This story is easily one of the craziest and saddest stories I’ve seen in a long, long time. As many of you may know, PC centric developer, Gas Powered Games, launched a huge Kickstarter campaign this past week for an ambitious game called ‘Wildman.’ The game seems to combine the action elements of Diablo with the MOBA style game of League of Legends. Here’s the interesting part. Gas Powered Games listed the Kickstarter project with a goal of 1.1 million dollars, citing other gaming examples like Double Fine Adventure as a source of inspiration for going this route. If you want to know more about Wildman, check out their Kickstarter page or this write-up over on IGN.
Only a few hours later, rumors began swirling that this was a last-ditch effort by the company and if it didn’t get funded, things would quickly go south. The Kickstarter push seems to also stem from publishers reluctant to take a chance on projects. With the company risking it all on Kickstarter, it was up to the community to see things through.
Here’s where the sad part comes in. Four days after the Kickstarter’s launch, Gas Powered Games was hit with massive layoffs. The entire company outside of CEO Chris Taylor and one or two people were let go in order to keep the company afloat during these times. In an emotional video update on the Kickstarter page, Chris Taylor revealed the grim scenario facing him. Essentially betting the company on this project, he was faced with two options. The first would have been to ride out the Kickstarter, and if it failed, he’d be forced to layoff everyone, shut down the company for good leaving him unable to pay out things like time off or severance. Obviously, not a great option. The second option (which was his choice) was to layoff just about everyone so the company could stay afloat and retain some sort of potential future. Chris Taylor felt that gambling with people’s livelihood wasn’t a good idea and this way, he could at least give out last paychecks and money owed. Either way, it was a hard decision.
At this point, the Kickstarter is still active but Chris Taylor isn’t sure what direction to go in. Keep it going and see what happens, or shut it down and figure out a different plan. He’s leaving it up to the community to decide over on their page. The silver lining here is if they reach their goal, he’d be able to hire back everyone who hasn’t yet found another job. Optimism here people. (Editor’s Note: According to reports this morning, it looks as though the Kickstarter project will remain running as the outpouring of support from the community could now potentially save the company. Perhaps it’s now more about saving GPG than getting the game.)
Looking back, I remain hopeful that Chris is able to do what he needs to do to maintain his company and eventually hire everyone back. It would seem to me that the very slow performance of this project may be to blame for the initial layoffs. With a massive financial goal it’s going to be tough to reach that. Part of me is happy that Chris managed to keep the company alive, but it’s never good to hear about layoff especially of this magnitude. I wish all the best to those affected and I hope you land on your feet quickly. Good luck to Chris as well.