Disney confirms redundancies at Black Rock

Disney confirms redundancies at Black Rock

By Rob Crossley

May 5th 2011 at 9:42AM

Further reports allege the Split/Second sequel has been cancelled

Redundancies have been issued to a number of developers at Brighton studio Black Rock, Disney has told Develop.

In a statement the firm said "Disney Interactive Studios confirms a reduction of its workforce from the Brighton-based internal game development studio, Black Rock Studios."

The company did not state how many redundancies have been made, but said the studio "will continue its work on its current project".

An alleged inside source told Eurogamer the Disney-owned studio has been cut by 40 staff and put on a single-project line.

"It's rumoured at Black Rock that there will be voluntary redundancies, roughly 40, with the aim of reducing the studio to a single game team," the person said.

Disney opened 2011 with a flurry of redundancies across its entire interactive entertainment division. Jobs were cut from Epic Mickey studio Junction Point, while Vancouver-based Propaganda Games closed completely.

A subsequent division-wide layoff operation was thought to have hit some 200 staff, though Disney never confirmed nor denied the claim.

Some reports claimed the final redundancy count was as high as 700, with Disney repositioning its interactive business to focus on building social games.

Black Rock was not, at least initially, affected by the layoff spree.

PITCH PAINS

Eurogamer’s source suggested that a significant portion of staff have not been working on a core project since mid-December.

"It seems Disney have been unable to provide us with a project to work on, and our concept pitches clearly haven't gone down well despite there being many of them,” the source added.

It is believed that aborted projects include a sequel to 2008 quad-bike racer Pure and a follow-up to last year's Split/Second.

“After Split/Second wrapped, we started work on the sequel’s pre-production, but that was cancelled last December due to Disney Interactive Studios’ new management and their changing priorities – such as the push towards freemium – and Split/Second 2 didn't really fit in with that”.

Last month, lead programmer Jeremy Moore told Develop the studio “was given a week where they were paid to develop their own dream game concept into a fully-fledged game pitch”.

He added: “If any of the pitches were good, then they’d have a real chance of being funded for further development. The event was called Concept Week. Not only was it a lot of fun, it had the potential to be pivotal in deciding what we work on as a studio during the next few years.”

Eurogamer’s source alleges that the event had not gone to plan.

"We had a concept week to try to come up with new ideas, but nothing really stuck. We had a freemium week some time later with similar goals too.”

However, the anonymous person said the studio was working on a new “promising" title. The project is “new and risky, so I imagine [Disney] don't want to risk putting two teams on it.”

People at the studio have been expecting redundancies for months, the source added.