Not all is well at Rare, as anonymous sources have revealed to the media. Rumors first began circulating last month following a post on 4Chan, which read, "In an effort to cut costs. Rare has cut their last permanent members of art staff. All artists working there are temps.” Confirmation came only recently, by way of two individuals who've been promised anonymity in exchange for information.
According to one source, the entire 42-person art department at Rare has been informed that jobs at the company's Twycross headquarters are at risk of redundancy -- or layoffs. As such, staff members were told to apply for 23 managerial positions at Rare's new Birmingham office, meaning 19 employees will be losing their jobs. However, the source also mentioned "some negative feeling has led to additional artists taking the very generous voluntary redundancy packages," putting the total number above 20.
The second source didn't have solid numbers to offer, but noted that "due to the consultation period coming in, it would seem to be more than 20." Under EU employment law, 19 is the max number of layoffs allowed without the need for a full consultation process.
Sources indicated that the remaining positions are all “management roles in name or fact, chiefly project managers. Meaning that all the actual artists are redundant.” When contacted for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson stated that only "a small number of employees" in the art department have been notified that their jobs were at risk.
“I can confirm that a small number of employees in the art department of Rare Studios have been informed that their roles are at risk of redundancy," the spokesperson said. "While redundancies are never easy, these organizational changes are part of Rare’s ongoing strategy and operational planning which typically coincides with the shipment of a title. We are working closely with the affected employees to support them through this transition and help them apply for other roles within Microsoft."
"Whilst we’re not discussing the exact numbers involved, I can assure you that it’s far fewer than you’ve indicated and represents a small percentage of the total Rare team."
This certainly isn't the first time a studio turns to independent contractors for development. As a whole, the gaming industry has been following in the footsteps of the movie industry, employing the "Hollywood model" of employing workers on short-term contracts and outsourcing development to different studios. By doing so, companies save money on wages and would not be subject to employment legislation.