Business

Cyan lays off 50 game testers

Development group also ‘on hiatus’

Close to 50 workers who tested early versions of video games for other companies were laid off by Spokane-based Cyan Worlds recently, the company’s CEO said Tuesday.

Those workers tested beta versions of games by other game publishers. Last month, Cyan’s primary customer, Gamecock Media Group of Austin, Texas, was sold to another company.

The layoff leaves only seven workers in the Cyan game-test group, said CEO Tony Fryman. That group continues testing for a few other smaller game companies, he added.

Gamecock was acquired by Virginia-based SouthPeak Media Group. At this point Fryman is not certain it can renew a deal for testing with SouthPeak.

Cyan is talking with individual game developers who had been funded by Gamecock to create video games.

“We’re contacting the individual developers to see if we can continue to move forward,” Fryman said.

The test group developed in 2005 as an extension of the internal test group Cyan had started for its own games.

Fryman said the game-test business was a way to generate a steady stream of money for the company and keep skilled workers employed.

Earlier this year Cyan’s massive and ambitious game “Myst Online” was shut down by Turner, which had invested in its development. Following that closure, Cyan’s game development group is also “on hiatus” pending other prospects, Fryman said.

But the economic downturn is having a clear effect beyond Wall Street, he said.

He said larger, established game publishers can survive the current slide.

“I think games at the $50 price point can still sell. People will play them at home instead of going out to eat,” Fryman said. “But for the upstart smaller (game) firms trying to get funding, this is a terrible market.”

Cyan has pitched the idea of a new video game to several publishers but hasn’t been given any funding yet. If the new project is funded, the game development side of the company will ramp up, Fryman said.

Contact staff writer Tom Sowa at (509) 459-5492 or at toms@spokesman.com.


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