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Vivendi Games Lays Off 350, To Close Sierra Offices 65

Posted by simoniker
from the sigh dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Vivendi Universal Games has laid off 350 people and closed its Bellevue, Wa. office (formerly Sierra), according to a report on CNN/Money. In addition to the shuttering of Sierra, say goodbye to the Hoyle card games, which may not have been popular with hardcore gamers, but were beloved by mothers and other casual players." The article also notes: "The job cuts follow the May shutdown of a pair of longtime [Vivendi-owned] development studios... Papyrus Studios (makers of the company's 'NASCAR' games for years) and Impressions Games (makers of strategy titles, such as 'Zeus', 'Cleopatra' and 'Lords of the Realm III'.)", However: "Blizzard Entertainment, VU Games' top earning developer, was not affected by the restructuring."
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Vivendi Games Lays Off 350, To Close Sierra Offices

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  • Byebye, Sierra (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Svenheim (723925) on Monday June 21, 2004 @09:02PM (#9490864)
    Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. Those were the days. Sierra didnt really make anything worth anybody's attention the past few years tho, I guess it's understandable.
    • Re:Byebye, Sierra (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blueZhift (652272) on Monday June 21, 2004 @09:15PM (#9490973) Homepage Journal
      I'm still mourning Papyrus...It's looking more and more like we'll end up with Electronic Arts and the big Japanese publishers when all of the dust settles. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if VU had decided to innovate and improve the quality of their game development houses rather than closing it all down. There are plenty of "me too" games out there already. I think most gamers are really hungry for something new.

      • Re:Byebye, Sierra (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Teknogeek (542311)
        Amusingly enough, it looks like France [ubisoft.com] will be saving our asses this time.
        • Re:Byebye, Sierra (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Rayonic (462789)
          Yeah, Ubisoft seems like a pretty cool company. But just so you know, like most big corporations today, they've got offices all over the world [ubisoft.com].

          I sincerely hope that the French government doesn't try to strangle their games industry like they did their movie industry. But if they do, it's good to know that Ubisoft could easily shut down or move their France-based offices.
      • I mourn Papy too. Grand Prix Legends is amazing and still going strong.

        We will be left with shit like EA and that's it. There'll be a few indie developers out there, but that'll be it.

        It's a sad day. I have Papy's last game (NASCAR 2003. Worth it for the mods and it's dirt cheap now) and, I guess, Sierra's.
    • The worst thing that Ken and Roberta ever did was sellout the company. Sierra didn't need as a company to become part of a larger mess, esspecially the mess it became part of. The slow side into death began almost immediately...I wonder if they will at least be smart enough to continue to make some of the older IP available to future generations of gamers. Kings Quest games are great get started with computers, and still think while playing games.
  • The beginning of the end for the DMCA-wielding jackbooted scum that persecuted bnetd.
    • Re:Finally. (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Or, you could pretend to know what the hell the story is about. How does this change how people use the DMCA? You, sir, are stupid as hell.
    • Who cares, bnetd is alive and well
      • Everybody should care because the DMCA is a very effective weapon to stop people from being able to express themselves freely. Just ask Dmitry Sklyarov [freesklyarov.org] or revisit the article describing how easy it was to illustrate how much power ISPs posess to stifle legal copying. Your position as stated takes an entirely too narrow view on things; that because one instance eventually did not result in killing a project, your view suggests that we can afford to dismiss the situtation. There is a larger more significan

      • Seriously? If they exist (excepting United Realms and D2Maniacs), I wanna know where to find them.. Link plz? Where can I go to snag the latest win32 build? Where can I find documentation to learn how to configure a server? Hook it up with the info, I know one of u slashdotters knows wasup!
  • Woo hoo!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zelet (515452) on Monday June 21, 2004 @09:03PM (#9490875) Journal
    This is AWESOME! Now I get to compete with 350 MORE people for that ONE 25,000 yr entry level position!

    Fucking a, alright!
  • Blizzard (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TwistedGreen (80055) <twistedgreen@gmaiAUDENl.com minus poet> on Monday June 21, 2004 @09:22PM (#9491029)
    They had better not have been affected. They're a cornerstore of the gaming world.

