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Rockstar Vienna Closes Its Doors 88

slashflood writes "Rockstar has unexpectedly closed its Rockstar Vienna development office, particularly known for its Grand Theft Auto Xbox conversion, laying off more than 100 employees. Confirmation has come in the form of a weblog post by Rockstar Vienna employee Jurie Horneman: 'This morning, as I came into work, I was greeted by security guards. It turned out Take-Two has closed their Rockstar Vienna office, effective immediately, 'due to the challenging environment facing the video game business and our Company during this platform transition'.'"
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Rockstar Vienna Closes Its Doors

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  • by Kerr ( 889580 ) * on Friday May 12, 2006 @07:50PM (#15322458)
    As posted by tobe in the comments section of the blog [intelligent-artifice.com] mentioned above.
    Well, a couple of notes: Austrian labor law basically doesn't allow one to put people on the streets right away. We're getting paid for a while yet. From what I've seen and heard, the two founders of the studio are bending over backwards to make this process more humane than is absolutely required. We did receive information on possible jobs in other T2 studios, on recruiters, etc. It's not the most lavish process, but it's something.

    I think the way the layoff was handled makes sense, within the context of a typical public company. You want to make the transition quick - it'll be a shock anyway, so why not make it as short as possible? Imagine if you'd known about it for weeks but couldn't have told anyone... terrible. You want to make sure people don't do anything stupid and you want to protect your assets, hence the security guards. It's assuming the worst of people, but at least you're safe.

    On a higher level, you want to make sure the company is run efficiently, and you want to be seen running the company efficiently by shareholders. Capitalism at work - T2 opening a studio in Shanghai fits nicely somehow.

    Naturally, down in the trenches it feels different, and it would've been nice to work for a company that handles this differently. But very few do.

    The only criticism I can make is that this is a very drastic solution - if there was a problem, couldn't this have been foreseen earlier, and dealt with differently?

    This guy adds a lot that the article, and blog miss out. It doesn't make the news any better, especially to the ex-staff of rockstar vienna, but concerning employment law, damn; am I glad to live in Europe.
    A further comment claimed that in America, companies have the right to lay you off, and stop your pay -tomorrow-
    Surely that isn't right?
    • "A further comment claimed that in America, companies have the right to lay you off, and stop your pay -tomorrow- Surely that isn't right?"

      Well, there are some various union rules that prevent this sort of thing, but yes, for the vast majority of American workers, the company can terminate you now and you're done. Unless you have a severance package written into your contract, you probably won't see another penny.

      There are pros (if you're a business owner/conservative capitalist) and cons (if you're a

      • If you're talking about workers in general, yes. If you're talking about skilled labor... sort of, but yet not.

        At least in the field of technology, while what you say is technically true (for the most part) in theory, it isn't usually true in practice. They can terminate you, yes, but then they risk a wrongful termination suit unless you did something wrong. That's why most tech companies choose to lay off employees in the U.S.---even grossly incompetent employees. It's less risky to give a severance

        • Wrongful termination only applies if you can prove discrimination- you were fired due to race, gender, sexual orientation, or handicap. To a lesser degree, age. Pretty much everything else they have every right to fire you on the spot for. Yes, its fucked up but thats how it is.
          • How is that fucked up? It seems pretty fair to fire people for reasons such as being dicks, being stupid, being incompetent, being lazy, having "personality conflicts" with other people in the company, or maybe just demanding more than the people waiting in line for your job are asking. That's how capitalism works - you can shop for the most value for your money, and so can companies.
            • Here's an example of how it's fucked up: many years ago, my father worked for a company which installed photo exhibits for museums and trade shows. He was quite good at his job, and his clients were very happy with his work.

              After something like ten years with the company, the owner's friend found himself out of work. The owner therefore offered his friend a job. Unfortunately, the job he got was my father's. Owner's friend had no prior experience in the business.

              People get canned for shitty reasons all the
            • NJ unemployment law- unemployment is given when the reason a person is no longer employed is "not their fault"

              The owner of my facility fired someone from the clerical position they held, for being stupid.
              This person having also held a real estate license...

              The fired individual filed for unemployment, and the owner of the business freaked out... and disputed the claim, as the employee had been fired.

              the response from the state? it was not the fired persons "fault" they are stupid... claim approved.
            • How is that fucked up? It seems pretty fair to fire people for reasons such as being dicks, being stupid, being incompetent, being lazy, having "personality conflicts" with other people in the company, or maybe just demanding more than the people waiting in line for your job are asking. That's how capitalism works - you can shop for the most value for your money, and so can companies.

