In a shock move, Sega has canceled Hyenas, an extraction shooter from Total War developer Creative Assembly that was thought to be in the final stages of development.
Hyenas challenged teams of players with stealing “priceless” pop-culture knick-knacks like Sonic the Hedgehog figurines from rich Mars colonists in a dystopian future. The game had been demoed to press and the public at Gamescom in August, and had only just concluded a closed beta test on Sept. 11.
In its statement announcing the cancellation, Sega blamed the economic downturn in Europe and lowered profitability in its European business. The company said it would “implement reduction of various fixed expenses” (corporate-speak for layoffs) at Creative Assembly, which is based in the U.K., and other European subsidiaries.
The fear is that these job cuts could be quite deep. IGN reports that Creative Assembly staff were only told of the cancellation of Hyenas on Thursday morning, simultaneously with Sega’s announcement, and that they are pessimistic about the outlook.
“A source close to Creative Assembly told IGN the entire Hyenas studio now faces redundancy, but staff expect massive cuts across the company,” IGN reported. “The cancellation of Hyenas so close to release came as a surprise to staff, IGN was told, although internally there was concern that the game would fail to do well.”
Prior to its Gamescom showing, Sega had expressed some misgivings about Hyenas. In August, the company told investors the game was a “challenging title,” that Sega was “striving to improve its quality,” and that it was making “final adjustments to its business model” — which many understood to mean a shift to free-to-play, something Creative Assembly had initially ruled out.
Hyenas isn’t the only game in development affected by Sega’s “structural reforms.” The company, which said it expects to make a loss in its current fiscal year, is also canceling some other, unannounced titles in development in Europe. “We will continue to consider measures to improve profitability in European bases apart from above,” Sega said, ominously. Other European studios owned by Sega include Endless Space developer Amplitude, management game specialist Two Point Studios, and Football Manager developer Sports Interactive.
Update (12:00 p.m. EDT): Creative Assembly has issued a statement confirming that layoffs at the studio are expected. By U.K. employment law, this must take the form of a redundancy consultation process, so the final number of job losses may not be known for a while.
Here’s the full statement from the studio:
We have made the incredibly difficult decision to begin a redundancy consultation process in some areas of our UK operations, alongside ending development of HYENAS.
This may, unfortunately, result in job losses.
We fully understand that this has a significant impact on our people whether they are directly affected or not - which we are truly sorry for.
We have always aimed to operate as a ‘people-first’ studio; that is foundational to our values and culture. While we must go through this incredibly difficult process, we will prioritise supporting our people at every step.
For those whose jobs are at risk we will work to re-allocate them into other available roles within CA wherever possible, and ultimately minimise any job losses.
Our commitment to our projects and players has not changed; we will deliver more incredible experiences to our players all over the world for decades to come.
While this is a difficult moment across CA, we look forward to sharing more about our plans in the future.