    But then again, so was Sierra and look where that got them. I guess, in the end, the quality of game you make really doesn't make too much of a difference. I'm just glad they're finally laying the burnt-out shell that was Sierra to rest.
    • Re:Blizzard (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ctr2sprt (574731)
      Whoa, whoa, whoa. Remember how Sierra rose to prominence: quality games (and lots of them). And remember when they destroyed their rep with one game that was so buggy it was nearly unplayable. (What was it called, Outpost or something?) Then they seemed to decide they wanted to be publishers, not developers, had one huge hit (Half-Life). And they were bought out by Vivendi, another publisher. Not much point to having a distinct Sierra brand then, since they aren't putting out any big games, so Sierra
      • Re:Blizzard (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pluvius (734915)
        And remember when they destroyed their rep with one game that was so buggy it was nearly unplayable. (What was it called, Outpost or something?)

        They didn't destroy their rep with Outpost. They destroyed their rep with Outpost, Betrayal at Antara, King's Quest 8, and a bunch of other crappy games that came out in the mid-90's.

        Then they seemed to decide they wanted to be publishers, not developers, had one huge hit (Half-Life).

        If you're going to count Half-Life as a Sierra game, you might as well menti
  • As a longtime D2 fanatic, I must admit that when the subject for this article popped up on my nifty little Trillian RSS feed reader, I was feeling some trepidation.

    Fortunately my concerns seem somewhat mollified. I gotta admit, I am one of those that still holds a grudge against Blizz for killing off (for the most part) BnetD.. Such a useful program, and one that is still used today by a few here and there to host servers to run some of the excellent mod options that are available for this game. OTOH, D2 r
  • Taps (Score:4, Funny)

    by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Monday June 21, 2004 @09:26PM (#9491067) Homepage Journal
    And off in Daventry a slow taps plays out without the formerly perky ending.

    --
    Evan "They may have stopped being who they were, but damn, they were good for a long time"

  • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Monday June 21, 2004 @09:30PM (#9491094) Journal
    When Blizzard *does* go under and Battle.net service stops being offered, I'm sure that everyone will appreciate the presence of bnetd, despite Blizzard's attempts to squash it.
    • by Trepalium (109107) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @02:24AM (#9492696)
      Don't worry. I'm sure Vivendi's management can kill off Blizard before too long, just like EA has managed to kill off all their decent developers so they can put out Madden 2009, now with freshly cut grass!!!

      Have games really become so complex that independent dev houses no longer work, or is it that publishers have this idea in their head that they'll make more profits by gobbling up independant game houses? This consolidating of the game biz is destroying it, IMO.

  • With change comes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Felonius Thunk (168604) on Monday June 21, 2004 @09:31PM (#9491106) Journal
    ...opportunity. Vivendi seems dedicated to making no new games, but simply sequels and copycat games. The good part of this is that the market for new ideas is that much more open. I hope that some the poor souls in Bellevue can get together and make VU regret their decisions.
  • I wonder how this will affect Half-Life 2. Oh well, at least VALVe still has STEAM to release HL2.
    • To answer your question, Valve is its own separate entity and makes deals with distributors to publish it's products. Valve had a deal with Sierra to publish the first HL, and since then Sierra has been acquired by Vivendi. Vivendi will now publish HL2, and I would guess that the Sierra logo will no longer be on it. So no worries, HL2 will still be in stores.
  • by NaDrew (561847) <nadrew@gmail.com> on Monday June 21, 2004 @09:45PM (#9491206) Journal
    Here's an interesting coda to this story from news.com: Former chief of Vivendi in French custody [com.com]
    Jean-Marie Messier, the former chief of Vivendi Universal, the French telecommunication and media conglomerate, was questioned by authorities on Monday and then held in custody overnight by the French financial police as part of an investigation into stock price manipulation.
    Messier, who appeared for questioning early Monday morning, can be held for up to 48 hours before prosecutors decide whether to place him under formal investigation, the last step before being charged. Messier had requested that he be placed under investigation in March to be granted access to the evidence against him and others in the case, his lawyer said.
    Also, this source [sfgate.com] for the layoff story says that 110 jobs were cut from Sierra, while 180 were lost in the Los Angeles area. Those were almost certainly from the Davidson/Knowledge Adventure group.
  • "Papyrus Studios (makers of the company's 'NASCAR' games for years)"

    and

    "Impressions Games (makers of strategy titles, such as 'Zeus', 'Cleopatra' and 'Lords of the Realm III'.)"

