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Gas Powered Facing Major Layoffs, May Halt Kickstarter

Right then, let me try laying this one out on paper, because I’m still having a hard time comprehending it. So, a few days ago, Chris Taylor and Gas Powered Games announced a rather massive Kickstarter. Wildman, they said, would need $1.1 million in its tank before it could get off the ground, but they had it all planned out. So we got some gameplay footage, and everything seemed to be proceeding apace – minus, perhaps, the Kickstarter itself, which was acting less prehistoric hare beast and more tribal tortoise mutant. But apparently, that wasn’t good enough. So now, mere days after kicking off its Kickstarter, Gas Powered Games is kicking most of its employees to the curb. And according to Chris Taylor, Wildman’s Kickstarter might end up on the chopping block as well.

In response to a flurry of rumors that began circulating late Friday, Chris Taylor released a series of statements explaining the situation. Confirming the layoffs to Gamasutra, Taylor explained that “the studio is still operating, but we had to slim WAY down to conserve cash reserves.” Further elaborating in response to Polygon, he then cast some pretty serious doubt over Wildman’s future – at least, where Kickstarter is concerned.

“These layoffs are substantial, but it’s not everyone. We still have a fully functioning company, IT, HR, Operations, etc. And have retained some key people. [I’m going to ask Kickstarter supporters] if I should continue and then rehire people, or terminate the campaign now.”

And so he did, explaining in an impassioned video update that he was planning to gamble the entire company on Wildman’s success, but – at the last second – decided against it because that could mean tossing his entire studio out into a very, very cold economy. Thus, he elected to lay off many people now so others can keep their jobs in the event of a worst-case scenario. Now, though, he’s put the big question forward to supporters: should he keep going full-steam ahead (in spite of a semi-stagnant Kickstarter) and hopefully rehire everyone at the end, or should he cut his losses and call it quits now?

Regardless, things sound pretty dire, but at least no one’s playing any funeral dirges just yet. Still though, it’s awful to hear about more industry layoffs – especially in light of the fact that everything seemed a-okay. Unfortunately, Gas Powered Games was quite evidently putting on a brave “nothing to see here” face when, in fact, it was bleeding out and needed a cash transfusion stat. I certainly don’t think that’s the only reason Taylor and co put Wildman on Kickstarter (there’s clearly a lot of passion at GPG, and – to their credit – it looks like they’ve already put a good deal of work into this project), but I imagine it was a pretty major factor.

A cynical mind, meanwhile, might view this entire thing as a calculated publicity stunt, but again, I highly, highly doubt that’s the case. Odds are, we’re looking at good people in a bad situation. Because that’s just how life tends to work. Taylor, if nothing else, is sticking to his guns and potentially putting his company’s fate directly in the hands of the community, and – symbolic gesture or not – that’s pretty, well, wild.

So then, what say you? Do you think Wildman’s diamond-hewn arms are strong enough to carry an ailing Gas Powered Games, or should Taylor and co regroup and take a different approach?

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Nathan Grayson

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