              It wouldn't be fucked up if you could fire your boss without losing your job for the same reasons. That's how Capitalism wo

            • Well because you can fire people for a lot of other reasons too.
              1) Are they're too good and might potentially replace you? Fire them.
              2) Can you hire a new grad for significantly less money, and it'll look good on the bottom line long enough for you to get your promotion and leave? Fire them.
              3) Are they sick or do they have sick relatives and take occasional sick days? Fire them.
              4) Secretaries won't put out for you? Fire them.
              5) Wrong skin colour/ethnicity/sexual orientation? Fire them.

              Being able to fire
          • Again, that's the difference between theory and practice. In theory, most people can't win. In practice, they can still sue. The U.S. isn't a "loser pays" system, so somebody with a chip on his/her shoulder can make the claim that because he/she is a [insert group here] man/woman, he/she must have been discriminated against and can make the company's life a living you-know-what even if he/she loses.

            With a severance package, the employer can make you sign a form that says you agree not to sue. Not airt

      • I understand that as a business owner you can always say "it's my money, I decide what to do with it," but these same people expect two weeks' notice if someone wants to quit.

        Yes, they expect it, but in an "at will" state, you don't have to give it. Generally, you do give notice because you aren't an asshole. The same reason that, generally, your boss doesn't fire you for no reason.

        There are obviously some exceptions, including contractual obligations and assholes.
    • A further comment claimed that in America, companies have the right to lay you off, and stop your pay -tomorrow-

      It varies state-to-state, but many are at-will. In Michigan, for example, the following applies:

      In Michigan, employees are presumed to be "at will." At-will employees may be terminated for any reason, so long as it's not illegal. Generally, employees who work under an employment contract can only be terminated for reasons specified in the contract. In Michigan, in order to overcome the at-will p
    • If you lay off more than a certain number of people at one time, different rules are in effect.

      There's a federal law called WARN [dol.gov], and California [findlaw.com] has a stricter version.

      p.s. WARN would be a great Wikipedia article, if someone wants to make one :)
    • A further comment claimed that in America, companies have the right to lay you off, and stop your pay -tomorrow-

      The devil is in the details but the general rule of thumb is, no they can't. Unless you COMPLETELY screw things up (the higher up you go the more likely you have a severance package prepared in which case your fine even if you get fired so don't cite management/board of directors screw ups) they can't fire you on the spot without good reason. Theres always special cases where it can be done (dec

      • In general, you don't know jack shit and are talking out of your ass. Almost all states have at-will employment, which means you can get fired for any reason whatsoever, with no recourse. As far as proving racial discrimination: you can't just claim that, you have to be a protected minority, you have to go to court, and you have to prove that you were terminated due to your race and not another factor. As far as age-based discrimination: it's VERY hard to prove in court, and rather expensive, unless you
      • why was I fired for 'incompetence' after spending 6 months on/just before handing in important project X

        Rockstar Vienna was working on a project that was two weeks from completion.
    • by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75@@@yahoo...com> on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:42PM (#15323176)
      A further comment claimed that in America, companies have the right to lay you off, and stop your pay -tomorrow-
      Surely that isn't right?


      It depends, as others have said. But one thing nobody has said is that you are eligible for unemployment insurance in this situation, which lasts for six months. How much this is actually worth depends on the state, and it's typically some percentage of what you were making at your job up to a certain maximum, but it is generally always enough to get by. There are various formulas states use to calculate this, designed to average various variables that come into the real cost of living.

      When I was laid off in 2001 (after the dot.com bust), I went from a $30,000 per year job (I was just out of college so wasn't making much) to $405 a week on unemployment. That's an annual pay cut of about 30% if you figured it out by the year. Anyway, even in NYC, $405 per week is enough to live on, provided you've got a reasonable savings to fall back on. The idea isn't to keep paying your wage while you sit on your duff; the idea is to keep you sheltered and eating until you can find another job.

      Most states are "at will" states, meaning either side can terminate employment at either time. It's a tradeoff. You work as long as the company needs you - or as long as you need the company. This is not necessarily as bad as it seems, because it's led to a culture where those who get laid off can, provided they're skilled enough, get new jobs fairly easily. So can those who quit simply because they don't like the company they work for. There is no stigma attached to getting laid off or quitting, and in my case, and I suspect that of many others, the job I got after being laid off paid significantly more than my previous job.

