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The Agency

Sony Online Entertainment confirms layoffs, studio closings [Updated]

MMO Industry, The Agency, News Items

Sony Online Entertainment has confirmed the rumors that have been circulating since last night in a press release. The company is closing several offices, laying off staff, and discontinuing production of The Agency:

"As part of a strategic decision to reduce costs and streamline its global workforce, SOE announced today that it will eliminate 205 positions and close its Denver, Seattle and Tucson studios. 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. All possible steps are being taken to ensure team members affected by the transition are treated with appropriate concern.

"This strategic decision will have no impact on SOE's current portfolio of live games; additionally SOE will transition development efforts for the Denver and Tucson studios' suite of products to its San Diego headquarters. This strategic alignment of development resources better positions 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."

Massively wishes the best of luck to all those affected by this situation.

[Update: Good news for fans of specific SOE games. SOE's John Smedley has told Planetside-Universe.com that "PlanetSide Next is getting more resources and will be out a little later in the year, but [SOE is] pulling out all the stops to make it great." An official post on the Vanguard forums notes that "there are no plans to sunset the world of Telon so long as its citizens continue to dwell in such sustainable numbers." Likewise, EverQuest players have been told that "EverQuest is not going anywhere." We'll keep you updated as we hear more.]

Rumor: SOE to close The Agency studio

MMO Industry, The Agency, Spy, Rumors

Rumors have been flying since yesterday afternoon that it's the end of the line for The Agency's studio. George Broussard, one of the minds behind the Duke Nukem games, made several announcements on Twitter last night that the studio will be closing today:
Word that Sony Online Entertainment Seattle is having layoffs and that studio closure is possible.

To be more clear, the layoffs may be SOE wide and not just limited to Seattle. So, Austin, San Diego, etc...

SOE Seattle and other studios (Denver is rumored) will be closed tomorrow. Good luck to all impacted.
In addition, Kotaku is reporting that these layoffs could affect nearly one-third of SOE's total staff. Sony Online Entertainment has not released any statement or announcement to confirm this, so it's uncertain whether Broussard has inside information or is merely getting a jump on April Fool's Day. We'll be watching for official word back from SOE, so keep your eye on Massively for more.

SOE's Smedley says MMO copycats incoming, drops hints on PlanetSide Next release

Sci-Fi, PlanetSide, Interviews, New Titles, The Agency, News Items, Free-to-Play, Free Realms

Big things are happening at SOE these days, and whether you're talking about the newly minted DC Universe Online or the company's PlanetSide followup and spy-centric The Agency, it's an exciting time to be a fan. Eurogamer brings us a bit of info regarding potential release windows for both PlanetSide Next and The Agency, and the former looks to be gracing our desktops much sooner than we expected given the general lack of information to date.

"We're looking at late first quarter, early second quarter [2011]," says SOE head honcho John Smedley in regard to the long-awaited PlanetSide sequel. Players will have to wait a bit longer to get their espionage fix, as The Agency is still slated to arrive "late this year."

Why so long? It boils down to SOE's desire to differentiate itself from the competition. "There's some stuff coming out in the next two or three months, MMO-wise, and a lot of it is generic copycats of other games," Smedley tells Eurogamer. He also talks a bit about the impending arrival of Free Realms on the Playstation 3, intimating that the free-to-play title will spread its console wings in early February.

SOE's The Agency delayed until late 2011

New Titles, The Agency, News Items, Spy, Miscellaneous

Whatever happened to The Agency? Inquiring minds want to know, and since Sony Online Entertainment's internal memos haven't been given the WikiLeaks treatment, we'll have to take company president John Smedley at his word. "There was a moment in time in our company where we looked at our own stuff with a clear eye and saw we have to do better," Smedley told Kotaku in a recent interview. Translation: it ain't ready 'til it's ready.

While the spy MMO's launch would seem to be quite a ways off, fans should be glad to hear that it hasn't been shelved entirely. We haven't seen hide nor hair of the title since E3 2010, but hopefully the extra time will serve to boost the game's stock in the same vein as SOE's other upcoming MMO. DC Universe, originally scheduled to launch last November, has apparently benefited from the extra test cycles if the scuttlebutt surrounding yesterday's NDA-drop is to be believed.

SOE layoffs detailed, EQII and Vanguard affected

Fantasy, EverQuest II, MMO Industry, The Agency, News Items, Vanguard, Rumors

Layoffs in any industry are never pleasant, and in a smallish community like that of the professional game developer, they can be even more trying. As we reported yesterday, Sony Online Entertainment recently announced the decision to serve 35 employees with their walking papers, and speculation has run rampant in the absence of official information.

Two of the developers now looking for work checked in on the EQ2Flames forum to confirm the news and thank the community for their support. SOE's big-budget fantasy titles look to be the most affected by the moves. EverQuest II loses Brett "Timetravelling" Scheinert, responsible for various raid designs on the Sentinel's Fate expansion. Rumored Vanguard losses include William "Wigin" Bidermann and Jason "Ikik" Weimann, as well as Joel "Raijinn" Sasaki, the game's community manager.

Finally, Steve "Saavedra" Kramer, a former EQII designer and most recently working on The Agency, was also let go. SOE also terminated two as-yet unnamed marketing employees.

[Update #2: While we now have confirmation that Jason "Ikik" Weimann was not among those let go (as originally rumored), we're still attempting to clarify the rumored departure of the other Vanguard dev. Joel "Raijinn" Sasaki's departure has been confirmed as well. We'll update the post as soon as we receive additional info.]

