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Ignition Lays Off Console Devs In Austin
Ignition Lays Off Console Devs In Austin
June 24, 2011 | By Kris Graft

June 24, 2011 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

Ignition Games on Friday morning announced a new North American headquarters based in Marina Del Rey, CA, but that wasn't the only change occurring at the El Shaddai publisher today.

A source close to multiple developers at Ignition Austin told Gamasutra that the studio's entire console team was laid off, while a PC team operating at the location was unaffected. The source said that "guards" met the staff at the office doors on Friday morning.

A company rep for Ignition said in an email, "We can confirm that a small console team, which was working on pre-production of an unannounced title, was laid off. The PC team was unaffected."

The rep said she could not reveal the number of people laid off, or the number of those remaining at the studio, but the source cited Ignition staff who said around 15 people lost their jobs.

Ignition Games, a subsidiary of media conglomerate UTV, said in September last year that it would cease development operations in the UK. The following November, the company said it would close its Florida studio. Early this year, Ignition then closed its West and East Coast U.S. offices to consolidate operations in Austin.

The Austin studio had taken over development of the Unreal Engine 3-powered first-person shooter Reich from the shuttered Florida studio. Ignition had not commented on the status of that title as of press time.

Also unclear is the status of Ignition's Tokyo, Japan studio, which developed the action game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. Former Ignition employees said Friday the Tokyo office -- which Gamasutra understands only had a small core team left -- was closed. El Shaddai is Ignition's next major title, and is releasing on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on July 26 in North America.

[UPDATE: Ignition said it has ceased internal development of games: "In order to facilitate shifting the publishing focus to more effectively work with innovative independent developers and explore new platform possibilities, Ignition Games has taken the strategic decision not to continue with internal development of games."]

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Lo Pan
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It always bugs me when I read 'guards at the door' articles with layoffs. Where is the class? Shame on these companies. If your going to fire a complete team, assuming they were competent and hardworking, do it a more civil and respectful. Have the guards there, but also take the team out for a parting dinner/drink.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I completely agree. I've never been in a guard-at-the-door situation myself, but I've heard second hand about it and it is disrespectful -- treating someone who just lost their job as a criminal to be monitored.

Philip Michael Norris
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Apparently the 'guards at the door' thing also happened to my former employer when Activision shut them down. I had left a bit before that time, but hearing about it seemed overtly drastic. But then again, its Avtivision

shmush smush
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Ignition pulled the same 'guards at the door' stunt in Florida.

They're a chump operation with chump projects and chump management.

Three 'headquarters' in 6 months? Good luck fellas.

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

Ken Nakai
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I know it sounds bad and depending on how some companies handle it, it probably IS bad, but as someone who's had to lay people off and fire people, there's a reason people need to be monitored in this situation. Unfortunately, you can't always tell how people are going to's not exactly the most pleasant thing an employer needs to do. I've never used guards. It's usually just an HR employee or a supervisor.

Honestly, how else do you do it? The employee(s) in question are going to be: unhappy, angry, sad, beligerant, combative, embarassed, in shock, or all of the above. Having drinks? Sure, if you're quitting because you're moving on to a new/better job. But, if I'm representing the company and escorting you out because you might: steal code/assets, sabotage code/assets, damage company property or in some extreme cases actually attack other (non-laid off) employees, what do you expect?

Trust me, the last thing I ever want to do is fire or lay someone off. I can't vouch for this company's execs but I can for a vast majority of managers, directors and above who either have to make the decision or carry out the decision's result. It's one of the worst parts of being a manager of others. At one company, I had to lay off almost the entire tech department (it was a Web start-up with 125+ employees). Some douche bag convinced management (behind my back I might add) that his team of five dirty cheap developers could do the job of my existing team of 15 (including IT, QA). They offered to keep me on as another developer but I quit. Of course, that didn't stop a lot of former staff members from thinking I was the biggest asshole. You really think they wanted to have a drink with me? We didn't use guards and I did my best to make sure everyone got as much severance as possible.

All I can say here, is I hope those people that lost their jobs find new ones elsewhere and are employed long after the execs at Ignition lose theirs when the company folds. Execs are a dime a dozen and there are only so many available slots for one in a company.

Joe McGinn
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I understand Ken and it's not about having a drink. It's possible to do it with supervision, and with respect.

1) You don't have guards refusing entry, that's just 100% disrespectful and humiliating and incredibly stressful (i.e., worst thing is no info ... the guards are going to explain their severance package, yes?)

2) You tell them when they are at work the situation.

3) Each person has an individual meeting with HR explaining their severance.

4) You allow them, supervised, to pack their own belongings.

5) If a large org, you should have HR from other parts of the company to talk about jobs that might be available; if that's not possible or you are smaller, make calls to the HR of the other game companies in town and arrange a job fair.

6) Other job-search services (like help with resume preparation and such) are a nice bonus for the people who aren't good at that themselves.

I've seen all of these done and it makes a difference. People are still unhappy, there may be some tears, but they left on good terms and didn't take it personally. Most spoke well of both the company and their managers once a small bit of time had passed.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"It's usually just an HR employee or a supervisor.

Honestly, how else do you do it?"

This is fine. It's when you get a security guard to do it that it's disrespectful, for reasons Joe mentioned.

Of course, it's worth contemplating why we have an action (layoffs) that is incredibly common and yet devastates people to the point where retaliation is expected. I think it's long past time to move to a more Hollywood-style employment model with contracts and unions and health care between jobs.

Justifying a security guard to me after laying me off as necessary for your own protection is like justifying bringing a gun to rob me because otherwise I might fight back; logical point, sure, but you're not going to win much of my sympathy.

Joe McGinn
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I agree with you Jeffrey - it is in practice contract jobs now whatever they call it, but without the protections Hollywood unions grant. Mind you don't know how we get there. Programmers in particular (and I'm an ex-programmer myself) seem fiercely independent to the point of foolishness where they will not work for their own collective interest. There are so many misconceptions about what a union is and does, especially in the USA (kind of ironic, since they were once do strong and useful there!).

Joe E
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Yet another unfortunate outcome that has 'UTV' written on it.. I'm starting to see a pattern here..

Buckes Waller
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Déjà vu....Acclaim Studios!