On Friday, May 24, it was reported by Kotaku that the developer behind the surprise success Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Big Huge Games, was facing layoffs. Not long after it was reported that 38 Studios, owner of Big Huge, had laid off its entire staff in addition. This was confirmed by WPRI, a Rhode Island news affiliate, who released this memo sent to all employees:
"The Company is experiencing an economic downturn. To avoid further losses and possibility of retrenchment, the Company has decided that a companywide lay off is absolutely necessary. These layoffs are non-voluntary and non-disciplinary. This is your official notice of lay off, effective today, Thursday, May 24th, 2012."
These problems arose due to the fact that the studio stated that it was unable to repay a one million dollar loan to the state of Rhode Island. This was surprising to most except for governor Lincoln Chafee, who said that the inability to repay the debt was because Reckoning was "a flop" and "not successful" despite selling 1.2 million copies, what many would consider to be great for a new IP.
Pictured Left: Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee
Oddly enough, 38 Studios is not dead yet. While they have no staff, the company has not yet filed for bankruptcy and does not plan to (supposedly). To show support for the studio's fight to stay open, a member of 38watch (a fan site) by the name of AlynShir has released some leaked screens of the Amalur online followup known as Project Copernicus, along with the statement, "38 isn't dead yet. Amalur is worth fighting for. Spread the fire." This does not mean that 38 is safe, but it is better to see something than nothing.
Even though it seems dark, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A Google Doc of open positions in the industry is circulating around Twitter. On top of that, one of the biggest names in the industry, Cliff Blezinski, design director of Epic Games, has personally tweeted those hurt by the layoffs, letting them know that Epic is currently hiring. It's good to see that successful companies in the industry are lending a helping hand and making sure the affected manage to land on their feet.