Now confirmed: Guild Wars 2 studio ArenaNet is suffering heavy layoffs, but the game will continue

    
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Update: The layoffs have now been confirmed, and ArenaNet has now issued a statement. We’re continuing to update this article at the end.

Kotaku is reporting that ArenaNet, the studio behind Guild Wars 2 and classic Guild Wars, is planning “big layoffs.” The publication says it’s acquired a memo sent by NCsoft CEO Songyee Yoon in which Yoon says ArenaNet as it was wasn’t “sustainable” and that the “live game business revenue is declining as [its] franchises age, delays in development on PC and mobile have created further drains against our revenue projects, while our operating costs in the west have increased.” It sounds pretty bad for ArenaNet as the cost-cutting measures will reportedly merge the publishing divisions between NCsoft and ArenaNet as part of the restructure.

Kotaku counts 400-odd people currently at work at ArenaNet with multiple unannounced projects underway. We don’t yet know how many people or projects will be affected. MMO players will recall that NCsoft is well known throughout the industry for these kinds of moves, most recently shuttering Carbine Studios and WildStar and laying off employees at Iron Tiger on the eve of its Aion mobile launch. (The Korean gaming giant has been leaning more and more toward mobile.)

Traditionally, ArenaNet has appeared to be insulated from these kinds of layoffs, and its financials weren’t particularly bad in 2018 overall (though that fourth quarter was definitely down a lot), but rumors that the company wasn’t planning a Guild Wars 2 expansion for 2019 certainly were cause for alarm. In recent months, the studio has made surprising moves to buff up the classic Guild Wars, even bringing its promotional website back online and vowing support for “years to come.”

Our sympathies as always extend here to the rank and file. We’ll be updating as we learn more.

Source: Kotaku. With thanks to Drelkag and ZenJitzu.
Update
The latest update seems to indicate that multiple projects have been canceled and that ArenaNet employees were notified about the layoffs in meetings this afternoon. It remains unclear how many people are affected, but as Kotaku points out, those on the canceled projects are likely the first to go. There’s one silver lining: Apparently the company will dish out two months of severance.
Update
One of the original founders of ArenaNet, Jeff Strain, who now helms Undead Labs, posted a heartfelt message for his former colleagues and opening up his studio to those departing.

Update
ArenaNet Lead Game Designer Jennifer Scheurle has now tweeted confirmation of the layoffs, saying that “decisions are pending,” that ArenaNet has been transparent with the developers, and that employees are “not being shuffled out right away.” The worrisome bit is that Scheurle says she herself doesn’t know whether her job will continue. (Thanks, Tom!)

Update
ArenaNet has now issued a formal statement to the Guild Wars 2 playerbase.

“We know you have a lot of questions about the future of Guild Wars 2. We want to share with you what to expect moving forward for the game. First and foremost, we are still fully committed to all of our players and ongoing support of the game. We will be moving directly from Living World Season 4 into Season 5 as promised, and we plan to continue a regular cadence of updates and releases. We know Guild Wars 2 is important to you, and as our players, you are important to us. Rest assured that we are still working to add great new content to the game. We are deeply grateful to all of you for your support during this difficult time.”

The statement ArenaNet gave GIbiz (thanks Kieran!) also confirms it has cancelled “unannounced projects” and will suffer “staff reductions” as “part of a larger organizational restructuring within NCSOFT in the west, but the Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 game services will not be affected, nor is any upcoming game content canceled.”

Intriguingly, former ArenaNet narrative designer Jessica Price, who was fired by the company last year in a fiery spectacle literally nobody wants to rehash right now (so please don’t), has provided additional clarity we’re unlikely to get otherwise. She writes she knew of two projects, one of which was “indefinitely suspended” even before she was let go, and that Guild Wars 2 was already suffering because of those projects even as long ago as last summer, something that rings true given the content cadence slowdown last year.

“For those of us working on GW2, our mandate was essentially to make it look like there was the same level of resources devoted to GW2, when they were actually steadily moving people off of it onto the other projects,” she tweeted. “It was bad enough that at one point we were told we could only have one cinematic for Ep5 (All or Nothing), which, given that it was the climax of the season and had more heavy emotional beats than anything else we’d done (at least while I was there), was devastating. The cinematics team, which is amazing, eventually figured out how to give us the cinematics we needed, and the team got very creative about how to do those sort of emotional beats without cinematics (like the last scene, which came out brilliantly). But it was deeply stressful to have to keep up the appearance of the same level of content creation and production values as always while people steadily got moved off the project.”

