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Massively Exclusive: GamersFirst on yesterday's layoffs and the future of APB

Jef Reahard

It's been a whirlwind couple of days for the folks at GamersFirst. Yesterday we broke the story of layoffs at the company, and today the free-to-play firm has come forward to chat with us about what exactly is going on (and what exactly it's thinking in regard to the new Occupy Free2Play promotion).

We talked with Rahul Sandil, G1's senior vice president of marketing and business development, and he had some interesting things to say about the future of both APB Reloaded and Fallen Earth.

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Massively: Our tipster informed us that upwards of 30 people were laid off, but then Bjorn Book-Larsson mentioned a significantly smaller number on the forums. Can you tell us how many folks were affected?

Rahul Sandil: In the APB US team we had to lay off four people. We have added two new people to the US team, but just to clarify, we have not made any changes or layoffs to the APB development team. The dev team is called Reloaded Productions UK, and it's in Edinburgh, and there have been no changes whatsoever on the development side.

One thing I would like to clarify is that the tipster's numbers were very far off. The actual number of people laid off was 17 worldwide.

Since the numbers are off, does that include contractors?

That's full-time employees. From time to time we do use contractors, but I'm not putting any spin on this. We've always believed we're building a family here. And there is exceptional talent in this company. While what happened yesterday was tragic, it was a business decision, a financial decision.

No one was fired; no one was let go because of performance. APB is ramping up. We're close to a million people in the game. Fallen Earth went free-to-play, and the revenue essentially quadrupled. So we're on the right track. I would like to bring most of these guys back, but I would be surprised if they're still on the job market for long because they're such brilliant people. Once things turn around, we'll be honored to have them back.

There's so much investment that needs to be made in the beginning cycles of free-to-play, and this is the antithesis of the old-school model. Our model stretches out a game over five or six years, so our investment and cost structure is very different than the traditional MMO model. We do not make profits within months of launch, and we have to make very, very hard and tragic financial decisions.

"No one was fired; no one was let go because of performance. APB is ramping up. We're close to a million people in the game. Fallen Earth went free-to-play, and the revenue essentially quadrupled. So we're on the right track."

So this won't impact APB or the game's release?

No, it has no impact on our schedules or timelines; we are moving full steam ahead.

OK, we just want to clarify the discrepancy between our tipster's information and G1's statements on the forums.

My PR folks tell me to answer only what has been asked, but I'm going to take off that hat for a moment and just be candid. The way our company is structured, we have an office in Irvine that is the tech/customer service operation, and some of our senior producers are there. We have offices outside of California, support offices and development offices in North Carolina and the UK.

The North Carolina group is focused on Fallen Earth, and nothing has changed there. The development group in Irvine is focused on Hailan Rising, which is our forthcoming Unity-based MMO, and nothing has changed there.

So it sounds like this isn't a big deal, structurally (certainly it's a big deal to the folks looking for work).

Well it is a big deal in that the people we had to lay off yesterday are very, very dear friends of mine. Phenomenal, phenomenal people. It's heartbreaking as a company and as an individual. But yes, from what I've been reading on the web, it has been spiraling out in some ways.

Our readers' main concern is the games, but you've already said it's not going to affect the games, right?

No, it's not. We're full steam ahead, and we have some new marketing and game features coming out. No schedule changes and we're full steam ahead for retail launches in December. Also we announced the Russian server licensing so we can support our Russian-language players. We're also close to licensing South America as well.

Can you talk about the Occupy Free2Play promotion? It seems really aggressive; it even says at one point to cancel your subscriptions. What exactly are you looking to get out of this particular campaign?

We'd like to reaffirm to our community that we are absolutely committed to free-to-play. There are easier ways to make money in today's gaming market. We think subscription is that easy way. The content is not tested or tried, you release it with millions of dollars of marketing behind it, gamers pay $50, and then they pay an additional fee per month.

That's the easy way to make money, and we're taking the harder way.

We have great IPs like APB and Fallen Earth, and we've decided to give them to our community for free. There's always a backlash, but we encourage people to try everything. We see ourselves as the underdog, standing up for the majority of the community that doesn't want to spend 50 bucks, that doesn't want to have buyer's remorse, and this whole company was built on that foundation.

We will go through any amount of pain, any amount of heartbreak; we're committed to the model.

Thanks very much for talking with us.

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