The mobile game company behind Pokémon Go, Niantic, is struggling to find its next big hit. And now, a new report claims the studio cancelled multiple projects and laid off staff members in an effort to “streamline” operations.
The San Francisco-based publisher cut 85 to 90 jobs and cancelled four in-development games, including a Transformers spin-off announced last year called Heavy Metal, according to a Bloomberg report published today, Bloomberg further reported that an email was sent from CEO John Hanke to staff that said the company was “facing a time of economic turmoil” and that after previous efforts to cut costs, Niantic still needed to “further streamline our operations in order to best position the company to weather any economic storms that may lie ahead.”
Other reportedly cancelled games include Hamlet, a planned collaboration between Niantic and theatre company Punchdrunk, and Blue Sky and Snowball, but it’s unclear if those were planned titles or internal codenames.
Niantic found big success with 2016’s AR-powered Pokémon Go, but it still hasn’t been able to replicate that success. In 2019, the studio released Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, but it never found a large audience and was eventually shut down earlier this year. Other games based on Pikmin and Catan have also failed to set the world on fire.
In a statement sent to Kotaku, a Niantic spokesperson confirmed the news of the layoffs and explained it planned to continue to support Pokémon Go and its other games and projects.
“We recently decided to stop production on some projects and reduce our workforce by about eight per cent to focus on our key priorities,” said Niantic. “We are grateful for the contributions of those leaving Niantic, and we are supporting them through this difficult transition.
The company also told Kotaku that this move will allow the company to focus more on “new experiences” and that it will “continue investing in the future of AR.”
While it’s true Niantic will keep investing in new games — the company did just announce a new project with the NBA after all — it’s unlikely that those laid off will find comfort in that fact. I can’t imagine watching your company continue to make billions of dollars on a single game while laying off staff is a good way to boost morale.