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250 out of work as Gameloft suddenly shuts down its India studio  [Updated]
250 out of work as Gameloft suddenly shuts down its India studio [Updated] Exclusive
January 29, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi

On the same day that Gameloft's company heads boasted to investors and journalists of its 27 percent revenue growth in 2012, the entirety of its India studio was told to pack up and go home.

Over 250 game developers are out of work from Gameloft's Hyderabad studio, Gamasutra is told. Worse, the company allegedly asked its employees to sign a note lying about their resignations being voluntary.

Affected sources tell Gamasutra that it had been business-as-usual at Gameloft's Hyderabad office this morning, until rumors started spreading around noon local time that the studio was in trouble.

At 2:00 all employees were informed of a company-wide meeting 45 minutes later, where HR and studio manager Sarang Nafdey explained the bad news.

According to one source speaking under anonymity, employees were asked to immediately pack up their belongings and leave. The company internet was disabled, and its balcony doors shut.

According to one source, employees were asked to sign two letters before leaving: a form saying they were leaving for personal reasons rather than being laid off (pre-dated from yesterday, January 28th) and an acceptance of resignation from Gameloft dated Tuesday the 29th. That source tells us that he and others have not signed the letters yet, describing them as "fishy."

Gameloft India was primarily a porting house. Most Gameloft titles are initially developed for iOS. Hyderabad's main function was to port these to Android devices.

The news was relayed to Gamasutra while Gameloft was giving a conference call for investors and media discussing its 27 percent revenue growth in 2012.

Gameloft has not yet responded to a request for confirmation at press time.

Update (January 13, 10:15am): Gameloft has officially refused to comment on this story, to the extent that the company will not even acknowledge that there was a studio closure.

Meanwhile, another affected employee has relayed their story in our comments.

"People call it fishy, shady, illegal or whatever, and yes they should because management was in [a] real hurry to complete the process of signing the docs that too within 2-3 hours after announcement," the anonymous commenter said.

"They didn't even consider giving time to employees to seek help from their legal adviser. They didn't bother to answer major and obvious concerns too!"

We've also spoken with two additional employees who are considering legal action against Gameloft. Should this happen, Gamasutra will have the story.

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Mike Griffin
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"Hey everyone, remember that yesterday was "Company-wide Leaving For Personal Reasons Day" at the office! What, you don't remember announcing your departure on the 28th? Here, allow us to remind you with this handy-dandy form to sign!"

I hope this gets clarified, because it's ultra-fishy.
And I hope those two forms aren't what separates employees from receiving their severance pay, because that would be incredibly poor form on the part of Gameloft.

Or, quite possibly illegal -- depending on local job protection laws.

Sorry to the 250 unceremoniously canned folks.

Maurício Gomes
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This coming from Gameloft don't surprise me unfortunately.

Luke ParkesHaskell
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@Christian - it's not exactly that easy to relocate if you live and work in videogames within India.

Mario Benucci
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@Christian - big companies practices vary greatly, also depending on country branch.
However in the Gameloft case, the difference is that shady practices are at the core of the company in general, regardless of location. I've known people working for Gameloft in France, Ukraine, Romania as well as India and everyone reports the same things.
I myself worked for a couple of big names in Europe and have never experience the kind of bad treatment that Gameloft employees get.
They seem to have no issue in kicking experienced people out the door rather than reward quality work and experience with better wages, they prefer to summarily train newbies so that the can pay bottom wage and kick them out when experience dictates a raise.

Maurício Gomes
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Gameloft is sister company of Ubisoft...

We all know several horror stories (credits problems, crazy DRM, etc...)

Also Gameloft itself is known for blatant plagiarism of several other people games.

E Zachary Knight
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It seems that the forms are meant to sidestep some local laws that would punish a company for such unannounced mass layoffs. I wouldn't know for sure.

That said, Gameloft certainly comes out looking like complete jerks in this. "Hey everyone! We have had massive revenue growth over the last year. You guys are great. Oh, by the way, you are all fired."

Mike Griffin
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Yeah, it would be pretty shady if the revenue report/projections were based on the immediate shut down of the Hyderabad studio and the recouping of its associated upkeep and payroll spend.

Immediate, as-in so immediate that investors were perhaps provided a deadline of the 28th, ahead of Gameloft's revenue report, for those staff reductions -- which could explain the pre-dated resignation forms to sign.

All speculation, to be clear. But the drop dead suddenness of this studio dismantling (plus dodgy management behavior) certainly shares a coincidental timing with other announcements.

Steve Cawood
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Maybe they're stopping support for Android devices?

Quan Ngo
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FYI, in Vietnam they have 3 studios with about 1000 staffs doing exactly the same thing as in India.
Gameloft won't stop supporting Android until they shutdown all those

Joshua Jebadurai
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This studio was also doing Java ports to feature phones. Gameloft will never stop "making games" for any mobile devices, they will try to market whatever platform possible.

evan c
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They also have a studio in the Philippines and their technical support department is there(call center).

Arman Mernado
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We don't test Android Apps anymore (Manila Studio). Our devices were transferred to another studio(almost a year ago). I don't know where though.

Carlo Delallana
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"India's labor laws have their roots in the British raj and were last fully updated in the Industrial Disputes Act of 1948. They prohibit companies with more than 100 employees from making positions redundant and firing people for any cause other than criminal misconduct. An additional 45 national laws intersect or derive from the 1948 act, and about 200 state laws control the relationships between employees and employers, according to India's Labor Ministry."

Some detailed info can be found on the Embassy of India website

E Zachary Knight
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Seems my suspicions were correct. Thanks for digging this information up.

Syed Abbas
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Software and IT companies (same applies for game development) in India are exempted from these laws. They are governed by a special act known as the STPI Act, which is very much in favor of employers. Layoffs have happened in 1000s before.

