In what was already a grim month for the gaming industry, 5th Cell announces the cancellation of its upcoming Scribblenauts title and, worse, layoffs within the studio.
The Scribblenauts developer says it has laid off staff after it was announced that publisher Warner Bros was cancelling Scribblenauts: Fighting Words. According to members of 5th Cell, the sudden cancellation and subsequent loss of jobs has come as a shock to virtually everyone involved, and a number of stunned employees have now lost their jobs as a result of Warner Bros’ decision to pull the plug on the new Scribblenauts title. 5th Cell CEO Jeremiah Slaczka released a statement a few hours after the initial announcement, stating:
“Unfortunately, due to a project cancellation, we have had to let go of 45 of our very talented staff members today. Layoffs aren’t something we take lightly and we’d like to thank all our employees for all the hard work and dedication over the years.”
Although Scribblenauts is a series far removed from its peak popularity, the news is still unexpected. It wasn’t that long ago that Scribblenauts featured Nintendo characters, an inclusion that Nintendo likely wouldn’t have permitted had the gaming giant thought little of the IP. The studio’s partnership with Warner Bros also yielded the unlikely mashup of the Scribblenauts games with the DC superhero universe, a game that received high praise from critics and seemed to insure the future of both Scribblenauts and 5th Cell.
Unfortunately, in what has already been a difficult March for gaming fans, another studio has been hit hard by cancellations and layoffs. Earlier this month it was announced that Fable Legends had been cancelled and its developer, Lionhead Studios, was shutting down. Despite many fans’ general apathy towards a Fable franchise that had lost a lot of its luster in recent years, it was a saddening announcement all the same, and a number of talented members of the gaming industry lost their long-time jobs as a result. While Scribblenauts may not have been quite as impactful on gaming as the Fable series was, it is another reminder that innovation alone is not enough to keep studios going.
Slaczka didn’t stop at just commiserations to 5th Cell’s departing employees, however, as the CEO is attempting to prevent his former employees from being without work for long. After making sure to establish that 5th Cell was not shutting down, Slaczka added that the studio’s focus is “100% on helping our staff make the transition to external opportunities” before inviting interested employers to email the developer directly for further information.
It’s a nice gesture from a studio that obviously didn’t want things to happen this way, and hopefully it serves as the blueprint for how other studios facing layoffs handle the situation in the future. With rumors of more developer closures swirling around Microsoft, 5th Cell’s troubles might just be the latest addition to a list of sad moments in the video game industry that is going to get even longer soon. In the mean time, gamers will be left to wonder if Scribblenauts: Fighting Words would’ve been a return to pop culture relevance for a series that has brought some quirky, innovative, and enjoyable moments to gaming.
Did you play any of the Scribblenauts series? What do you think this means for 5th Cell going forward? Let us know what you think in the comments.