Goblinworks, a company established by Paizo Publishing, Inc. to develop a massively multiplayer online role-playing game based on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, was recently forced to lay off most of their staff in order to stay in business and continue work on the game.
Pathfinder Online has been in the works for some time now, with a successful Kickstarter and open enrollment in the alpha version of the game. Unfortunately, the project has turned out to be more expensive and time consuming than originally thought. Although they have had players playing the game for some time, it is nowhere near complete. This isn’t all that unusual for computer games these days; some of the most successful titles in recent memory, like Minecraft, were being sold well before they were done. Unfortunately, in the case of Pathfinder Online, which is about 75% paid for, Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens expects that finishing the game will cost between $1 million and $2 million. The Kickstarter, which was intended to speed things up, was predicated on other investments that didn’t come though, leaving the project underfunded even then.
The staffers who were laid off–everyone other than CTO Mark Kalms, Art Director Mike Hines, and designer Bob Settles–knew this was coming, as Stevens warned them in advance. The remaining three staff members have been moved to the Paizo office, and the old Goblinworks office has been closed up.
The decision was no doubt hard for Stevens and for Paizo, which is known for taking pretty good care of their employees. Hopefully, the significant cost cuts these layoffs and moves will provide will allow them to get the game completed and make enough money to rebuild the staff. The video game industry is rough, and many companies that finalize games and get them to market can still struggle and fail, so the ability of Goblinworks to hang on and keep working is a pretty good sign.