Gas Powered Games lays off staff in cash crisis

Just days after Kickstarting a new game, the developer cuts most of its team

Gas Powered Games is undergoing significant layoffs, according to an initial report by Kotaku. Anonymous sources have told Kotaku that the Redmond, WA-based developer has cut almost its entire staff, with the exception of chief executive officer and founder Chris Taylor and a few other employees.

The studio just launched a Kickstarter for its next title, the action RPG Wildman. The Kickstarter has reached $174,758 within just four days, still a far cry of the funding goal of $1.1 million.

Taylor confirmed the layoffs to Gamasutra, but did not relate any specific numbers. He explained that what's left of the studio is betting everything on the Wildman Kickstarter

"The studio is still operating, but we had to slim way down to conserve cash reserves," ssaid Taylor. "We spent all the last dough that we've had, and the last several months working on it. So we're betting the company on it."

Taylor also told Kotaku that more information on the layoffs would be forthcoming, with an additional update coming to the Kickstarter.

"We do have a layoff, and we'll be updating our Kickstarter as well with details as well very soon. I'm way behind, so many wonderful people to talk to and share stories with, so it just takes time. It's actually been a fairly positive experience, because I run a very open company and everyone knows what's going on," Taylor said to Kotaku in his statement.

In a statement to ShackNews, Taylor was less enthusiastic about Wildman's chances on Kickstarter and said that the studio was transitioning into "a new business model".

"I'm thinking of asking folks, should I shut the Kickstarter down or not? So I'm about to shoot video that will post up tonight saying just that. I had to read the tealeaves and foresee that the Kickstarter was not likely to reach its goal, and if it did, only after I squeezed every friend I have to make a contribution. I didn't want to put people I love through that, as it would be just as painful for them to watch as it was for me to do. So, I made the very hard call to conserve money so that GPG could make a transition into a new business model, some people call it right-sizing, but I call it making a tough strategic decision," he said to ShackNews.

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Latest comments (8)

Sorry to hear this - best wishes to the team.
I have to say I am not encouraged by the use of Kickstarter projects (crowd sourcing early adopters) to fund development studios - especially ones running with already incurred debts. As we saw with Elite, even though it made its funding, the transparency of the project has been less than clear.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
A side issue that always annoys me, probably more than it should. "We're laying off large swathes of staff to save the company"

What? A private company IS the staff. The legal entity is a brass plate and a legal certificate, and neither of those things are worth saving for their own sake. I know, I have them too.
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@Paul - though away from the sad news at GPG - you bring up a interesting observation that seems to have haunted a number of the independent studios - are they the sum of their parts or just as only as good as their last game?

I noted that 22Cans looks at themselves as a independent with licenses supplied by their founder, while other studios feel they are a resource of talents combined under leadership to create great games. This goes back to my personal dislike of the cult of personality - that can confuse the reality of business.

A danger seems to be that crowd sourcing using a kickstarter promotional element can loose the objective from the presentation - this can be, as we see in the GPG update video - a little emotional; not the best atmosphere to make serious decisions in.
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Show all comments (8)
Richard Gardner Artist, Crytek5 years ago
I wonder what has been happening at Gas Powered Games over the last few years. It seems like they have had a rough ride since the release of Forged Alliance, at a glance it seems like they tried to counter low sales by releasing on console and making there games more accessible. But others where moving towards free to play or different business models to survive. As a PC developer of strategy games after 2007 they really needed to evolve to survive but unfortunately it seems like they ended up going or getting dragged down the wrong path.

It honestly feels like if Gas Powered Games just had that little bit of space to refocus on a game with a business model that would work while also staying true to themselves. They could be really successful.

I really hope for the best, Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander where fantastic games that truly stand out against the competition. Even today you simply don't get strategy games like Supreme Commander, they could have taken Supreme Commander down a similar path to the Total War series, it is very unique in its play style and scale.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
I really don't get why this didn't work out big for them tbh, I agree it was one of the better RTS games available. I guess it was just too expensive as I'd expect this series to fly off the shelf on Steam and/or Win 8 store with minimal changes.

F2P is getting a lot of attention (and our studio is jumping on), but it's not the only model. They should still be supporting supcom as above and I'm sure people would still be buying it. A mobile port would clean up too.
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As one that has to keep one eye on the business model of the consumer games scene - I am fascinated by the singularity of approach by some to the available models. Free Two Play (F2P), Retail, One Time Download (1TD), Subscription, and the rest of the variants seem to offer a good mix - while sadly the independent studios become fixated in a small group.

Am a big fan of Steam - and having viewed the SteamBox proposal -feel the consoles may be living on borrowed time!
After reading the reality of the Gen-8 tech specs, the PC scene could easily beat them on upgradeable performance, so if the game moves from a speed and performance battle - then retail and consoles will loose!
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Ben Gonshaw Game Design Consultant, AKQA5 years ago
@ Paul - studios, especially indie ones are so numerous these days and a lot of them are chasing the same leads for funding - so it comes down to studio reputation as well as talent. If you were about to invest $50,000 in an indie game would you choose:

A: The talented bunch of veterans who are just starting out
B: The talented bunch of veterans who've already released a title

For me it's B every time - there's much less risk. It doesn't mean that Team A can't deliver, or that they'll suck at running a business alongside making games, but it's an unknown compared to Team B, who have already proven they can do it.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
@Ben: C) A studio that's had a big hit and recognisable IP but still has no money? Pass.

We're B) and have never felt the need to raise any funds once we got started. You should be making money from the previous titles to keep going, and if you can't then either your business model or your management decisions are just broken.
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