Disturbing and confusing news for Cryptic and its MMORPGs – chiefly Star Trek Online and Neverwinter – has erupted across social media today following what appear to be coordinated job hunts by key Cryptic staffers.
Twitter user Timur222 first noticed that multiple Cryptic developers had posted messages on Linkedin seeking new opportunities in the games industry. No need to take our word or Timur’s word for it; you can go check them out yourself, though we’ve screencapped them for reference. They include “open to work”-esque messages from senior game designer Jesse Heinig, gameplay engineer/technical designer David Nishball, senior technical artist Chris Penny, and senior community manager Mike “Ambassador Kael” Fatum himself.
Players had reasonably assumed the notices meant layoffs, but apparently it’s not so simple, as earlier this evening, Fatum tweeted that he had in fact not been laid off and that “none of the teams at Cryptic have changed at this time.” However, it doesn’t seem like a coincidence for four key staffers to all start job hunting publicly on a Friday afternoon, so it seems more likely they learned something about the fate of the studio or its games that isn’t public knowledge just yet, which… isn’t a whole lot better.
As our readers will surely remember, Cryptic was sold to Embracer Group’s Gearbox Entertainment in the PWE bundle back in 2021. Over the course of 2023, Embracer’s business dealings have been a trainwreck and its stock dipped following the collapse of a $2B business deal with Saudi Arabia’s Savvy Games. By June, the company had announced a major restructure with mass layoffs and studio closures that have continued into fall. It’s all been extra frustrating for those of us watching the Cryptic MMORPGs specifically as both STO and Neverwinter have been called out in Embracer’s quarterly financial reports as top back-catalogue performers.
However, back in September, we did learn that Embracer was “considering options” to “explore a sale” of Gearbox Entertainment – which would include Cryptic. At the time, sources said Embracer was “receiving interest from third parties” including “international gaming groups” – which could potentially be a factor in current developers’ employment plans.
We’ve reached out to Cryptic’s external PR for a statement, but we wouldn’t be expecting a reply until business open tomorrow.
To further clarify, none of the teams at Cryptic have changed at this time.
— Ambassador Kael (@AmbassadorKael) October 16, 2023