the game in their free time. Future success depends on the VR technology taking off.
So when you start to judge the company alone by the products they’ve worked on, you see an alarming trend. Of their four products (not counting Project Legion), one nearly died, one might as well be dead, one is dead, and one they had nothing to do with initially. A few people in the past have speculated on World of Darkness that CCP was contractually required to develop a game. If that’s true, that makes the decision to sign the merger even worse if they had no realistic plan on how to develop and release WOD. The massive failures of those titles alone would have resulted in the firings of most executives in any other company, yet I have seen little responsibility shown by those who made those mistakes.
Layoffs are sometimes the cost of doing business. But when you see a company frivolously throwing money away on things like monuments and failed development strategies while they’re in financial dire straits and laying off employees left and right, you’re free to openly criticize those the people who made those decisions. So, I’ve started thinking about this long and hard, and I’ve come to a single conclusion:
Maybe the wrong people are being laid off?
Tags: ccp, hvac, layoffs