Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In difficult times, come difficult decisions

Today the hammer fell, on CCP Atlanta. In a public relations notice, CCP announced the layoff of 20% of their workforce - mostly in Atlanta (but some in Reykjavik). Atlanta was home to White Wolf, the property behind the now "back-burner" project World of Darkness, Content folks for DUST 514, and most of the Community Management team. With no official list released (which would be bizarre anyway), speculation abounds for who was released and who is staying. Before I go on, I must wish the best to everyone who lost their jobs today, and hope that they are quick to find new work. Even though I am thinking most of those I know, all of you are in my wishes for a quick rebound.

I have met a handful of people from CCP Atlanta, including Mike Reed, CCP Cupcake (Stacy), and CCP Big Dumb Object. I have interacted with the CM team for years as a player and sometime forum poster, and as a member of the #tweetfleet. I only know of three specific layoffs, in what must number close to 100 - Zymurgist, Fallout and Hammer - some of the most vocal of the CM team. What worries me most is whether the CM team (mostly based in Atlanta) was completely disbanded as part of this restructuring of CCP.

I've been in small and large businesses through a couple economic bubbles. In the dot-bomb at the end of the 90s, I had to be on the management side and was one of the last men standing in a company that didn't survive the downturn. So I know how hard it is to let good people go. With the challenges they set for themselves, and then the difficulties in meeting them alongside the drop in subscriptions, CCP was looking at the short end of the balance sheet, and had to make changes. I can only say this - 20% of CCP had better include a lot of Incarna and WoD folks, because it did include the employees of CCP who made the most effort to keep us, the vocal and annoying players of EVE, talking, and participating.

A smart business, intent on communicating with their customers, probably shouldn't lay off their entire Customer Management team. But it appears that may be what happened with CCP today. Businesses intent on surviving the tough times need to keep a finger on the pulse of their customers - but CCP decided that finger should be lopped off, perhaps to spite the hand that feeds it. I can only hope that the executive team, who actually made the poor decisions that led to this day, realize that those positions had greater merit for goodwill and community support (and helping convince fools like me to resubscribe rather than lapse) - and the positions - if not the people - had better be filled as part of the restructuring.

CCP needs goodwill from the vocal community, as does any company in today's overly social world. CCP Fallout and CCP Zymurgist were a big part of that goodwill to the few hundred in the tweetfleet, and to many who read the forums. They will be missed personally. But the company needs those roles filled with communicative, involved and excited employees.

EVE isn't a game you easily unplug from. EVE isn't a fly by night I'll try it and move on game. If you get involved, you get involved deeply. And having a quality Community Management team helps temper the speculation and frustration of those players who are involved beyond logging into a virtual world. CCP - you do what you must. But I hope you realize that you must have a Community team that actively participates.

Rumor has it that the CSM will become more involved in CM - I only have one problem with this. I love the CSM as an idea, and I think they do good things - but they aren't the right voice of community interaction. The Mittani, as the chair (and leader of Goonswarm), is very capable, but he doesn't display the soft skills needed for a good community relations employee. The CSM are very good at grating bluntness - a great skill, but not for community relations. Nothing personal guys, I like most of you from what I've read, seen, and heard. But you aren't touchy-feely – and that's what the community team needs to be. CCP - I hope you have quality people lined up to replace those we have come to call friends. Because it's hard to make new friends in EVE that you can trust...


  1. Well put.

    I've met most of the new Community team (Navigator and Shadow) and can say that while they have big boots to fill they're the people to fill them.

    The restructuring is more of a centralization effort on CCP's part. I get the feeling that those who have gone were given the choice of moving to Iceland or taking redundancy. Such a relocation is not to be taken lightly (I've done it myself) and I can completely understand the choices made if such a choice was indeed presented.

  2. Got one g+ and you will notice that no one who spoke about his layoff mentioned relocation as on offer, actually one just relocated to Atlanta and is now broke and stranded there.