Embracer Group’s cost-cutting restructuring continues. Free Radical Design and Fishlabs appear to be the latest studios to be affected by the process.
Layoffs at Fishlabs
The first reports about job cuts at Fishlabs appeared on November 28. The studio’s parent company Plaion later confirmed to Eurogamer that around 50 positions will be eliminated due to a restructuring.
The main reason is the “lack of approval and therefore financing for the studio’s unannounced project” codenamed Project Black. The remaining team will continue to “work on the existing co-development projects in partnership with other Plaion and Embracer Group studios.”
“We understand the profound impact of this decision on our talented team at Fishlabs and are committed to handling this transition with the utmost respect and care,” the company said in a statement. “To support those affected, Plaion is committed to providing comprehensive support, including severance packages as well help with career transition services.”
Founded in 2004, Fishlabs is a Hamburg-based developer best known for the Galaxy on Fire series. After it ran out of money and had to lay off 25 employees in 2013, Embracer’s operating group Plaion (then known as Koch Media) acquired the studio through its publishing label Deep Silver.
Shortly after the deal, Fishlabs’ founders, Michael Schade and Christian Lohr, left the team and started Rockfish Games, a studio behind Everspace 1-2. Fishlabs itself mostly worked on various mobile titles and helped other Embracer subsidiaries such as Volition (now closed) and Coffee Stain.
Free Radical Design is facing closure
As reported by VGC, Embracer Group CEO Lars Wingefors has privately acknowledged that Free Radical Design could be closed on December 11. The company is now moving through the “consultation process.”
“This is a challenging time for all of us but especially for you, and our focus is to support you as much as we can during this transition,” he wrote in a corporate email.
Although the closure of Free Radical Design is not 100% confirmed, sources told VGC that a large number of employees are looking for a new job. According to the publication, “over 55 of the studio’s 100 staff members listed on LinkedIn have changed their profiles to indicate they’re seeking new employment.”
Originally founded in 1999, Free Radical Design is best known for the TimeSplitters series. In 2009, it was acquired by Crytek and helped the German developer with Crysis 2-3 and Warface. However, Crytek decided to close Free Radical Design in 2014, and most of the staff was transferred to a new studio Dambuster Studios, run by Deep Silver.
In 2021, Embracer Group announced that Free Radical Design would be revived with the help of its original founders, Steve Ellis and David Doak. Since then, the team has been working on a new game based on the TimeSplitters IP.
How many people has Embracer Group already laid off?
According to its latest financial report, Embracer Group has laid off over 900 people since its restructuring program started in June. With the news about Fishlabs and Free Radical Design, the number is likely even higher now.
The approximate list of the studios affected by the process can be seen below (some numbers are taken from the videogamelayoffs website):
- Campfire Cabal (closed) — around 18 employees;
- Volition (closed) — around 240 employees;
- Gearbox Publishing — unclear;
- Crystal Dynamics — around 10 employees;
- Rainbow Studios — around 15 employees;
- Beamdog — around 23 employees;
- Digic Pictures — around 35 employees;
- Zen Studios — over 30 employees;
- Cryptic Studios — unclear;
As of September 30, Embracer Group 15,701 people. However, the restructuring program is expected to run until March 31, 2024, as the company plans to reduce its net debt to at least SEK 8 billion ($757 million). So this process will lead to more headcount reductions, buy-outs, closures, and divestment of in-development projects.