Niantic lays off 90 staff members and cancels several projects

The layoffs come as a response to "a time of economic turmoil," according to CEO John Hanke.

Pokemon Go developer Niantic willcancel four of its on-going projects and lay off up to 90 members of its staff. According to an email acquired by Bloomberg, Niantic CEO John Hanke cited a “time of economic turmoil” as the reason behind the decisions.

The canceled projects are a Transformers-based game called Heavy Metal, Hamlet, which was a collaborative work with Punchdrunk theatrical company, and two mystery projects known as Blue Sky and Snowball.

A spokesperson from Niantic later confirmed the layoffs and canceled projects with Bloomberg: “We recently decided to stop production on some projects and reduce our workforce by about 8% to focus on our key priorities.”

Those key priorities would seem to be the continued development of Pokemon Go, and the creation of another core title, which has been something of a struggle for Niantic recently. Earlier this year, it shut downHarry Potter: Wizards Unite after it failed to find its footing. When it shut down, it had only generated $39.4 million in lifetime sales, compared to Pokemon Go’s $5.5 billion lifetime sales at the time.

While these cancellations and layoffs have definitely shrunk Niantic’s portfolio, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot going on within the company.

Currently, Niantic also operates Pikmin Bloom,which was released in the fall last year, and is working on a newly announced game in partnership with the NBA titled NBA All-World. It also recently launched a mobile version of the popular board game Catan, called Catan: World Explorers.

A mobile Pikmin game isn’t the only Nintendo proprietary that Niantic will lean on, as it partnered with Nintendo last year to make multiple mobile titles, each based on different IP’s and characters within Nintendo’s stable. Pikmin Bloom is simply the first of these projects, and it is currently unknown as to which IP from Nintendo that Niantic will tackle next.

Though the decision seems to make business sense for Niantic to focus more on the titles for which there are existing partnerships, layoffs are never a good sign. 

Whatever “economic turmoil” Hanke is referring to in his email doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, considering the world’s current political-economic climate. It’s more likely that projects outside of Pokemon Go have not been nearly as profitable as Niantic might have wanted. Seeing people lose their jobs is never a good thing, especially when they work for a company whose flagship title has grossed over $6 billion in its lifetime.

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News Writer

David Carcasole is a freelance games journalist whose work has appeared in GamesIndustry.Biz, [lock-on], Into the Spine, and others. Find him on Twitter @SlyBowser, where he’s likely pining for the days when PS Vita games were still in development.