News broke yesterday, that nearly all the Quality Assurance (QA) in Champaign, Illinois were being laid off. All laid off employees (both full-time and temporary) have been given at least sixty days’ notice and THQ says they will do what they can to assist them in finding work in the community or elsewhere in THQ.
PerezStart spoke to one of the ‘former employees’ of Volition on what exactly went on, and how was it communicated to the staff. The message is below:
We knew it was bad when the VP of Volition spoke first at the meeting. Yesterday we had gotten calendar invites in Outlook to a QA Town Hall. We usually have town halls to discuss the status of current projects, for new projects to be announced, and for the management team to field questions from the testers. If this was a normal meeting, there would have been no reason for the VP to be there.
“I’m here today to speak on behalf of corporate THQ HR, who can’t be here today.” He could have stopped there.
Over the past six months, THQ has been shedding studios left and right. Six studios were cut last October and another two were closed in the past few weeks. Fewer studios means less titles. Less titles means the company needs less QA. From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense.
Except that it doesn’t.
Volition started an internal QA group several years ago due to problems with the QA that the two corporate facilities located in Agoura Hills and Phoenix provided. The goal was to create an expert, industry-leading QA group that would be the best in the biz at testing open-world games, the mainstay of Volition. Over time, this group evolved and began testing other, non-Volition THQ titles. Eventually, this group became so large that a separate facility a few blocks from Volition HQ was acquired to house the growing Volition QA Group. Last fall, it was determined, based on our outstanding successes and large amount of talent, that our group should separate from Volition and become THQs third corporate QA facility alongside Agoura and Phoenix. We would still test all Volition titles, but now we would have easier access to the rest of THQs titles as well. In addition, the tools we had developed and expertise we had gained would be shared with the other facilities to bring them up to our level.
And yet our facility was the one that closed. While there are going to be / already has been some impact at the other facilities, they still exist.
It doesn’t make any sense. The group of people I work with on a day to day basis are the hardest-working, most talented, most passionate, and most professional individuals out of any QA facility in existence. And yet after May 1st, none of us will have jobs. Even for those of us lucky enough to find another job in QA, nothing will ever replace the testing environment that we created at Volition / Champaign QA. The chemistry shared amongst all 102 of us will never be re-created.
Let me provide an example.
After being told that everyone was to be laid off come May 1st, and that we should take the day off, one of our multiplayer teams asked to stay on the job that afternoon because they had so much work they wanted to do before the end of the day. We cared about the project that much.
It’s too bad THQ didn’t care about us even half as much as we cared about THQ.
I’t really a shame how certain gaming companies are treating their ‘top shelf’ employees. I know times are tough, but there could have been other cost cutting solutions that could have taken place, rather than this mass reduction. I’m not a financial guy, but this news isn’t a result of this ‘recession’. Gaming companies in general know it takes time to profit, and when you let go your “Qualititionists” your saying you don’t care about the product. In that news, many of the titles slated for release have been pushed back. No? really? As for those “higher quality titles,” THQ has pushed Volition’s Red Faction: Guerrilla into the first quarter of fiscal 2010 (April-June 2009) and Darksiders: Wrath of War into the second quarter (July-September 2009).
Good luck to all those employees affected!