It's never fun to report on a game launching at the start of the week and the developer making major staff cuts before the weekend, as is the case with Dreadnought developer Six Foot. As reported by Game Informer and confirmed by Six Foot's Chief Operating Officer, the Dreadnought studio (working in collaboration with Spec Ops: The Line outfit Yager) has let go "about a third" of its workforce. According to Game Informer's sources, the game has struggled to bring in the money required to keep everyone at the studio paid.
It has been a rough few months in the games industry, and especially bad for free-to-play games. Splash Damage announced that Dirty Bomb had seen its last update just weeks after leaving early access, and Wildstar studio Carbine shut their doors last month. According to one of Game Informer's sources, there's a skeleton crew maintaining Dreadnought still, but the company's current state reminds them of "the Telltale situation", referring to last month's catastrophic adventure studio shutdown.
In the case of Dreadnought, it sounds like a combination of development troubles and missed deadlines led to these cuts. The game was due to leave beta on PC in mid-summer, but between delays, niche interest and limited marketing, its launch last Sunday was a quiet and largely uncelebrated event. In the end, it just wasn't pulling in enough money, and I've heard reports that the business model is geared towards giving paying players an advantage at higher tiers, although I've enjoyed the game at lower tiers.
Fortunately, the layoffs seem to have been handled relatively well by Six Foot. The 45 employees to be let go were offered the choice of taking unpaid leave until the game found its footing, or leaving the company in good standing with the chance of being re-hired later. Not a good situation by any means, but the cuts were expected, and it's definitely better than shocked and outraged staff pouring onto Twitter to announce the death of a studio.
I sincerely hope that Six Foot can find a way to keep the game running and their people paid. The PC version is well populated for a niche space combat game (according to Steam Charts) and hopefully will be for some time. It would be doubly tragic to see another studio and their game lost altogether.
Dreadnought is out now, free-to-play, and here on Steam.