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Three Days Before Christmas

More video game industry layoffs, at the worst possible time

4:27 PM EST on December 22, 2023

Versus Evil

Just two years after acquiring indie publisher Versus Evil – which helped give a stage to role-playing hits like The Banner Saga and Pillars of Eternity – alongside its catalogue of games and 250-person QA team, parent company TinyBuild is laying off Versus Evil's entire 13-person staff.

“Welp,” Versus Evil production head Lance James wrote on Twitter, “that was a fun 10-year ride. The entire Versus Evil team has just been laid off. Let me be clear: this wasn’t a Versus Evil decision or choice.”

According to general manager Steve Escalante, the Versus Evil brand will "continue to exist under TinyBuild's management," but without the people who made it.

Product strategy director Francis Fincke added in a separate post that today is the start of the team’s Christmas break. 

This comes one day after Atari announced a $2 million investment in TinyBuild and just a couple weeks after TinyBuild told investors it had $5.7 million on hand with no debt, but that it would likely fall short of its $10-20 million end-of-December projection. So, effectively, it had money; just not enough to please investors. 

"We couldn't overcome weak demand for video games and the sudden reversal of market dynamics that had favoured us over the previous years," TinyBuild CEO Alex Nichiporchik said at the time.

In the same December statement to investors, TinyBuild also said that it had entered into a settlement agreement with Lance James, Steve Escalante, and former Versus Evil owner Stall Proof LLC following a legal dispute in which the three alleged that TinyBuild had breached portions of its purchase agreement in failing to make “timely capital contributions” to Versus Evil in 2022 and 2023. The claim also notes that TinyBuild “was obligated and failed to provide material support to Versus Evil” that was promised. As a result of this, TinyBuild agreed to pay James, Escalante, and Stall Proof $3.5 million, as well as legal fees. 

The investor statement references Versus Evil’s “continued underperformance,” namely delaying three games it intended to release in 2023, as a reason for TinyBuild’s lowered projections and need to fundraise. There’s no indication what effect the lack of the above contributions may have had on Versus Evil’s output or today’s closure, but I know I tend to underperform without “timely capital contributions” and “material support.”

When asked if the legal dispute had anything to do with Versus Evil’s closure, James told Aftermath that he didn’t know and that “we weren’t really given any reasons or info” as to why TinyBuild decided to shut down the company.

Aftermath reached out to TinyBuild for further comment but did not hear back prior to publication.

TinyBuild alluded to wider-spread layoffs -- not just at Versus Evil, but across the company -- in a December trading update, with Nichiporchik calling them “physically painful.” Reports suggest that many employees have been impacted. 

Here is the pay of TinyBuild’s executive directors as of last year, per the company’s 2022 annual report:

"Laid off three days before Christmas," wrote Versus Evil community manager MissHenley, "and I'm in shock. It's hard to put into words the sadness I feel over my forced departure from a community I've been fortunate to lead and grow the past two years."

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