Layoffs Crush Gas Powered Games Just Days After Launch Of $1.1 Million Kickstarter

We've heard from two sources that there have been big layoffs at Gas Powered Games, the company that just launched a Kickstarter for $US1.1 million to make their next game, Wildman.

One source said these layoffs may be connected to the Kickstarter's current performance, which has been disappointing. Right now, it has been up for four days and earned around $US173,000, nowhere close to its goal.

One source suggested that the company may be shutting down entirely.

UPDATE: We've heard from two more sources saying that almost everyone at the company has been laid off. According to one of these sources, the company has let go of everyone except CEO Chris Taylor and one or two people.

Located in Redmond, Washington, Gas Powered Games is the developer behind games like Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander. It's run by Chris Taylor, who created the popular real-time strategy game Total Annihilation.

We've reached out to both Taylor and a PR representative for the company's Kickstarter project. We'll update should we hear back.

UPDATE 2: Chris Taylor has confirmed the layoffs. He sent over the following email:

Hey Jason,

We do have a layoff, and we'll be updating our Kickstarter as well with details as well very soon. I'm way behind, so many wonderful people to talk to and share stories with, so it just takes time. It's actually been a fairly positive experience, because I run a very open company and everyone knows what's going on.

Thanks! Chris

UPDATE 3: Taylor has offered some further explanation to Gamasutra, saying, "The studio is still operating, but we had to slim WAY down to conserve cash reserves."

UPDATE 4: Taylor has offered a further bit of explanation to Joystiq, telling them that about 40 people have been "affected by layoffs" (Joystiq's language), that the decision wasn't as sudden as it appeared to be, and that it will allow the company to pay severance and remaining paid time-off.

UPDATE 5: Taylor has made a lengthy statement via a video update to the Wildman Kickstarter page. He explains the reasoning behind the timing of the layoffs: If the company ran through the entire Kickstarter campaign and it failed, he says he'd have to let everyone go, shut the company down, and not give any paid time-off or severance. "That," he says, "I decided was not worth it."

In the video, Taylor goes on to ask backers if he should continue the Kickstarter campaign. "Now that the team has been laid off," he says, "should I continue the campaign to see if the numbers do improve, and hire them back at the end of the campaign if they still want to come back and if they haven't found jobs? Or do I shut the campaign down tonight, or tomorrow, and call it done?" Taylor then asks people to vote with their comments, and says they will tabulate them. "Do we kill the campaign, or do we keep it going? It's up to you."


    So essentially, they're pinning everyone's future on this one game they can't get funded anywhere except Kickstarter.

    This seems like a fairly ethical business decision - just odd timing. I guess he was hoping the kick starter would take off straight away.

      My thoughts exactly.

    At least it seems he did right by his employees by using cash reserves responsibly to pay them severance and their unused leave.

    So this is the modern games industry? Look to Kickstarter or Government welfare to finance your game? Bullshit. This over saturation of the industry just causes problems. Many companies shouldnt even exist, really.

      OK, I'm never going to understand how it's possible to be anti-Kickstarter when it's a self-correcting 'problem'. You don't like it, don't pay for it and you're completely unaffected by it's success or demise. If not enough people want them, the products, and sometimes the companies, cease to exist just like you want.

        This /\ /\

        The CEO Chris Taylor is on the kickstarter page talking to fans in person and discussing ideas with them. Thats a GOOD thing. As for over saturation, well ... who wouldnt want more games and more options. Jeez.

    Maybe I don't know business but how does his logic work? If the Kickstarter fails he says that he would have had to let everyone go, shut the studio down, and not pay any severance or accrued leave. So now he's letting a large number of people go and I'm assuming that he's also paying out severance and leave.

    Where's the money coming from now as opposed to then? Is it just that operating costs will be lower for the duration of the Kickstarter so he has more liquid assets now than in the projected future? I am interested to see how this works out for them. Will people put their money towards something that may get canned after a month or two because the company just can't sustain itself or will they put enough funding in because they want to see the company continue to exist?

      He'd have to pay wages in the interim, with no income being generated by the business. This would deplete the workers entitlements. Effectively, if the employees were retained and the kickstarter failed, they wouldn't paid for their last month. The business owners/directors would also have to declare bankruptcy, which means they can't start another business for five years. This is fairly standard practice, and as someone who has been in both situations, its better to get a pink slip with full entitlements, then to find out the company you work for is insolvent and you won't receive you last months wages for six months, if ever.

    Moral blackmail on kickstarter contributers?

    Personally I think it's karma for ruining Supreme Commander 2.

    It's not normal for a KS to achieve even 250,000 (let alone 1.1mil) within 4 days.. there have been a couple of exceptions but they are just that.. exceptions. Just look at projects like Elite: Dangerous.. a very slow start but ended up well over the goal.. I don't think that would be the cause.

    When a studio has the financial backing of publishers, they can afford to have big studios full of staff.. when they are going independent, they don't need to have that many so they don't..

    I think this has been blown way out of context and proportion.

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