Transmission Games let go a third of staff

News: 

Transmission Games, formerly IR Gurus, have recently shed a third of their staff. Gameindustry.biz reports that the Melbourne studio is hitting some financial hardships and have had to let go of staff in a major cost cutting effort. 30 Transmission games employees, most of which were full-time programmers and Q&A staff, were shed from the company.

As reported by Gameindustry.biz, Transmission Games have run into some pressure after struggling to recover late payments from publishers, and the studio is unlikely to sign onto any new projects for the next two or three months. A proposed project based on the Red Tails movie license has been put on hold, and other projects are still in the pitching stage, including a "Secret Weapons" project and "Rotorhead", a helicopter demo that has been shown to over 10 publishers. The studio is currently working on a new Ashes Cricket title and a flight sim with Codemasters. In an email from Mike Fegan obtained by Gameindustry.biz...

"Cash still remains very tight as we work to secure payments from publishers and new sources of income..."

"(the studio doesn't) have available cash to sustain the current burn rate of the studio so we now have to implement some major cost cutting."

Comments

Anonymous's picture

For all the hard work. This industry blows.

Anonymous's picture

There is never a good time to lose your job, but jeez it wouldn;t come much worse than now.

Heart goes out to all the employees effected. Unfortunately I think the vast majority of us here have been through something similar to this, so we are well qualified to sympathise.

Good luck to those looking for new jobs, and good luck for those who remain. We all look forward to when transmission turns around and is strong again.

Anonymous's picture

I lost my games job due to redundancy almost 12 months ago. It's not like I'm inexperienced or anything, but there's been virtually nothing available since.

Anonymous's picture

Pandemic? I was part of the first round of cuts as well if so.

I got lucky and got back in, but that's probably all it came down to. I keep hearing of the masses of super experianced people who just can't get a look in. I guess all you can do is keep applying to every studio, regardless on wether or not they say they are hiring (There was no advertisment for the job I did get) and then you at least mgiht get a look in when one of the studios does have a position open.

Good luck dude, that's probably all you need at the moment.

Anonymous's picture

Re the first comment, this industry is difficult no doubt, but the way to go is fixed term contracts (have no clue if this was the case at Transmission).

That way everybody knows where they stand... Businesses cant afford to keep staff if there's no project and staff don't want to get the shaft without ever seeing it coming. Would make the end of project "layoffs" much easier to handle.

Anonymous's picture

The Hollywood business model of short term contractors may make more sense than the current employment model. It's crazy to be supporting a full-production studio while gambling on a new title getting signed.

souri's picture

You know, I remember being told in a discussion that the Hollywood short-term contractors model would be miles better - the way that actors are employed. But how realistic is this really? How much more time would be needed if after every game, you need to start from scratch, all the infrastructure etc.. and all the nuances and mistakes you learnt as a team after a games completion that would smoothen the development of the next game, gone. I think a slightly better solution may be for the establishment of production houses specialising in particular services.

I dunno... if the next-gen consoles are going to require larger and larger teams, longer dev times, and much, much higher budgets, I'm not sure if Australia is going to even be able to compete on that level.

Anonymous's picture

Hollywood don't rebuild their equipment for every movie, they don't have to skill up for each title.

Daemin's picture

I think the way the Hollywood contracting model is used would be to have a core creative team that is the company, and then once a game is in the stage where they need heaps of people they would bring a lot of these short term contracts on. So you'd be able to go from a team of 5-6 people to over 100 as required, and then back down to 10 or so once the game has been somewhat completed.

In addition I would see that a lot of the same middleware would be used, hence you'd have contractors that are good at particular engines and libraries being hired for that specific purpose.

With regards to the infrastructure and all that, I imagine that once you've built something like that out, you'd be able to re-use it, and if not then there will spring up a bunch of middleware vendors that will provide those services. I mean there's already a plethora of hosted source control and project management solutions out there already.

I've also read that the Hollywood system uses a "who you know" and "who you'd want to work with" system of hiring, so if certain persons were "dicks" and bastards to work with they just wouldn't be brought on to a project (unless they were particularily awesome at something, i.e. John Carmack, etc).

Somehow I think this *will* probably be a better system, it's just that people (myself included somewhat) don't like being without a steady paycheck/safety net.

Time will tell.

designerwatts's picture

It's a shame to hear that redundancies have been made. Even more so as it seems to be on such short notice for all involved.

