Sony Online Entertainment Slashes Hundreds of Jobs, Shutters Three Studios

As part of the restructuring, the game publisher cancels the release of the long-in-development action espionage massively multiplayer online game "The Agency."

Sony Online Entertainment has closed three of its game studios and laid off 205 workers as part of a massive restructuring. The game publisher has also canceled the release of the long-in-development action espionage massively multiplayer online game, The Agency.

"As part of this restructuring, SOE is discontinuing production of The Agency so it can focus development resources on delivering two new MMOs based on its renowned PlanetSide and EverQuest properties, while also maintaining its current portfolio of online games," the company said. "All possible steps are being taken to ensure team members affected by the transition are treated with appropriate concern."

SOE has shuttered its studios in Denver, Tucson and Seattle, where The Agency was in development. Acquired in 2006, the Denver studio had been focusing on digital card games based on SOE properties like Free Realms, Star Wars Galaxies, Legends of Norrath and Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures. The Tucson studio was overseeing the online strategy game, PoxNora.

SOE still has its Austin studio, which is home to DC Universe Online and Star Wars Galaxies, and its headquarters in San Diego, where games like EverQuest, PlanetSide, Vanguard and Free Realms are run. Both studios were also impacted by the layoffs with as many as half of each studio's staff let go.

"SOE will transition development efforts for the Denver and Tucson studios' suite of products to its San Diego headquarters in order to better position SOE to remain a global leader in online gaming and deliver on its promise of creating entertaining games for players of all ages and servicing the 20 million players that visited SOE servers in just the past year," the company said.

After rising to prominence in 1999 with its subscription-based EverQuest MMO game, SOE in recent years has expanded beyond its core fantasy role-playing games. Over the past few years, the company has targeted families and younger gamers with free-to-play titles like Free Realms, which has more than 17 million registered users. Last fall, SOE released its second Star Wars game, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures. Based on the popular Cartoon Network series from George Lucas,the free-to-play game world offered accessible mini-games and social networking experiences.

The company released the mainstream-focused, subscription-based DC Universe Online MMO game for PC and PlayStation 3 earlier this year. Jim Lee, co-publisher of DC Comics, served as executive creative director of the game, which features classic superheroes like Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.