Thursday, December 4, 2008

Monte Cook Weighs In On WotC Layoffs

By now, pretty much everyone knows that WotC laid off a number of their staff this month, two include two game designers (good ones, from all accounts) and a hefty portion of those involved with the digital side of things. Some people are predicting WotC gets done in by Hasbro within the year (Ryan Dancey makes a similar prediction here), many others are using this as an opportunity to point out (tee off on?) the shortcomings of the Digital Initiative, and the rumors start about D&D 4e underperforming, but most of us are just sad some good folks lost their jobs, regardless of if we play 4e or not.

But perhaps one of the most interesting comments I've seen is by Monte Cook:

"Not that I have any illusions about what would have happened had I stayed. I've no doubt that I would have been laid off. From a larger perspective than just yesterday, it's become clear that WotC's become a company that not only doesn't value experience, it avoids it. (And looks at least somewhat disdainfully, rather than fondly, upon its own past.) You have to stretch your definition of "old guard" to even apply to anyone there anymore. (This is likely a bottom line issue, since the longer you stay, the more you get paid.) When I was there, I worked among people like Skip Williams and Jeff Grubb--with that kind of perspective at hand, I was always the new guy. Which was fine by me. I had much to learn and always appreciated the perspective they could provide. Now, most of the people working on D&D weren't even there when I was there. That's how much turnover and change there's been. There's a real danger of losing continuity with these kinds of layoffs. Dangers involving making old mistakes and not remembering what was learned in old lessons.

It's a foolish and shortsighted management that lets people like Jonathan, Julia, and Dave go. Foolish. And a cold-hearted one that does it at Christmas. But this is not new outrage, it's old, tired outrage. This is the company that laid off Skip, and Jeff, and Sean, and other people of extraordinary talent and experience. It's par for the recent course.

Before I end this bitter ramble, let me just add that it's hard not to laugh at the shocking and perhaps pitiable ineptitude of a company that makes role playing games that would lay off Jonathan Tweet, very likely the best rpg designer, well, period.

I wish all of them the best, and have not a shred of doubt that they'll all go on to do bigger and better things."


So, what are your thoughts--is Monte pretty close to the mark here, or way off base?

Me? I think Paizo would be well-served to see about adding Jonathan Tweet to their roster.

20 comments:

noisms said...

It reminds me of what somebody in a forum somewhere (what, me, vague?) said about WotC being in real danger of full-fledged corporate amnesia.

Rob Lang said...

Having been made redundant in the past, it's wise to remember that a company is not a human and cannot be judged by human standards. To remain alive, a company needs to make impassionate decisions to remove people. Skills are balanced with wages to save on costs - salaries always being the greatest. From outside of any senior management team, it is very difficult to make judgements. Had they kept everyone on then the whole company may have reduced profitability that Hasbro would close them. It's happened across the globe to hundreds of companies.

Questing GM said...

Oh yes, I would definately want to see Jonathan Tweet in Paizo as well as Dave Noonan since he was credited for developing the better books from 3.x.

I also hope that Julia Martin may get invited into the ranks of developing Golarion of the Pathfinder Chronicles and Companion team.

David said...

I'll be the schmuck that goes out on a limb here and says that I'd like work at WotC personally. if they have mostly new folk, that means that people with little experience in the field are being hired. As far as breaking into the industry goes, WotC has got to be a good place to start.

bonemaster said...

@Rob - Correct a company is not human, but it is run by humans. I'm not sure what you meant by Salaries are the greatest. At first I thought you meant they were the greatest expense, but after reading it a few times to compose a reply, I'm not sure what you meant. If that's what you meant, then all I have to say is its the most common controllable expense. Usually, there are many larger expenses that a company can not control. Which is why manufacturing moves to low cost labor markets. The material cost is the same no matter where you make the item, only the labor cost is different.

@David - You're not a schmuck. Trust me I know some real ones. Personally with the history of the company, I'd be hard pressed to work WotC in any way. But if you are willing to work for nothing and done expect to be working there long, then what you say is likely true. It my own opinion that there will be serious changes in WotC within the next five years and at some point we may be talking about WotC the same way we talk about the Dodo.

@Question_GM - It would be nice if Paizo picked up some the talent WotC seems to be wasting. At any rate, I'm sure none of them will be on the unemployment line for long.