Thinking of possible avenues for the future of you guys. There's always applying to different studios both in Australia and Overseas. Although from looking at the current hiring of melbourne studios there doesn't seem to be much growth in the core studio sector. [I could be quite wrong though.] Your experience and shipped titles will be a big factor to your success with that. It's best to look for jobs right away if you'd be going down that path.

Then there is of course the prospect of perhaps starting up some small business's of your own. Wither it be a content creation house or development studio. Here are some resources to help you guys out. I don't know if anyone from transmission would read this. But if so I hope this helps:

1: The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) is a self-employment program funded by the Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). NEIS helps eligible people become self supporting and independent of Centrelink by establishing and running their own business. http://www.neis.com.au/

2: Film Victoria Downloadable Games Grant - Good to look into if your planning to make games for iPhone and online: http://film.vic.gov.au/www/html/1136-downloadable-games-initiative.asp?i...

3: Film Victoria Prototyping Grant - Good to look into if you and a team are planning to make a console or large scope PC prototype http://film.vic.gov.au/www/html/721-digital-media-prototyping.asp

All the best dudes. :D

Anonymous's picture

Good advice for those who want to become a indie developer.

I know choice 3 is extremely hard to get your foot into, tends to go to established developers.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the helpful info.

Anonymous's picture

Especially with those grants.

I think the business models and aims of many game-dev companies are a bit ancient and far too flimsy. Not enough sustainable income in the industry and thus these sort of job cuts become too common for everyone's liking. A bit more business sense instilled into the industry would be good.

And condolences to those who lost their jobs in this cut.

designerwatts's picture

I can’t advocate for Film Victoria or the government in general but from the appearance of their funding efforts they want to make Melbourne the digital media HUB of Australia. Game development being a facet of it.

These grants aren’t easy to obtain. There’s a long list of requirements needed to satisfy the grant givers to make sure that your game development project has been well thought out and has the required human skill to execute the game. Which includes factors such as your game design document, production plan and market research into the viable profitability of said game.

The experience of the applicants plays a big role in the chance of getting a grant as well.

I also agree with what many are saying about employment structure of game development. Due to the scope and nature of so many projects, unless you have the full and complete finical co-operation of a large-scale publisher like EA or THQ then the traditional payroll approach to game business is starting to show it’s age.

souri's picture

"These grants aren’t easy to obtain."

Also worth adding is that once you gain a grant, you work will be frequently peer reviewed to make sure you're keeping your end of the deal.

souri's picture

I'm sure no one was surprised that something like this was going to happen locally. The economic slowdown, publishers tightening up their belts, the aussie dollar rising etc, it was inevitable that contracts were going to get harder to secure.

It's also pretty common in the industry to shed staff when there is no work for them, so hopefully this isn't a sign that Transmission Games is going under any time soon, although from the reports at Gamasutra and others, the studio was doing it pretty tough.

There are also a few other studios have drastically shed staff which some of you may have heard of already which are more of a concern, however.

Those suggestions that Designerwatts has offered are really worth considering. I have a feeling that the digital distribution model is really here to stay, heck, I wouldn't be surprised if the next gen consoles had all the infrastructure for downloadable games on launch day + no disc based media (if only to obliterate the resale market). Trying to make a living out of it would be something I would love to hear from those currently going through that path.

Anonymous's picture

IMO those studios blindly chasing nothing but the retail model are all on borrowed time. Anyone who'se spent any decent amount time in the industry knows the traditional model mostly just screws developers with slim or no margins and laughable royalties, and with budgets and timeframes continuing to tighten the fallout from this (burnout, layoffs, poor product, etc) is only going to be exacerbated. Unless your studio is very closely aligned with a major player (and with it a steady stream of work), it's a situation that is becoming increasingly untennable.

Anonymous's picture

We need to look at self published low budget/low ticket price market as the only viable future for our local Devs. At the individual level we're going to have to form contracting partnerships and perhaps even bid for contract work. This isn't something to be scared of being a high skilled profession. The "post production" model is a clear parable, allowing us even to be the masters of our own futures.

Anonymous's picture

If that is the future, then do you think we will see publishers replaced by much bigger developers? Who will own their own IP, keep all the profits, and be able to fund their own projects much more readily than at the moment?