Kenneth Blaney
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According to wikipedia (and other sources) Gameloft employs ~5,000 people. So they just laid off ~5% of their total world wide staff in an afternoon. Around a year THQ was being criticized for a similar situation when they closed their THQ Japan (which would then be followed by much bigger cuts elsewhere in the company). For the sake of the ~4,750 people still working there, I hope Gameloft is not in a similar situation.

Rajat Ojha
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Message for those who were setting up shop in India thinking that it'd be a cheap labor destination which it is not.

Neeraj Kumar
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That's sad, didn't know the whole story until now.

RaviBabu N
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Very shabby from Gameloft. Prior Intimation and Proper reason should have been given to employees.

Joshua Jebadurai
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I wouldn't call this shabby. This is really cunning, taking all of them by surprise and asking them to sign a form before they can even think or recover from a shock. Seems well planned.

Nick Nick
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@All here is the whole story:

The article above truly describes what happened to us yesterday. I'm still in a shock that I had been sacked like a street dog by Gameloft for which I gave my services as a Sr. Game Programmer for more than 3 years for the betterment of the brand.

As for the porting, this is the major source of revenue for any Game Publishing Brand. You develop for one, port it numerous. The company had been doing the same work for close to 8 years here in Hyderabad, India. And you would be surprised to know that Gameloft does the same business in 70% of worldwide studios. There had been a dedicated development team here in Hyderabad for close to 8 years, most of the employees have 4+ years of experience in this domain. @Frank, I want you to correct the data. There weren't 250 developers sacked yesterday. There were 250 employees sacked yesterday, including 120+ developers, 100+ testers and rest management guys.

I arrived at the office on usual time, had meeting with the producers , projects were still under development phase and after lunch, a mail arrived and then kaboom!!! Even producers and employees at top-level hierarchy weren't aware of this news last morning.

When we asked for the reason for such unexpected shutdown, our studio manager Sarang Nafdey told us that the HQ (which is in Paris) wants to close this studio because the studio is not profiting them. What the heck? There had been implementations for IAPs, IGPs, Blackberry Porting, Nokia/Samsung DEMOS, Android 2D/3D, Localization for 15 countries including Hindi too, Testing on 100s of Android tablets, 1000s of Java devices and much more. And all they had to say the studio is not profiting them. Where the heck they were 2 years back or probably 5 years back, when the Hyderabad studio was doing the same sort of work.

And yes, there were two forms to sign. First was resignation and next was the acceptance. We were forced to resign on Personal grounds, rather than unexpected layoff. This is the worst part. The management is full of compromised jerks. The management, however, assured to settle all dues by mid February.

I personally think that this has happened potentially due to other factors that Management don't want to share, rather than all that crap profit-loss statements. It's time for me to find a new job :)

PS: I comment on blogs/articles very occasionally. I have specially signed-in to Gamasutra to post this comment, so that the world knows what exactly happened yesterday.

Wylie Garvin
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Did many employees refuse to sign?

It sounds shady / illegal, to try to force employees to "resign" for "personal reasons" with back-dated paperwork.

Nick Nick
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Yes, many refused to sign because Resignation of 250 employees was based on Personal ground lolz. Management, however didn't force anyone to resign and sign the docs, but there weren't many options left for employees. Management told that this is the protocol that they are forced to follow by HQ and if you don't follow the same, you'll be given a termination letter later in Feb.

People call it fishy, shady, illegal or whatever, and yes they should because management was in a real hurry to complete the process of signing the docs that too within 2-3 hours after announcement. They didn't even consider giving time to employees to seek help from their legal adviser. They didn't bother to answer major and obvious concerns too!

Yeah, the docs were back-dated, precisely 28th Jan, while they were supposed to be dated 29th Jan.

That said, all things seems pre-planned by HQ. Why Gameloft HQ has still kept things concealed?

Rudy Gjurkovic
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This is my guess in what most likely is happening.

A lot of companies don't always run their companies off of a calendar year, but rather their own fiscal year. A lot of bigger companies have their fiscal 4th quarter (and year) ending January 31st. What they might have done, and is why they are asking you, and everyone else to resign on "Personal" reasons, is then they can say that they have no people at the company to run the business, and therefore that location will be deemed inoperable and they can shutdown that company. They then will take that whole entire closure and write it off as a loss, inturn, offsetting their revenue growth of 2012 - all for tax reasons. In addition, since people left "voluntarily" by signing that paper, they then will not have to pay unemployment to those employees.

That is just my guess, as I don't think that it is coincidence at all, given the speed of the closure and how it is happening right at the end of, most likely, their fiscal year....

I feel bad for everyone who lost their job, and I hope everything works for you guys in the long run. Try to think positive, maybe this will work better for your ftuture plans. Best of luck to you and everyone else.

ashish pratap
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[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Jeff Murray
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It's not like they couldn't afford to give out decent severance packages, either. I don't know how some people can sleep at night practicing business like this.

John Teymoorian
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I guess they're crying into their pile of money.

Hrishi Oberoi
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Here is a job board for all the ex-Gameloft India employees who are seeking new jobs in Indian Game Development:-

Humberto Oliveros
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It's difficult to comment about the profitability of specific Gameloft studios, work is highly distributed around the world.

Central management is quite secretive about their plans, with major decisions happening in the blink of an eye.

Not a single word has been announced to other studios about this.

Hope that Gameloft is not following the THQ way :(

Hope you guys get proper compensation.

Current Gameloft employee on another studio.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Sesame Nold
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Is Gameloft going bankrupt or something? First it was China, then India.. I just heard they did another mass layoff in Gameloft Philippines. Did the same thing with their India Studio. No notice was given. It was announced the very same day they were all laid off.