More Titan Troubles

Posted by Daeity On Monday, November 7, 2011

One of Joystiq's Blizzard tipsters (Steve) has informed them that John Staats has been let go. He was a Senior Level Designer (Level 2) on Titan. You'll find this news on plenty other sites, so I won't go into it too much. (Unless I dig up some other information that they haven't already announced.)

Other prior Titan troubles are detailed here.

* Update (11/07/11):

This "tip" could have been something as simple as his Facebook status update. He changed his status to no longer working at Blizzard, but he was still working there Oct. 25th at least (based on his comments).

If this was the reason, there may have been some more terminations as well. One of John Staat's Facebook friends, Trent Kaniuga has also changed his FB status to "Worked at Blizzard" as opposed to everyone elses "Works at Blizzard". He was a Sr. Concept Artist for Diablo 3 and was present at Blizzcon 2011.

(I don't use Facebook, so I'm not too familiar with FB sleuthing.. maybe you guys can investigate and confirm if this is correct or not?)

* Update (11/07/11):

Facebook status updates are also showing "Worked at Blizzard" (past tense) now on Dana Marie Bishop (Curatorial Assistant, was at this past Blizzcon and uploaded a bunch of personal pictures 3 days ago), Gino Whitehall (Concept Artist), Matt Milizia (Senior Environment Artist), and Paul Richards (Concept Artist) on the Titan team.

There are a dozen more, at least, recent Blizzard employees now showing "Worked at" as past tense.

(On a side note, I have actually followed Gino Whitehall's artwork in the past.. for a while I had thought that he was part of the Titan team or at least worked in the same circles.)

Was there a major overhaul a day or two before the Investors Call tomorrow? Maybe an announcement of restructuring within the organization? A loss in subscribers would explain Customer Support lay offs, for example.

If you guys are "FB gurus", let me know if this information is correct or if I made a mistake. I don't think it's a mistake though, as it looks pretty legit. It would make sense too, for a mass layoff shortly before an investor call (ie, rather than announcing it during the call and then laying off everyone at the end of the week. It's better to surprise employees for security reasons, as cruel as that sounds.)

Confirmed: When you are set as employed in FB, it will say "Works At". When you change your status (quick uncheck) to remove employment, it says "Worked At.." instead. They don't have new employers to revert to and they were most recently employed by Blizzard (e.g. many employees who were at Blizzcon are now showing "unemployed" statuses.) This all could be a mistake on their part, but they're all avid users of Facebook and changing their Employment status like this would be highly unusual. This appears to be a mass (multiple not "massive") layoff.

On a related note,

I was preparing a post for November 8th (in addition to the Quarterly Results Call), to basically show what to expect from Blizzard in 2012. But, if these layoffs are confirmed tomorrow, I'll have some more to write about. What's most interesting, though, is that they won't need any of these employees for Diablo 3 "crunch time" meaning that the game is much farther along than most people suspect. The only thing holding them back now are probably still those technical challenges and the RMAH integration.

* Update (11/08/11):

Looks like I can add a couple more names to the list, if the Joystiq rumor is true and FB is the source of their "tip". Joshua Horst (Producer) and Andrea Toyias (Casting and Voice-Over Director). Andrea was actually one of the Q&A Panelists for Diablo 3 at Blizzcon. I could have sworn that Peet Cooper (Sr. Environment Artists for Diablo 3) had Blizzard listed on his FB account yesterday, but now it's gone. (This doesn't necessarily mean he was laid off, but maybe he knew about the FB sleuthing and decided to hide his employment listing.)

There are at least 20 other people I see that are "no longer working" at Blizzard, but I can't find any other evidence of their last working day - so they're all unconfirmed for the moment.

(And yes, for those who were going to ask, I'm getting a LOT of hits from Blizzard offices on this situation.)