    I think I see part of the problem right there -- branding!

    Seriously though, it's sad to see these companies go. Perhaps if the entire entertainment market wasn't in the hands of a few conglomerates [unto.net] we'd fare better?
  • Whew! (Score:3, Funny)

    by superultra (670002) on Monday June 21, 2004 @10:27PM (#9491549) Homepage
    Ken Williams got out just in time!
  • Boston Studios (Score:5, Informative)

    by cgenman (325138) on Monday June 21, 2004 @10:28PM (#9491556) Homepage
    Papyrus Studios and Impressions Games are both Boston-area studios... While their closures come amidst the opening (at least publically) of Tilted Mill and Turbine's major expansion push, you just can't help but feel that this developer's region is again being pinched out by the larger west-coast developers. When Looking Glass closed, it was a blow felt across the region, one that was delt not because Looking Glass was unworthy, but because the publisher felt the region was unworthy. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as every team out here benefits in some way or another from a lot of experienced Looking Glass people, but why was that studio closed? Why did one of the most successful game developers get canned? Why did no white knight show up?

    This isn't such a clear-cut case of the expendability of your north-west studios. Papayrus has been frozen with Nascar for years, and losing that license meant losing their company. Impression games was stuck too, stuck making Caeser and other historical strategy games in a saturated market. I don't think the closure of either of these studios comes as a surprise to anybody. But one can't shake the feeling that we're in for another round of publisher abuse, looking at their North East studios as if they were expendable, despite having produced Asheron's Call, Karaoke Revolution, System Shock II, Empire Earth, Neverwinter Nights, Thief 1 and 2, The great Mind Rover [mindrover.com], etc, etc.

    • Empire Earth kicked so much ass. It was the biggest surprise for me when I bought that game. If the AI wasn't so whacked, the game would be a mega hit. Nothing like having cavemans fight robots with laser guns.

    • Man, I sure hope not. I'm an animator, and I've sometimes toyed with the idea of moving to Baltimore specifically to work in video games. It happens with film and TV animation, too-- the industry here is tiny compared to California and Vancouver.

      On the upside, most of the game dev. around here (NYC) these days has been in mobile/Java games, and there's been a lot of new studios popping up that make these kinds of games. Of course, such dev teams don't need nearly as many people, and it's a new field, so w

  • by the_skywise (189793) on Monday June 21, 2004 @10:40PM (#9491643)
    I thought their home base was always in Northern California?

    Still... you gotta wonder... How can there be articles one month proclaiming how the video game industry takes in more money than Hollywood and is stealing viewers from TELEVISION, but yet everybody is "losing" money and firing people left and right.

    Almost like the publishers are churning the staff so they don't have to pay real salaries and can keep hiring kids outta school at basement prices to work on the revitalization of Leisure Suit Larry...
  • by Muggins the Mad (27719) on Monday June 21, 2004 @11:13PM (#9491858)
    I swore off Sierra games after far too many bad experiences.

    I don't think I've ever bought one that actually worked without hundreds of mb of patch downloads.

    To me the "Sierra" logo on a game box is a clear sign that it will give me hours of trouble just to get it to run. Then it'll probably crash part way through and lose my save file. Doesn't even seem to matter if they wrote it themselves or not.

    And of course you can't return them because somehow computer software isn't covered by consumer guarantees type acts seemingly.

    Give me Id or LucarArts any day. Those just work.

    - MugginsM
    • I swore off Sierra after they canned B5: Into the Fire. I'm hoping this will give someone the opportunity to get the work already done on that project, update it to current tech, acquire the license from Warner Brothers, and bring us the game that many people waited for years to play only to have Sierra can it for no good reason (not to mention hoard the IP so that nobody else could play it, even after WB revoked their license to the B5 property).