      In some countries I know of (Japan, for instance), it is very, very difficult to get a new job after getting laid off because companies assume it was for performance reasons. Firing people is uncommon there - rather than fire you or lay you off, they will stick you in a room by yourself until you quit - so anyone who's laid off has a real stigma attached to them. That's not true in the US, where people move from job to job as they or their companies see fit, and that's led to a mobile workforce where the skilled really generally do rise to the top faster than they would have otherwise, because if they're dissatisfied with their work or their pay, they're free to shop themselves around.

      It's definitely a different philosophy than some European countries, where it's assumed that corporations owe a debt to their workers. I understand that philosophy - the Darwin-like system we have in the US can be very difficult, and does tend to weed out those who can't hack it and ruthlessly grinds them down into the dirt. But if you do make that effort to continue honing your skills and continue to gain experience and knowledge, you can rise faster and open more doors for yourself in a system like we have in the US.
      • Well said. I was going to comment, but I think you pretty much summed up what I had to say.

        The U.S. system is a meat grinder, but if you can hack it, you can do very well for yourself. It's a matter of building relationships with people that matter (i.e., the people who can hire/fire you) and not having any misguided loyalties to institutions or companies.

        Right now, I currently work as a consultant (doesn't everyone these days?) which is nearly 100% at-will employment, but at the same time is very relations
      • That all relies on actually being able to GET unemployment benefits. I have tried to apply for unemployment benefits twice in my life. The first time I found a new job before they could start (hooray). The second time, Tennessee had changed to a phone-based application system, and the phone system had NO HOLD QUEUE. I called 4-8 times a day every day for a month (the application window) and got either a busy signal, an "all operators are busy, try again later. CLICK" hangup, or a "our normal business h
        • Er. You could have gone in person to your local Unemployment Accounts Office.
        • it saves money in unemployment payments AND lets them lie about unemployment rates even more than usual.

          Generally speaking, all employment estimates are done by survey, not by unemployment payouts. At most, such payouts are only one of several factors considered. See: http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/unemploy.htm [snopes.com]

          Also, I have to ask, why didn't you physically show up at the unemployment offices? Did they shut those down or something?

          • Yes. The physical office used to comprise the Unemployment Benefits office, where you applied for benefits, and the Employment Assistance office, where available job postings were kept and job hunting assistance was given. The office size was cut in half, no more benefits office, you HAD to apply by phone. All that was left in the physical location was the employment assistance portion.
          • Also, RE the unemployment survey, whatever sampling method they use is flawed. They claim to sample 60k households every month. Given ~100M households in the US, I would expect the average household to be sampled once every 16 months. A quick also-not-representative survey of the dozen households containing my close friends available by IM right now says that none of them have ever been surveyed, over a span of at least 5 years. Either we are very unlucky, or something about our demographics is underrep
      • >>There is no stigma attached to getting laid off or quitting

        Yeah, good luck getting a new job when they ask you how you quit your old one. No 2-weeks notice? No training your replacement? No being a 'team player?'

        At-will, and I live in an at-will state, just gives employers a lot more leverage and keeps them from paying unemployment. Its not some two-way street or great compromise.
    • A further comment claimed that in America, companies have the right to lay you off, and stop your pay -tomorrow- Surely that isn't right?

      That's America. And in further American fashion, the laws that ensure companies can lay you off with zero notice are sometimes euphemistically called "Right to Work" laws.

      Now the theory is that by making it easy to fire or lay people off, companies are more prone to take risks hiring people who may end up being unneeded or not good enough for the position. Thus, if t

      • Those people lucky enough to be be in demand have incentive to constantly shop around for a new job. Those people who aren't in demand have incentive to generally do the lowest quality and quantity of work necessary to stay employed. Perhaps this is more efficient in a way that will make some economists happy.

        The system works, for two simple reasons. You can't constantly switch jobs, since you would not be doing any productive work, and would get rather worn-out. You also can't slack off, even if your ski
      • US unemployment rate is below 5% (4.7% nonfarm as of April 2006 BLS report) .

        What's the comparable unemployment rate in Austria, France, Germany, the rest of Europe?

        When the law restricts your ability to fire, you don't hire as much or as quickly. Therefore fewer jobs, therefore higher unemployment. TANSTAAFL. Luckily with the declining birthrate, there'll be plenty of jobs still left.. For white people...

        And it'll suck especially bad for jobs that can be done over fiber-optic cable. Once high-quality
    • A further comment claimed that in America, companies have the right to lay you off, and stop your pay -tomorrow-
      Surely that isn't right?