* Update (11/08/11):

Some outside forum posters are taking this news as bad or taking their reasoning for these layoffs too far (e.g. "lost subs", "bad blizzcon", "pandas"). Just to clarify, if this rumor ends up being true, this is just a perfectly normal process and a "seasonal" activity that's based on development timelines. This happens all the time, you just don't know about it since official announcements are never made. Titan is not cancelled, there just appears to be some reorganization to keep their vision and performance on track. Besides, "Titan" is just a name.. it can be applied to any number of different MMOs they are testing internally. This is very good news for Diablo 3, however, since typically there are layoffs following development completion. And as always, make sure you read comments too.. they further expand on a lot of these blog posts. :)

* Update (11/08/11):

Blizzard Community Manager Zarhym (Jonathan Brown) has claimed that it is all false evidence, that the status changes were just accidents, and it's all just basically rumor mill while there have been no terminations at all.

"Tons of speculation based on false evidence. Score one for Internet rumor mill? RT @blakex Yeah, just read that article..."
Bashiok (Micah Whipple) is also confirming the same, that no one has been laid off. Apparently, it's all just accidental.

So there you have it. The Blizzard response is basically "Nothing to see here, move along."

Does their official stance on speculation still apply if official statements are made by Blizzard employees using official Blizzard game names and on platforms used for dispensing company news releases?
"Blizzard Entertainment does not comment on rumors or speculation."
Of course, both LinkedIn and Twitter are public sources as well and anything you see written on there is also false evidence and speculation (Zarhym Logic™). No one in their right mind would ever publish accurate employment information on their Facebook profiles for heaven's sake. That's just crazy tin foil hattery. So, I wouldn't believe any information you read about on Twitter either.. it's highly inaccurate and should not be depended on.

* Update (11/08/11):

Zarhym (Source):
I'm not in PR and won't officially comment here on rumors or speculation. You control the quality of your reporting. @titan_mmo
But.. but.. you already did comment on rumor and speculation! :)

Mike Sacco (Source):
@talkingcongas I seriously hate that Daeity person
Hahahaha.. say, wasn't Sacco that guy who said Blizzard has never had any security breaches or leaks?

Official statement released on public forums:
Hey guys, out of respect for their privacy, we don’t discuss individual employees, but the speculation circulating about ‘massive layoffs at Blizzard’ is just a rumor.
Thread locked.

Now.. is that a "rumor rumor" or a "Tom Chilton rumor"? :)

Note: He's referring to a "massive" layoff rumor on the forum. On this blog, I'm just speculating on "mass" layoffs. I know it's not "massive".. maybe a dozen or more. Strange that he worded it that way though. Also, I thought that Blizzard Entertainment did not comment on rumor and speculation? Interesting..

* Update (11/08/11): has confirmed that there have been no layoffs.. including the one they originally reported themselves..

They wrote:
Yesterday, a handful of gaming news sites reported that a senior designer working on the new Titan MMO had gotten laid off by Blizzard Entertainment.
And then they linked back to themselves as the source of these rumors. Okay.

Anyways.. "layoffs never happened" and "Blizzard employees still have their jobs."

As per Joystiq, John Staats, Trent Kaniuga, Paul Richards, etc are all still employed with Blizzard. No one has been laid off recently.

(* March 2012 Update: All 3 of those employees were indeed laid off around the same time.)

Funny comments on their post though. Apparently, I was the one who started the rumor that John Staats was laid off. Joystiq is also claiming that the FB investigation revealed HUNDREDS of Blizzard employees laid off. Funny.. I thought I speculated on 8 names and assumed a dozen or so IF the rumor (started by Joystiq mind you) was proven true.

* Update (11/08/11): has two conflicting blog posts now. In one corner, we have Blizzard and Joystiq claiming that there have been no layoffs. Everything is just rumor, hence untrue. In the other corner, they're confirming that John Staats was indeed terminated.

So, this brings us all back to the original speculation. We may learn more in the coming weeks or months.

* Update (11/14/11):

Another FB profile confirmed. Paul Richards was indeed let go as speculated. I think we'll see a lot more layoffs over the next coming months too, and I'll continue to monitor.

(Continuation here. 12 employees were later confirmed, not including the several dozens of Technical Support and CSR positions. Under the WARN Act, a "mass layoff" can consist of 2 or more individuals too. So whether you use the legal definition of "mass layoff" or a mass of layoffs, they both apply.)