      • It was about at that point that the core of what made Sierra into Sierra, the Yosemite Entertainment division, was shut down. The last thing I bought from them was Quest for Glory V, the last thing they did before the shutdown. That was 1998.
    • Heh should place emphasis on most LucasArts games. I remember how horrible things were with XWing vs Tie Fighter. Heh also remember how easy it was to edit the save files for that game and as result I was a Jedi Master or whatever for the first day it went live.
    • Sierra was a great studio (and quite possibly my favorite) up until ~1997-1998 when they
      1.) went into publishing and out of development
      2.) closed the Yosemite Studio,
      3.) moved to Bellvue Washington,
      4.) published Half-Life then sold the name off to VU (or one of the big companies that eventually became VU)
      5.) started publishing half finished turds
      6.) tried to polish said turds with lots of patches

      etc...
  • No basis for this thought, but I've heard reports of game designer work being outsourced. For something as simple and plain as card games, it'd be easy enough to do. Even if the card games get dropped, they're not gonna drop the NASCAR franchise. I'd be funny if something as "American" as NASCAR games got made in a foreign country. Kinda like how the Republicans outsourced their call centers :).
  • Sierra (Score:2, Informative)

    by Nasarius (593729)
    It's sad to see such an icon go, but it has been a while since Sierra released anything really good. I think they peaked about ten years ago, with Quest for Glory 4 and King's Quest 6. It was all downhill from there.

    Still, I doubt many young gamers realize the influence that Sierra had on the industry. These are the people who developed the very first graphical adventures when everyone else was just using text. They might have been one of the first to use motion capture to animate a game (King's Quest 5).

  • So now, how about opensourcing (GPLing) those evergreens to be played on Linux? Do it like Blender 3D... ask us to donate 10.000 US$ for the source and I will chip in my 5$!!!
  • There is no mention of whether or not they plan to cancel Leisure Suit Larry 8. I hope that they don't considering how far along the project is already. It even has a ps2 and XBox port, which may be important for Linux/Mac people like me since they don't seem to be planning on releasing any other ports of the games.
  • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @08:51AM (#9494306) Homepage
    While its sad that the last remnants of Sierra have died, its really been dead for a long time before that. Pretty much since the buyout - ever since then its just been another soulless EA clone. Back in the 80's, it really stood out for making you feel like you knew the developers - they used to have photos of their offices and their developers in all the catalogs that would come with their games.

    Yeah, its hard to believe that just 10 years ago, Sierra used to be one of the most powerful, and prolific companies in the computer game industry - they co-owned the adventure genre with LucasArts, and with the buyout of Dynamix they also had a lot of Sim and Sports titles also...

    Ah... for the days of Al Lowe and Roberta Williams. When instead of Sim, every game seemed to have the word Quest in the title. sniff.

  • by hal2814 (725639) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @09:27AM (#9494633)
    Vivendi has closed the doors on Sierra, but Sierra ran itself into the ground years ago. I'd like to see a company acquire the Sierra line and make Sierra adventure games again. It's obvious that Vivendi had no intentions of doing that sort of thing anyways. I hope they let someone else give it a go. Maybe we could eventually see Space Quest 7. I've always wondered how they would work that considering a Space Quest 7 was already established in Space Quest 4.
  • When I first started this game up and saw the Sierra logo, I thought: "Wow, they're still in business?!" Guess I spoke too soon. Pretty good little 3rd person shooter, BTW.
  • Hoyle games aren't restricted just to casual players. I have Hoyle Casino 2004 (Costco, $15 or so) and love it. While it is unlikely I will have to personally hunt terrorists (or become one myself - CS), re-fight WWII (Day of Defeat), or take on other colorful tanks (bzflag) I do gamble in casinos. Hoyle Casino helps me improve my play though its tutorial mode, where a player is warned before making an incorrect play. It also allowed me to bypass the most boring table game known to man, Let It Ride [mohegansun.com] (Sho

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