THQ announced today that it has laid-off 118 full-time staff at its highly-regarded Relic Entertainment and Vigil Games studios. Vigil was the hardest hit, with 79 of the layoffs, as its Warhammer MMO makes an abrupt transition into what a THQ press release now calls "an immersive single player and online multiplayer experience with robust digital content, and engaging community features." Dark Millennium Online is now just Dark Millennium.
It's further evidence of THQ's dire financial situation in the wake of a disastrous 2011. Indeed, back in early February, Giant Bomb's Patrick Klepek noted that THQ admitted "Dark Millennium Online is a game where THQ has to be 'realistic about [their] resources' and is seeking a partner to work on the game with."
Today's statement from THQ strongly suggests that no partner or additional funding was available, and that forced the publisher to re-purpose Dark Millennium as a single-player game.
"Based on changing market dynamics and the additional investment required to complete the game as an MMO," said CEO Brian Farrell, "we believe the right direction for us is to shift the title from an MMO to a premium experience with single and multiplayer gameplay.”
This might not be as drastic a change for Dark Millenium as it sounds. THQ has not been very public with its plans for Dark Millenium, but last year THQ made an interesting admission that Dark Millennium stood in the way of a sequel to Relic's own Warhammer 40K shooter, Space Marine. If there was a great deal of overlap between those games, it might well be that Dark Millennium ultimately makes more sense as an action game than an RPG.
Still, what is most worrisome about today's announcement is that THQ is now making deep cuts at its flagship studios as they handle one of the publisher's most important licenses. The press release emphasizes that Vigil is continuing work on Darksiders II and Relic is continuing to "focus its development expertise on THQ's franchises including Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War." It is not clear how the layoffs, and the financial straits that forced them, will affect development on those other projects.