They can keep their own tools and have their own core staff, and contract out grunts to work on individual projects as next gen games get bigger?

Kinda like the film industry?

Anonymous's picture

One thing that isn't mentioned much is this.

I worked for IR Gurus years ago, and they didn't have the best management practices back then.

Transmission brought on for Heroes over Europe a ton of students at low wages and got them doing long hours to try and complete the project. Transmission are well known for attempting to gain the most out of their employees at the lowest wage etc.

I find the companies that are doing well at the moment are decent to the employees yet have a good business manager in place.

Anonymous's picture

Sounds like Fuzzy eyes. The studio didnt have a great rep for management and its employees were getting shafted for ages and are still owed salaries even though the place has closed shop.

Anonymous's picture

I heard they did the same thing on Heroes over the Pacific. When i got there, some guys were owed a ton of money promised on some deal were they worked for free to make the demo. Don't know if they ever got payed.

Bad juju!

Anonymous's picture

I don't think publishers will disappear at all - there will probably always be companies farming out licensed product and extending franchises via third party developers. But, I think we definitely need to see developers being far smarter about how they go about things - self-publishing via dd would seem to be a very viable way to go about putting stabilizers on the rollercoaster, so to speak.

designerwatts's picture

I’m pleasantly surprised to see that no one has jumped on the “Death to publishers” bandwagon in this thread as well. :)

Publishers aren’t the bane of the industry. They are business and profit focused entities and they take care of a lot of the more mundane aspects of game development like financial, distribution and marketing.

Digital distribution allows a dev team, usually small in scale to exercise full control over the release and profits of a game. That can work wonders on a small case basis. For large scale developing I’m not so convinced.

This being said. I would happily pay a publisher 30c in a $1 of my iPhone game if I knew with assurance that their efforts and to market and advertise my game was far greater then my own.

The economic crisis of last year did make the publishers have to pull many projects and that had a bad effect on a lot of developers. But it also showed us how our current employment and studio structure is flawed and needs to be reconsidered for an upcoming age where the scale and scope of many mainstream games simply can’t be handled by one development house.

Anonymous's picture

"Publishers aren’t the bane of the industry."

I have worked with some who are. That said, so are some developers :)

Anonymous's picture

I hear that the GDAA had a meeting recently where pretty much every Company involved discussed letting go of Staff. Redtribe barely exists; half the staff have already been let go of Sept 2009.

Who is Next Tantalus? Big Ant are in the same boat.

Is it only Victoria or is it the entire Australian Industry.

Anonymous's picture

Yeah, heard that rumour about Redtribe and as it turns out, it is not a rumour. Big Office, No Staff.

Dont know about Big Ant but they always treated staff better than some studios.

Pity if any of them shut the doors. Maybe the Feds should provide stimulous funds.

Is the GDAA doing anything to help the Industry ie Lobbying the FEDS FOR FUNDS or are they just still pulling in money to pay for the CEO wages and lifestyle; never seen the point in them.

Anonymous's picture

I totally agree with your comments however it has to be noted that some studios just cannot manage resources; Trans' is a perfect example and they have limped to the finish line for years.

Redtribe went down the path of developing original IP after that shocker Jumper was released; they obviously have not found a publisher given that the rumour mill stated today that even more staff have been cut. Another Aussie Developer going the way of all Developers who think that original IP is the way to go and dont sign a Publisher before embarking on such dubious titles. Its a Mad Mad World.

Who runs the GDAA? Never see anything from them and it doesn't appear to be helping the Industry.

Hopefully all companies in this boat can keep going until they find a title; it would be pretty bad if Victoria lost two at the same time.

Anonymous's picture

What a load of crap. i guess you haven't heard of the iPhone yet then, huh? Or maybe one of the other routes for low-budget original IP via digital distribution channels.

Get a clue, these days you don't need a publisher to launch new IP.

RT went bust for sticking solely to licensed IP made for others via the fee-for-service model. Their titles never rated very high, their technology and tools are a joke. If they couldn't put something competent together with established IP, then what hope in hell would they of had with an attempt at creating their own? -- if that is the case, and it wasn't the more likely case of them giving lip-service at creating new IP in the hopes of hiring more recent grads for the grinder.

Hell, why are we even talking about such a studio -- they don't warrant any attention at all!

Anonymous's picture

Maybe the bad ones should be allowed to fall over; might make for better companies in the Future.