Axe falls at Ubisoft Reflections

Axe falls at Ubisoft Reflections

By Stuart Richardson

November 29th 2010 at 3:32PM

Up to 19 positions go as Ubisoft aims to calm fears of further cuts

As many as 19 staff at Newcastle-based Ubisoft Reflections could be leaving the firm as part of a wider restructuring, Ubisoft has confirmed.

This number includes several members of the studio’s senior development team.

According to a Develop source at the company, currently working on Driver: San Francisco, staff were called into an office last Tuesday and informed of the situation.

“We weren’t given names, but they took some people into a separate office afterwards, gave them a letter and took them out of the building. That was it,” the source said.

A Ubisoft spokesperson later confirmed that 19 people could either be made redundant or not have contracts renewed, while staff at Ubisoft Montréal will continue to assist on the Driver project as an associate studio.

“There was a meeting to propose reorganisations to the team that may result in redundancies of up to a dozen studio members,” she said.

“This is a proposal for reorganisation, and it isn’t the people who are made redundant, but the jobs themselves. The people get to have their say about the reorganisation.”

The spokesperson continued: “Overall, this may result in redundancies effecting up to a dozen studio team members. When we are in a heavy production time, as we are with Driver, there are a lot of contract workers, and I do believe about seven workers will not have their contracts renewed.”

The Develop source described the redundancies as affecting people across the length and breath of the company.

“There were people from all levels. Some were high up, people who have been at the company for a very long time. Craig Lawson [creative director, at Reflections since 1998] and Jack Couvela [art director, at Reflections since 1997] haven’t come back into work since,” he said.

When asked about reasons for the layoffs, the source pointed to ongoing difficulties with the release of Driver: San Francisco as a catalyst.

“There have been delays with the project, and because of our delays, Ubisoft have had to change their plans for our studio. What that means exactly I’m not sure,” he said.

“This is the first game that we have done for the current generation of consoles. We are obviously learning as we go along, developing our skills. We haven’t had much support from external sources.”

Ongoing management support was also a subject of criticism.

“We’ve been told that we shouldn’t worry about what’s going to happen after the game has come out. To me that isn’t a very good sign. When the management are telling you not to worry about the studio and concentrate on the game, everyone gets worried,” he said.

“Everyone is pretending that it hasn’t happened. Nobody has mentioned the people who have gone, and we haven’t had any meetings about it. They have just said that for the time being, everyone who needs to be told has been told. ‘For the time being’ is worrying.

“People think that when we have finished this game we will all be told ‘off you go now’.”

These fears were dismissed by the Ubisoft spokesperson, who emphasised the relevance of Reflections to Ubisoft as a wider company.

“What’s key at Reflections is that we are working on a small reorganisation, we need to ensure that we have the right skills mix for the Driver brand. The brand is very important to us, and Reflections is crucial as a studio. They have an expertise that none of our other studios have.”

“It will absolutely keep going after Driver,” she concluded.