Over the past year or so, Kickstarter has emerged as a potent force in the video game industry, changing the way game-makers connect with—and get funding from—fans. But Gas Powered Games, the studio currently looking to fund a new strategy game called Wildman through Kickstarter, had to lay off nearly all of its employees due to apparently unforeseen cashflow problems. While he’s said that the company spent all its money working on Wildman, for whatever reason layoffs came as a surprise to CEO Chris Taylor–and particularly to his employees. Now, says Taylor, the Kickstarter campaign isn’t just there to fund Wildman, but to keep the company itself afloat.
After posting a video update on GPG’s project page, Taylor has expressed optimism about the reaction from backers and fans about continuing with the project, and seems hopeful that the company will be able to continue. He told Polygon via email:
“It never occurred to me that the industry would rally like it did, and that people would then invest, not only in Wildman, but in helping me to save GPG and the team (in fact, it’s probably the other way around, and I think the Kickstarter has become about saving a company and the game is a distant second).”
The project still has a long way to go however. It’s currently sitting at $277,000, and has a goal of $1.1 million. With 25 days to go and news of Gas Powered Games’ troubles spreading, it’s feasible that the project will hit its goal with time to spare. Conversely, some may see the layoffs mere days after the Kickstarter’s launch as a bad sign, and may shy away from putting money toward a project that may not actually materialize.
By laying off the staff now, it seems, the former employees are entitled to benefits that they would not get if the project were to fail, and then they were laid off anyway. Said Taylor in his update video:
“If I ran this team through the entire Kickstarter campaign and it fails to fund, then I have to let everyone go, shut the company down, no one gets any unpaid PTO or severance. And that I decided was not worth it.
I really felt like it was a crazy idea to gamble in this economy and gamble with the people here who are the most talented and loyal people. To play a card game with their livelihoods is not smart.”
Again, it’s not entirely clear why the layoffs weren’t foreseen considering that Taylor apparently knew his company was in dire financial straits, or what would prompt Gas Powered Games to launch a Kickstarter campaign without a more secure financial position in the first place. Perhaps the picture will become more clear as the weeks continue…but as of now, the company itself may fold if the project doesn’t hit its goal. If it does hit the goal, though, Taylor says everyone who wants to come back will be hired back.
To pledge or not to pledge? Is Taylor being up front and open about what’s going on? Or is the only gas powering this game merely hot air? What do you think?