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Gas Powered Games considers pulling plug on Wildman Kickstarter in wake of 'substantial' layoffs (update)

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

The developer of Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander has been hit with company-wide layoffs just days after the studio launched a Kickstarter campaign for its next game, Wildman.

"These layoffs are substantial, but it's not everyone," Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor told Polygon in an email. "We still have a fully functioning company, IT, HR, Operations, etc. And have retained some key people."

Taylor says he'll be releasing a Kickstarter video that details Gas Powered's current situation. He also plans to ask supporters "if I should continue and then rehire people, or terminate the campaign now."

Taylor told Polygon earlier this week that a leaner staff was to be expected after wrapping up one of the company's other projects. He estimated that of the company's 50 or so employees, only 20 to 30 would be working on Wildman.

News of mass layoffs was reported by Kotaku, which cited sources claiming that only a handful of employees remained. Speaking with Gamasutra, Taylor said the studio is "still operating, but we had to slim WAY down to conserve cash reserves."

Gas Powered Games launched its Kickstarter campaign for Wildman on Monday, Jan. 14, seeking $1.1 million to create the action role-playing strategy game. With 28 days left in its fundraising campaign, Wildman has received more than $173,000 in pledges. Kicktraq estimates that the project will trend toward meeting its fundraising goal.

A representative for Wildman told Polygon that Chris Taylor will be posting an update "soon" to the game's Kickstarter.

Earlier this month, Gas Powered Games announced that it would no longer develop new content for Age of Empires Online, calling further development "no longer cost-effective."

Update: In a video update posted to the Wildman Kickstarter campaign, Taylor explains the decision to lay off "a substantial number of the team" at Gas Powered Games.

"If I ran this team through the entire Kickstarter campaign and it fails to fund, then I have to let everyone go, shut the company down, no one gets any unpaid PTO or severance," a visibly emotional Taylor said. "And that I decided was not worth it.

"I really felt like it was a crazy idea to gamble in this economy and gamble with the people here who are the most talented and loyal people. To play a card game with their livelihoods is not smart."

Taylor calls the cuts a "very, very tough decision."

"But I have another tough decision," he says. "Now that the team has been laid off, should I continue the campaign to see if the numbers do improve and hire them back? Or do I shut the campaign down tonight and call it done?" He then asks fans and supporters to express their opinion in the comments of the Kickstarter update.

Wildman's Kickstarter funding has moved past $175,500 since news broke of layoffs at Gas Powered Games.

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