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Joe Seabreeze

crashing the game industry, one triple A company at a time. :)

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flying_dutchman

GW2 was solid but not exceptional. It was a game with a lot of good aspects but they didn’t seem to blend very well to create an immersive experience. It was like three decent but separate games that someone slapped together.

Honestly though, seven years isn’t a bad run for a modern game. Not every MMO can be WoW and hang on for 15 years(still number 7 on PC revenue from the super data article). The game made more money than it lost, I don’t know why all these games are trying to hang on for years while they pump out mediocre expansion after mediocre expansion and try to prop themselves up with a cash shop.

Make a solid game, Make a decent expansion or two, then pack it in and start working on something else. These mmo companies need to be a little more self aware. Not every game can be wow or FFXIV.

It’s better to put a old horse our to pasture than ride it till it dies. (I’m looking at you TOR and ESO)

I think even WoW might have been better off had they canned the game after Wrath and released WoW 2 around the time Mists came out.

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DargorV .

Post PoF GW2 has been a disapointment. From the dwindling quality of content to the obvious cash shop mount lootboxes (which is the only thing they seem capable of reliably producing these days), nothing but disapointment.

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Dave

That’s entirely subjective. I’ve heard as many people online complaining about the game as I’ve heard praising it. It all depends on INDIVIDUAL player expectations and what game types and content you play.

I think that Season 4’s maps and story has far outpaced that of Season 3…. sure a few patches have been delayed, but to me it sounds like ANet is learning the same lessons we’ve learned in Software Dev – which is simply “You don’t know what you don’t know, so don’t give exact dates until you do know”.

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Dug From The Earth

I cant help but think that Anet would be doing better if so many people didnt struggle with their payment system to actually purchase things.

I cant count the number of times ive tried to buy stuff only to have it error out completely and have to go through their billing support to get it working many days later.

Its most likely due to Digital River, the 3rd party they use for their online transactions.

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Nate Woodard

I would LOVE to see Utopia in GW. That would be the best!!

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styopa

As much as NCSoft appears to be cast as the bogeyman here, it looks to me like they simply addressed a can that kept getting kicked down the road. Either invest, focus, grow, and succeed or call it quits and stop wasting money treading water. It may be surprising for some readers but…that’s how business works in every other context: if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Smart managers understand that culling is part of keeping a business alive, as painful as it may be to the staff involved.

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Bruno Brito

To be fair, anyone who saw how Anet was completely without direction until PoF ( and the direction it took wasn’t that good, to be fair ), and treated 2/3rds of the game as a sidethought ( PvP/WvW ), would be betting this would happen sooner or later.

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squid

I feel like were seeing more and more of these cancelled projects dragging down studios, publishers and existing games. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of player expectations being too high, or developers overreaching, but you really don’t see major developers building anything small or focused anymore—every game has to be absolutely massive, set up multiple sequels, etc. I’m glad that I find more satisfaction in playing or replaying old MMOs than I do waiting for the Next Big Thing these days.

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Kevin McCaughey

Guil Wars 3 cancelled then?

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PanagiotisLial1

That is a good question, if GW3 was planned and if it was, if it was cancelled too

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Arktouros

What if it was Guild Wars: Battle Royale?

thinking.png
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Nate Woodard

It would probably be better than the current iteration. It saddens me deeply, too!

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Bruno Brito

and Guild Wars 2 game services will not be affected, nor is any upcoming game content canceled

Hah.

Look, i feel for the people working on this buy i’ll be extremely honest here: GW2 is a way weaker “sequel” for GW1. Half of the game is a fucking mess, it has terrible watchability for a game that was sold as a “e-sport”, one third of the game is a forethought, abandoned for SEVEN YEARS ( WvW ), and the game is suffering from an powercreep that only the worst games ever see. Let’s not even count that GW2, while pretty, is honestly pretty shallow as a game.

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Tee Parsley

GW2 suffered from the conceptual failure of it’s top brass, who wanted to map DAoC gameplay onto the Elder Scrolls setting. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what the lion’s share of Elder Scrolls fans wanted.

This was reported as far back as the early closed betas, but it was like a slow motion train wreck.

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Bruno Brito

That’s actually a great concept, but GW2 suffers not from it’s early conception, but it’s concepts at execution. Weapon skills are a joke, classes have terrible design, the game lacks depth, the lack of a trinity screwed up class function, world exploration is good but your character has no effect on it, which is against what it was advertised.

When GW2 was announced, i thought it would be a more sandparky MMO with way in-depth character building, as per the GW1 franchise.

I got a game that made you level 80 irrelevant levels so it could grab the attention of Wrath of the Lich King players.

Christ.

Celestia
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Celestia

NCsoft: It’ll end in tears