The lights are on
Microsoft's Rare is the latest studio to be bit with the layoff bug. The move follows the recent release of the developer's Kinect Sports Rivals.
According to a report on Eurogamer, Rare laid off around 16 employees of the approximately 150-person team that worked on Kinect Sports Rivals.
Microsoft didn't specify numbers but did release this statement:
"At Xbox, our goal is to constantly create new fun, social and interactive entertainment experiences. As part of Rare's commitment to this goal, we have made a decision to change our development process and methodology at Rare to best support our future projects, this has led to us reviewing the skills and the makeup of our development teams in our business. Rare continues to invest in our people and future projects."
Kinect Sports Rivals has reportedly experienced soft sales. It did not chart in the U.S., and only hit 14 on the U.K. charts the month of release. Unofficial estimates place its sales at less than 200,000 worldwide.
Kinect Sports Rivals was originally supposed to be an Xbox One launch title, a timeframe in which it might have benefited from first-day consumer enthusiasm and provided consumers with a family-friendly Kinect game to play with their children. The game received generally mediocre reviews, including a 6.5 review from Game Informer.
Rare does supposedly have other unannounced projects currently in development.
Our Take: It's sad to see the continuing decline of what was once one of gaming's most storied development studios. I reviewed Kinect Sports Rivals, and didn't like it, but I can't help but feel like the game, and Rare, was also the victim of bad scheduling and decisions on Microsoft's part. The game should have been a launch game - that's a time when more casual titles and lesser known franchises have a chance to get noticed. Also, when the game finally did come out, Kinect had lost the scant momentum it had, and Microsoft had probably already made the decision to release the new Kinect-free $399 Xbox One model. That's not going to give Kinect Sports Rivals much of a chance in the long-term either.
In any case, at least the layoffs were relatively minor and Microsoft seems intent on keeping Rare open. Our sympathies go out to all who lost their jobs.
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.