TUG studio lays off half its workforce after funding deal goes sour


TUG came to prominence this summer in the wake of the Yogventures collapse, when Yogscast arranged to have keys to the game given to empty-handed Yogventures Kickstarter backers. But now the TUG development team is having some struggles of its own.

The latest TUG Kickstarter update offers both good news and bad. On the upside, TUG is continuing to improve, the audience is growing, and developer Nerd Kingdom says the game has enjoyed "consistent stable growth in sales and playtime over the past four months." Members of the Minecraft modding community are also becoming increasingly involved with the project, and funds from external investors have enabled the creation of a significant amount of new content.

But a round of funding that was meant to carry development through to the end of the year was held back after the studio failed to come to terms with the investor. "The deal that would have gone through would have lost us all control and ownership and we are not huge fans of being owned by investors like this," the studio wrote in the update. "Sadly, we need to cut off a few limbs to be able to ensure this does not happen."

The "few limbs" actually represent half the development team, a dramatic and "heartbreaking" reduction in staff. The development process will be slowed as a result of the cuts, but it also means the studio is "now on a path to growth to fully support a small team with no outside investor support," it wrote. Nerd Kingdom also teased the possibility of a deal with a "large publisher," although it's too early in the process to name names, and it promised that it would not accept any kind of offer without consulting TUG backers first.

"In closing, please DO note, that this is not us going down... quite the opposite. It's us making the sacrifice needed, now, so that we DON’T go the path of other kickstarters before us," the studio wrote. "We are doing what it takes to press on, self sustain and do what we have been telling you all since we first started on this together, well over a year ago. This is what we have to do in order to stay independent and free to do what we want to do."

The update also notes that a price increase to $20 will be implemented by the end of October, following the addition of multiplayer and new terrain. TUG is currently available via Steam Early Access for $10.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.