      But I also have the right to walk out on my job tomorrow and leave my employer in a bind trying to replace me. It's cruel both ways, but it all evens out and it's fair.

      What would be really screwed up is if the employee could leave at any moment, but the employer was required to pay for their next X weeks anyway.
  • Er... (Score:1, Redundant)

    by irn_bru ( 209849 )
    That's pretty bad. Don't know what else to say, other than "Goodnight..."

  • by 9mm Censor ( 705379 ) * on Friday May 12, 2006 @07:53PM (#15322488) Homepage
    Not that I lost my job, but that I woke up for nothing.
  • Jack wins? (Score:2, Insightful)

    Does this means that Jack Thompson eventually won? That can't be good...
    • Re:Jack wins? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hannah E. Davis ( 870669 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @08:03PM (#15322544) Journal
      No.

      Rockstar North is presently developing a new GTA that will be simultaneously released for the 360 and the PS3, and Rockstar Vancouver remains hard at work on Bully, one of Mr. Thompson's favourite targets.

      If one of Rockstar's major "murder simulator" dev studios was shut down, I could see it as a victory for Mr. Thompson, but Rockstar Vienna was known for mere "Xbox conversion."
      • Maybe this is the group that would have focused on the PS3 port, now that GTA is XBox only? Sure, they ported to the original XBox, but perhaps they focused on that because they were the group of programmers that understood PS3 best, and now that there will be no PS3 version of the game, these folks are expendable? Of course, granting exclusivity to a game that appeals to both PS3 and XBox users seems dumb to me, and maybe this is just another way the company is using short-sightedness to eventually cut i
        • ...now that GTA is XBox only?...


          No it's not. Xbox 360 will get some exclusive downloads, but the game itself will be PS3 and 360.

          • Ah, that makes more sense. I must have taken the announcement the wrong way. I couldn't figure out why Rockstar would be so willing to cut off PS players, as that's where they got their start. Thanks for the correction. :)
    • Re:Jack wins? (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Kerr ( 889580 ) *
      Does this means that Jack Thompson eventually won? That can't be good...


      Take2 opened another studio [gamasutra.com] a few days ago, and Rockstar Vienna ported GTA to xbox, they didn't create it.
      I don't think Jack won, I think Take 2's shareholders won, when they decided to drop Vienna for cheap labour in shanghai.
  • I take it these weren't the guys who were going to be working on GTA4 for the 360 then. I guess this also partly explains why there was no Rockstar booth at E3.
    • Naw, GTA's developed by Rockstar North, who are based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

      Rockstar Vienna did some PC to console ports. Afaik they ported GTA to the Xbox, and Max Payne to consoles.
    • Evils of evolving technology. Instead of training em' up to work for 360 development, they shut the doors (blame the bean-counters).

      It looks as if Rockstar is going to be developing for next-gen platforms together from the ground up (Table Tennis is 360-only, @ E3 they announced 360 AND PS3 versions, with the 360 version having more online bells and whistles) .. and there's really nothing left to 'convert' to Xbox .. they're (wisely) abandoning the platform.
  • oes this mean in the next version you'll be able to rape and kill programmers?

    na, there wouldn't be an unroar over that.
  • Weren't they responsible for that game and its iterations? How the fuck are they running out of money? There has to be something else behind this. RockStar is the last company in the game industry that needs to be laying off employees, particularly employees that contribute to so many award winning games...

    Let end with a resounding WTF?!?!
    • they opened a studio in China. Lower pay, Longer hours. No messy gov't regulations when you want to fire employees, no paying for anyone's safety net.
    • The game was developed by Remedy [remedygames.com] not Rockstar. They will probably need to find someone else to port their games, though.
    • Where's Origin and Looking Glass?
    • Max Payne was a PC game published by 3-D Realms. Remember them? Duke Nukem: Eventually? Anyway, Rockstar was only responsible for the console version(s).
      • Heh. Replying to myself. A Wikipedia scan shows I was right and wrong. Max Payne WAS published by 3-D Realms, which is part of the Gathering of Developers, which was purchased by Take-Two and renamed to 2K Games.

        Fun, eh?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      RockStar is the last company in the game industry that needs to be laying off employees, particularly employees that contribute to so many award winning games...

      Well ... No, most of the major developers and publishers will be consolidating development resources in the comming generation; this isn't because they're losing a lot of money (currently) but in order to create the visuals for the PS3/XBox 360 you require many more artists. This is the reality that Sony and Microsoft (and much of the press) has gl

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