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Star Trek Online and Neverwinter MMO devs Cryptic are the next Embracer-owned studio to suffer layoffs

Undisclosed number of staff lose their jobs as result of cost-cutting measures

Cryptic Studios, the makers of MMOs including Star Trek Online and Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG Neverwinter, have confirmed a number of layoffs due to the ongoing “comprehensive restructuring” of megacorp owner Embracer Group. The “personnel changes” at Cryptic make them the latest Embracer-owned developer to suffer job losses in what continues to be an unrelenting year for thousands of those working in video games.

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Reports of layoffs at the veteran MMO outlet surfaced in October after devs including narrative director Winter Mullenix, senior game designer Jesse Heinig, senior technical artist Chris Penny and community manager Mike Fatum posted social media updates that indicated they were looking for work. Mullenix’s status added that the layoffs were “due to a reduction in workforce”.

Cryptic have since confirmed to that an undisclosed number of the studio’s 100-plus employees have been laid off, stating that “our commitment to Embracer’s directive to reduce costs requires us to undertake difficult personnel changes, including separating from some team members”

Among other Cryptic devs confirmed to be affected are VP of game development Andre Emerson, sound designer Nigel Athanasios Wilson, producer Miles Deponty, senior environment artist Patrick Poage, senior concept artist Kelly Perry, senior concept artist Ahmed Rawi and senior UI/UX designer Jules Norcross.

A dragon roaring in a Neverwinter screenshot.

Alongside the layoffs, Cryptic will now operate under free-to-play publisher-developer DECA Games following the restructuring, putting their games alongside MMO shooter Realm of the Mad God and mobile games including DragonVale, Crime City and Kingdom Age.

“Cryptic Studios will provide job assistance and support those impacted to smooth this transition,” a studio spokesperson said. “Cryptic remains dedicated to supporting its cornerstone free-to-play games and the communities behind them."

Embracer announced over the summer that they had cancelled upcoming games and would look to close studios and lay off staff across their more than 16,500-strong workforce as part of widespread restructuring. This, of course, came after a number of years spent buying up dozens of studios - resulting in over 130 studios under the Embracer banner as of June - and scooping licences from The Lord of the Rings’ Middle-earth and Borderlands to Tomb Raider, TimeSplitters and Alone in the Dark. (Cryptic itself was acquired in late 2021 as part of the Perfect World Entertainment buyout.)

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Before Cryptic, Embracer’s sweeping layoffs have hit Baldur’s Gate Enhanced devs Beamdog - mere days after the studio’s cartoony co-op shooter MythForce released - Tomb Raider devs Crystal Dynamics, Borderlands studio Gearbox and Pinball FX makers Zen Studios, among others. Studios closed entirely include storied Saints Row developers Volition and narrative RPG studio Campfire Cabal - the latter less than a year after it was founded by former Hitman and Hunt: Showdown devs.

The devastation wrought by Embracer upon its studios is just one part of the complete shitshow that 2023 has been for those working in the video game industry, with thousands of layoffs spanning developers and publishers from Epic, Bungie, PlayStation and Microsoft to Frontier, BioWare, Creative Assembly and CD Projekt Red.

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