Report: layoffs at Saints Row dev Volition

Saints Row and Agents of Mayhem studio Volition has laid off about 15% of its employees this week, according to a Kotaku report citing three unnamed sources. While layoffs after a big game launches aren’t uncommonas studios become far less busy (Agents of Mayhem came out last month), reportedly Volition general manager Dan Cermak was among those let go – and that is a touch more rare. Or so the reports say. Supposedly parent company Deep Silver was unhappy with sales of Agents. That’s not surprising, as it hasn’t made much of an impact and our John’s Agents of Mayhem review just didn’t like it that much.

According to Kotaku’s sources, over 30 of the 200-odd folks at Volition were let go. Deep Silver have not commented on the reports yet. I’ve dropped ’em a line myself to ask whether this something more than the usual post-launch layoffs, and will let you know what I hear back.

Deep Silver bought Volition in 2013 after the collapse of their previous owner, THQ. While Volition have released several Saints Row games since then, including the wonderful superhero ’em up Saints Row IV, Agents of Mayhem was their first new-new game (well, new-new-ish – it’s set in the Saints universe). The class-based shooter is not that great, John said:

“Agents Of Mayhem is huge, and so incredibly ambitious, but more often than not, it misses the mark. The lack of combat feedback is a tragedy, and one that is ruinous, but for me it’s the disappointment of the writing that feels like the biggest letdown.

“It’s definitely not sensible to compare this to Saints Row, because they’re entirely different types of games… except that so often they’re not. It’s an open city, with cars to drive, jumpy powers to climb up buildings, and a base of characters who all banter at each other and you. If anything, Agents Of Mayhem keeps trying to compare itself to Saints Row, and in doing so only feels weaker and less competent.

“For whatever reason, this feels like a game that wants to reach as high and far as the games that came before it, and simply can’t.”

Best of luck to all those affected. I do hope this is just a minor blip for Volition, as they have made some wonderfully daft and daftly wonderful games.

18 Comments

  1. K_Sezegedin says:

    Is anyone still around from the Freespace days?

    Still hoping for a spiritual successor, hang in there Volition!

    • GameOverMan says:

      The Freespace Source Code Project and all the mods have kept the game somewhat fresh but it’d be a shame if the IP is eventually lost.

      • Dave L. says:

        I believe the shambling corpse of Interplay/Atari bought the piece of the Freespace IP that they didn’t own in the THQ auction. It had previously been split up so that Interplay owned the Freespace name and the distribution rights (though they’d let the trademark lapse for a bit back in 2011/2012. I think they re-upped after the auction), but Volition/THQ owned the characters/story, so neither company could go forward with a new Freespace.

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      I would love to see more Freespace as well, but I have to wonder the same thing. According to this link to pcgamer.com there were enough people left before the Deep Silver buyout, but I don’t know how things are anymore.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Hulloo! Still around! And as you can see that in my heart, I still fly with the 242nd ;)

      I’ve been hoping for news of FS3 ever since i was, i dunno, 10 or something. I’m now 24, so I’ve sort of given up. It’s Volition’s HL3 :P

      Luckily the Open Source Project has survived the years and continues to be great at making the game look way younger than it is.

      • Nucas says:

        i’m sure you’ve played Blue Planet: Age of Aquarius? that was my personal freespace 3 experience.

        the devs don’t comport themselves that way, and don’t care for the FS3 comparison, but nothing else is apt. for me, it was the conclusion that the series richly deserved and more. one of their writers is actually a novelist and got a job at bungie on the strength of his work on BP also.

  2. vorador says:

    Not really surprised since Agents of Mayhem bombed pretty hard. That more employees haven’t been sacked shows that Deep Silver still believes on Volition as a developer.

    Good luck to the ones that have been let go.

  3. RichUncleSkeleton says:

    Does this mean we’re gonna get Saints Row 5 instead of Agents of Mayhem 2? Because I’m okay with that.

    • April March says:

      I’m not, if it means the devs will feel pressure to retread old ground rather than innovate. I mean, I love Saints’ Row, but you know what? The first one was pretty crummy as well.

      • Nucas says:

        from the development interviews and postmortems i’ve read, it seems like agents of mayhem was intended as a retread; wacky, based in the SR universe, but with the ‘hero shooter’ mechanics that are so hot right now; and it was ordained by deep silver.

    • frightlever says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see a Saints Row 5, but how about a Golden Age Superhero game (as opposed to the de facto superhero games from SR3 and 4) set in Steelport during the 50s or 60s? A lot of assets that can be re-used from the older games but just different enough to feel fresh. It seems like funding for a full-blown SR5 might be a problem, which was the reason for the smaller scope of AoM.

      Considering how many TV shows and movies there are about superheroes, it seems odd there aren’t many games being made that aren’t direct licenses. Although, maybe you need that franchise history for it to be attractive. Hmm.

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      MajorLag says:

      Why? There’s nowhere left to go after SR4. As far as I’m concerned the entire genre was put to bed by that game.

  4. bee says:

    Bummer. I really liked Agents of Mayhem. It’s like a Saturday morning cartoon with a full cast of characters. Yes the game could be better but I really hope the game gets DLC and a sequel. I actually prefer it to Saints Row and feel there is room for both series of games.

  5. skyturnedred says:

    30/200 is not too bad all things considered.

  6. FranticPonE says:

    Could’ve called this the moment Agents of Mayhem was announced. I remember thinking how weird and unappealing it was from the beginning, then learning a multi hero shooter wasn’t even co-op. Like… what was the point of this game, what was supposed to be fun about it? What was it even supposed to be?

    Probably there’s someone there that has an idea of what a fun game is supposed to be. Hopefully they’ll be put in charge.

  7. The First Door says:

    That really sucks for the people let go, and I wish them all well! Hopefully they’ll all find jobs again as soon as they can and/or want to!

    I will say though, unlike the above commenters I’d very much like Volition to not do another Saints Row game for a bit, as I think they reached their peak. A proper Red Faction: Guerilla sequel with newer shiny graphics and destruction though… yes please, very much. Give me a new sledge hammer and a series of big building to go at and I’ll be a happy man!

  8. Danarchist says:

    One of my most loved memories of the SR franchise was chasing my buddy around with a giant purple….er…bat and hearing the peals of laughter from his wife that was watching over his shoulder.
    When I heard they didnt include coop in agents I still gave it a shot, like an idiot, thinking maybe it would have some of the same fun mechanics of the previous ones. Not even close. The mission types ranged from “Meh” to “Haven’t I seen this before…two missions ago?”.

    One good thing though, me and my friend are playing through Saints Row the Third again and having just as much fun as the first time!

  9. satan says:

    Be fun if the whole Mass Effect parody part of SR4 was fleshed out into an entire Mass Effect parody kinda game. SR5 would be fun too.

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