No More NetDevil: LEGO Universe studio closes

LEGO Universe developer NetDevil has apparently laid off a large number of staff, with stories already circulating that the company has been closed.

We’re still searching for an official statement from NetDevil or parent company Gazillion, but employees have started posting announcements via social media. Character/creature animator Toby Cochran, who has been working on LEGO Universe posted this update to his [surl=]blog[/surl]:

R.I.P. NetDevil, Oct 1997 - Feb 2011

Confirmation enough?

Unfortunately a lot of talented folks lost their jobs as we have found out on Facebook! I personally think it’s pretty terrible to find news out that way and not to be correctly notified. We all were receiving phone calls tonight and I just got mine about 2 hrs ago.

From what we’ve been told a handful of artists will be kept on board and continue working on Lego Universe. But at the moment that will be a very, VERY small team. As the count continues to rise on FB, they’ve cut over 20 people.

Scott Brown, former president of NetDevil, now working at END games, posted this message:

For everyone that get let go from what used to be NetDevil, please please use me as a reference, and if I can help in any way please let me know. Thanks for going on the ride with me while it lasted.

“What used to be NetDevil” is a telling observation. The fiercely-independent company was bought out by game publisher Gazillion Entertainment in 2008, and things haven’t quite been the same since.

Last year’s LEGO Universe has been seeing great responses from both the critics and the audience, with new gameplay elements introduced as recently as this week, but it wasn’t the only game NetDevil were working on.

Jumpgate Evolution, a sequel/reboot of their 2001 release, Jumpgate, has been in the works since 2007. Earlier this month, their next project was revealed to be in closed beta – a free-to-play browser MMO called Fortune Online.

Last year, the long-overdue Jumpgate Evolution was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, as former European publishers Codemasters sued the studio for – essentially – failing to finish the game. While some die-hard gamers were keeping their fingers crossed, today’s apparent developments make it even less likely that we’ll ever see JGE hit retail.

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