Generally speaking, I think Monte is right. WotC now has a problem that my company refers to as knowledge transfer. All the people with the knowledge are gone and there is no way to transfer it to the new people. You may(will) even lose Vision, since the people that had a Vision are no longer there.

Well this comment took up more space than I thought it would when I started.

Jonathan said...

@ noisms - I posted about this in late September HERE. But I'll quote a small part of that rant to save you the trouble - "I believe the #1 biggest problem with dungeons & dragons products is that there is a revolving door of developers on the payrolls at WotC - and in any organization that has revolving door of core staff members there is always a major problem is a loss of corporate knowledge (and I do not mean corporation knowledge; I mean organizational memory)."

Zweihander said...

I've heard Paizo pop up once or twice in the rpg forum/blogosphere in regard to picking up these WoTC layoffs, and I keep thinking the same thing:

Isn't it just a little naive to think that Paizo is made of enough money to hire even some of this talent?

After all we are talking about a small business running in a niche hobby.

Bilbo said...

I personally would like to see Microsoft hire at least the designers into the Xbox group. I could see some top notch CRPGs coming out from these guys. And they could stay local and work for a company that's never had a layoff! :)

bonemaster said...

@Zweihander - I think it's more wishful thinking then anything else.

Zachary The First said...

@Zweihander: Paizo could always go the Monte Cook "consultant" route. Not a full-time gig, but paying something for their seasoned input and feedback.

sirlarkins said...

First, I'll second the Johnathan Tweet-Paizo wish. I have yet to buy any Pathfinder products, and it's doubtful I ever will, but I'd love to see that happen.

Second, all this talk of Wizards perhaps dumping D&D, Paizo and Pathfinder, simulacra like OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord...it's starting to occur to me that there's no such thing as "official" D&D any more. Certainly not in the sense of back in the TSR days. How things have changed in 10 years, eh?

Zweihander said...

Second, all this talk of Wizards perhaps dumping D&D, Paizo and Pathfinder, simulacra like OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord...it's starting to occur to me that there's no such thing as "official" D&D any more. Certainly not in the sense of back in the TSR days. How things have changed in 10 years, eh?

You just read my mind, Sir. Regardless of any troubles the D&D brand is having, we can thank the clones (and the OGL) for giving us a means of playing pretty much every era and flavor of D&D possible.

It's one of those "The King is dead, long live The King" kinda things.

Scott said...

Except for this talk of Tweet being the best game designer ever, I actually agree with Cook. I also agree more strongly with what James Mishler wrote about what Wizards *should* be doing to keep D&D alive here - http://jamesmishler.blogspot.com/2008/12/holidays-are-here.html

Zachary The First said...

That's a very interesting idea James paints. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening.

But, as others have said elsewhere, a renaissance of the DIY attitude, coupled with the OGL and affordable PDF publishing has left this hobby in a spot to offer much to its participants--even if that reach isn't there yet commercially.

Rob Lang said...

@bonemaster, you're right, I meant that they are the greatest expense. That comment is probably a good example of why you should not write online when you have a fever!

Zachary The First said...

Off-topic, but feel better, Rob! The world needs your free RPG reviews! :)

Oh, also, for those wanting to check out some sweet Jonathan Tweet game design, Over the Edge is pretty cool (whereas Over the Hedge is a movie I took my daughter to see).

noisms said...

Jonathan: Yeah, that entry was what I was referring to. You're ahead of the curve obviously! ;)

Zachary The First said...

aaand Sean K. Reynolds lets them (Hasbro/WotC) really have it:

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/246174-layoffs-15.html#post4575566

Whew! There's more anger out there on this than I'd even anticipated!

Layoffs said...

People always hate to talk about when they are laid off. But as it has become every day's news headline since Yahoo started it with cutting 1500 of its task force last year, now a need of platform has been in demand where people can express their selves in words how they are feeling about their company, whey the got laid off was that justified or not.
And every thing they want to tell anonymously.And www.layoffgossip.com is providing you that platform.

Chetan said...

People always hate to talk about when they are laid off. But as it has become every day's news headline since Yahoo started it with cutting 1500 of its task force last year, now a need of platform has been in demand where people can express their selves in words how they are feeling about their company, whey the got laid off was that justified or not.
And every thing they want to tell anonymously.And www.layoffgossip.com is providing you that platform.