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Game maker LucasArts lays off one-third of staff [updated]

September 1, 2010 |  4:48 pm

ForceUnleashedGeorge Lucas' video game business shrank Wednesday as LucasArts laid off about one-third of its approximately 250 person staff, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The San-Francisco based video game publisher has for years struggled to find successes beyond its Star Wars-branded titles. Its only releases so far this year have been two downloadable adventure games, though it will put out a highly anticipated sequel called Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II in October.

"It just comes down to the fact we're reorganizing our team to address the internal needs of our studio,''  company spokeswoman Emilie Hicks said of the cuts.

The laid-off workers were not tied to a specific title. "We're still on track for our upcoming slate of games,''  Hicks added.

[Update, 4:58 p.m.: Most of the laid off staff worked in game production, according to a person familiar with the situation. Other divisions such as marketing and distribution were largely unaffected.]

The company has seen a high level of executive turnover in recent years. Former President Darrell Rodriguez, who came from Electronic Arts, left in May after just two years on the job. He was replaced in June by Paul Meegan, formerly of Gears of War developer Epic Games.

In July, Haden Blackman, who served as creative director on the original Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, LucasArts' most successful internally produced title of recent years, and the sequel, unexpectedly left. However, the company scored a surprise coup in August when Clint Hocking, a high-profile game director from Ubisoft, announced that he would be joining LucasArts.

The company's only other successes in recent years have been the Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones titles produced by the Warner Bros.-owned developer Traveller's Tales. LucasArts is making a massive investment in online multi-player game Star Wars: The Old Republic, which will be released next year.

The layoffs, first reported on the video game site Kotaku, come as a number of traditional video game publishers such as EA and Activision Blizzard have been cutting staff in response to a slowdown in retail sales.

-- Richard Verrier and Ben Fritz

Photo: A scene from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Credit: LucasArts

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