NetDevil's most recent round of layoffs came as a complete surprise to its employees. After all, the company's most recent release, LEGO Universe, is well past that initial post-launch phase, having gone live back in October 2010, and both Jumpgate Evolution and Fortune Online are (at least supposedly) under development currently at the studio. There are jobs posted on the hiring page, as well.
However, it appears that the developer, owned by Gazillion Entertainment, is on shaky ground as of this morning, according to rumors. The truly horrible thing about this isn't that some developers were laid off -- it's how the affected employees found out. It appears that some of the NetDevil employees were notified that they were going to be laid off via Facebook postings before they were officially contacted by the company, according to a blog posting by Toby Cochran, who worked as a character/creature animator on LEGO Universe. Apparently an image showing a tombstone with the inscription "NetDevil R.I.P. Oct 1997-Feb 2011" started making the rounds on social networking sites shortly thereafter, indicating a far bleaker picture than just that of layoffs.
We've reached out to NetDevil and Gazillion Entertainment for comment on the rumors and what, if anything, it will mean for the development of Jumpgate Evolution and Fortune Online. We'll be sure to update this post as soon as we have further information. In the meantime, we hope that all the talented, hard-working NetDevil employees who were affected are able to land fabulous new well-paying spots elsewhere, continuing to do what they love.
[Update: We received the following statement from NetDevil: "The transition of members of our team to the LEGO Group allows us to conclude the work-for-hire segment of NetDevil's business and lets us expand our internally-published, free-to-play game businesses based on our own properties and licensed properties. Gazillion is wholly focused on developing, operating, and publishing the next generation of browser-delivered games," said David Brevik, President and COO. "We're proud of the LEGO Universe game that our team built, and we are certain that it has a bright future."]