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Obsidian Entertainment Employees Laid Off Due to Metacritic Score

South Park RPG and unnamed next gen title affected

Joystiq has reported that Obsidian Entertainment was struck by layoffs this week, affecting staff across the board.  As a result, staff currently developing the South Park RPG were let go, and an unnamed next gen project was canceled. 

While it’s never good to hear about layoffs affecting developers, the reason for these layoffs may cause concern for some. 


According to a tweeted response from Chris Avellone, a developer for Obsidian, and an article on Nowgamer, Obsidian lost out on a bonus from Bethesda because they failed to hit a Metracritic score of 85.  Metracritic ratings for the Xbox 360 version and the PC version both scored an 84 on the reviews website, landing just under the required score, causing the lack of funds leading to the layoffs.  This comes in spite of the game selling almost 6 million copies according to VGChartz, as Nowgamer also pointed out.  No other bonus was available to the development team, and no royalties were paid.

Bethesda has not yet responded to these observations. 



Our Take

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

03/15/2012 at 12:08 PM

OK, first, it was foolish to bet people's jobs on a metacritic score, and second, this may be the dumbest thing I've heard of for a bonus.  There's no benefit to the bottom line for a metacritic score.  Why would a financial bonus be contingent on something that isn't, oh I don't know, financial? Why on earth wouldn't they base the bonus on sales figures or income generated?


03/15/2012 at 12:17 PM

Is this for real Angelo? What the hell kind of business is this? Metacritic scores being used a criteria for making business choices? Why don't we just fucking go back to school and pass notes to each other saying "Yes, No, Maybe?" because that would be just meaningful as shit you'd find on Metacritic. So New Vegas sells 6 millions copies, and gets overlooked in favor of a Metacritic score? People really do business like this? This is a thing?

Nick DiMola Director

03/15/2012 at 12:18 PM

You'd be surprised at how common this shit is. Totally awful.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

03/15/2012 at 12:31 PM

Yeah, I found it unbelievable myself, that's why I put so many links in the article.  It is, unfortunately, legit.


03/15/2012 at 12:37 PM

@Nick I'm honestly surprised Nick, it's crazy that stuff like this happens. I don't work for Obsidian but this feels like a low-blow, I sympathize with the people that got layed off and the projects they were working on that got set back or cancelled.

I concede it's a fact I'm pretty naiive, I just want to make the best games I can, I have very little business sense, and I'm unrealistically optimistic about things, so I just assume stuff this silly doesn't happen. I really wanted to play the South Park rpg, and I really want Obsidian to just do well and have jobs so they can make games. It's crazy that people can throw a monkey wrench into the whole setup, and into people's lives, over something as lowly-regarded as a Meta score. I speak for myself only, but I don't hold those scores in any regard. It shows great weakness and insecurity if you look at your own games, play your own games, listen to comments from your peers, and at the end of the day the only way you can see if your game has value is from Metacritic scores. When I'm making games one of these days I'm going to know my games inside, out, and I'm going to fucking know whether they're good or not, I don't need a damn Metacritic score to decide my fate and tell me if my games are any good.

Joaquim Mira Media Manager

03/15/2012 at 12:18 PM

This is just pure nonsense.

Matt R Staff Alumnus

03/15/2012 at 01:25 PM


Julian Titus Senior Editor

03/15/2012 at 05:58 PM

I have no idea why the bonuses are based on Metacritic and not sales. As the movie industry has shown, consumers like what they like, no matter what reviews say. 6 million copies is still a hit these days.


03/16/2012 at 01:40 AM

If you checked the joystiq post, they also mention letting go of someone who was there for ONE DAY. Now that's ass....

N00b: Hey boss, my locker combination got changed

Boss: Yeah, we're going to have let you go. But if you can the leave the company mug we gave you, that will be great...

Concerning the bonus, that's just bad negotiating They don't have a legal team that can play hardball with publishers?

What this means,it doesn't matter if you buy this used as far as Obsidian is concerned. The devs don't get another dime after the fact.

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