Earlier this year in May BioWare announced they would be “restructuring” their Austin team. The BioWare Austin team is mostly responsible for the development on Star Wars: The Old Republic. Well unfortunately today according to reports, a new round of layoffs hit the Austin BioWare team. There is no official head count of how many people where let go earlier today.
However, developer Ben Marshall confiremed the layoffs today with a tweet that was later pulled down:
“Anyone know of a web developer position open in the Austin, TX area? Second round of layoffs at BioWare Austin and my name was on the list…”
In addition, Star Wars: The Old Republic’s executive producer Rich Vogel who helped co-found the Austin studio in 2005 has apparently left the company as well. He was one of the main people behind Star Wars: The Old Republic, he basically managed the entire team of producers, artists, and designers.
Star Wars: The Old Republic has not exactly had the best year with reportedly sales figures down approximately 400,000. Not to mention the fact that EA is actually considering making the game free to play in the near future. The game right now is free to play up to level 15 and there has been no word on whether that move has helped gain back some of the lost sales figures.
It is not clear who will replace Vogel at this time, but EA did say in the past that some of the layoffs where necessary “in order for the team to maintain and grow SWTOR.” It will be interesting to see what steps EA takes next to try and increase the sales of Star Wars: The Old Republic, because they were really counting on this game being a windfall of success. Or at least your would assume that is what they were expecting when they reportedly spent between $150-200 million building the game.
Here is the official BioWare response to the issue:
“As we announced in May and detailed at E3, the BioWare Austin team is refining Star Wars: The Old Republic to continue to grow the game and the service.
As with the launch of any MMO, the size and skillset of the teams needed to maintain the game is different than the ones that built it. Starting in May, there have been staff reductions in the BioWare Austin studio and Rich Vogel left BioWare in June. Some people have been platooned to other projects at BioWare Austin and EA Sports/Austin. Others have been released – qualifying personnel receive severance and outplacement assistance.
BioWare Austin is currently staffed to ensure the continued delivery of new, high quality game content for The Old Republic, and at a more frequent cadence. In the weeks ahead, we will announce plans for growing SWTOR with new content, new players and new ways to play.”
Do you think Star Wars: The Old Republic will survive long term as an MMO? Or will the game continue to loose player support over time eventually crushing the game?