SOE suffers cutbacks as 35 employees are laid off

MMO Industry, The Agency, Free Realms, DC Universe Online, Clone Wars Adventures

Four percent doesn't sound like a lot, but when it comes to Sony Online Entertainment, it represents nearly three dozen employees who no longer have a job. G4 reports that the company has let 35 people go from its full-time workforce in an effort to "better align the company's resources against areas of growth that meet consumer demand in today's online market as well as improve operational efficiency."

The company is being tight-lipped as to the specifics of the cuts, including who was let go and from which development teams. This may come as a surprise to some, especially when you consider that SOE is riding high off of its Free Realms mega-success and is poised to launch several new titles including The Agency, DC Universe Online and Clone Wars Adventures. Hopefully we'll hear more details soon, but in the meantime you can read the full announcement over at G4.

This week on The MMO Report

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Super-hero, Video, Jumpgate Evolution, Events (Real-World), New Titles, The Agency, News Items, Marvel Heroes, DC Universe Online, The MMO Report

You may remember last week's MMO Report being part one of an epic two-part episode. Crazily enough, this week brings us part two, and it's back to the Los Angeles convention center for more of Casey Schreiner and his E3 interview shenanigans.

This week's show features interviews with Steve Garvin and Lance Robertson, lead designer and executive producer, respectively, on Jumpgate Evolution, Jason Robar, co-founder of Amazing Society and part of the braintrust behind Marvel Superhero Squad Online, Rory McGuire, lead designer on The Agency, and Sony Online Entertainment's Chris Cao, game director for DC Universe Online.

"You pick up that controller or that keyboard and you're literally punching dudes in the face; you're not waiting to take a turn. This isn't an MMO that's dressed up or sped up, it's one that's on crack. It is action all the time," Cao says, when asked how the game compares to previous superhero MMOs.

Check out all the MMO Report E3 action at G4TV or after the jump.

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SOE releases Fan Faire attendee list

EverQuest, EverQuest II, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, The Agency, News Items, Star Wars Galaxies, Free Realms

Thinking about heading to Sony Online Entertainment's annual Fan Faire gala, but not sure if your favorite developer or community liaison will be in attendance? Fear not, as Ashlanne has posted an exhaustive list of attendees on the official Station community forums.

This year's event, scheduled to take place August 5th - 8th in Las Vegas, will feature a veritable who's who of SOE talent, including developers from EverQuest, EverQuest II, Star Wars Galaxies, Free Realms, Pox Nora, and The Agency Covert Ops.

You can visit the official Fan Faire website for more information and the official Station forums for the full guest list.

E3 2010: Your complete Massively coverage roundup

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Super-hero, Jumpgate Evolution, Lord of the Rings Online, Events (Real-World), Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, The Agency, News Items, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Might and Magic, Crime, MMOFPS, Warhammer 40k, LEGO Universe, Kids, DC Universe Online, Black Prophecy, Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, Final Fantasy XIV, TERA, Battlestar Galactica Online, Vindictus, Need for Speed World

The 2010 edition of the gaming nirvana known as E3 has come and gone, and Massively was there to bring you three days of exclusives, firsts, and hands-on impressions for all your favorite MMORPG titles, studios, and developers. This year's Expo saw plenty of news and announcements regarding highly anticipated games, as well as plenty of information on assorted titles large and small.

We thought it best to collate our coverage into a complete and concise roundup post for your viewing pleasure, so read along after the cut to make sure you didn't miss anything. You can also check out all of our E3 galleries along the way.

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E3 2010: The Agency blows up in our faces... and it's a good thing

Galleries, Screenshots, Previews, The Agency, Hands-On, MMOFPS

After seeing the new trailer yesterday for SOE's The Agency, we thought nothing could get us more revved up about this upcoming title. We were wrong. DEAD wrong. Ahem. Sorry.

For aspiring Mr. and Ms. Kiss-Kiss-Bang-Bangs out there, The Agency is promising all of the hot, high-tech spy action that you can handle. Step into the shoes of James Bond, Jason Bourne, Inspector Gadget or Maxwell Smart, grab your favorite weapon, and throw yourself into one of many exciting locales where you and other players will compete for all the secrets and bragging rights.

At E3, Massively got the chance to sit down with The Agency's Senior Producer Josh Hackney and check in on how this title is progressing. Hit the jump to read about specialized roles, PvP and why mindlessly spraying hot lead in all directions is completely passé.

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Sony Online Entertainment reveals The Agency trailer

Trailers, The Agency, News Items, Crime

Have you been passing the time playing Covert Ops while you wait for Sony Online Entertainment to give us more news about The Agency? If you remember, when they announced their Facebook game, they promised that the full-blown MMO is still coming.

They held true to their promise. Massively will be speaking one-on-one with SOE tomorrow, but in the meantime, we have a shiny new trailer to show off. Crouching on buildings sniper-style, exchanging a few hundred rounds of ammo in a fancy hotel lobby, and a firefight as you run through the city streets -- what more could you want?

Follow along after the jump for the new trailer, and don't forget to keep an eye on Massively for our talk with the Sony Online Entertainment team at E3.

[via Big Download]

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Facebook MMOgraphy: First impressions of The Agency: Covert Ops

Screenshots, New Titles, The Agency, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, Spy, First Impressions, Facebook MMOgraphy

Every two weeks, Facebook MMOgraphy brings you the latest news, guides and analysis about MMOs on Facebook and Facebook apps associated with MMOs.

SOE's upcoming spy MMO The Agency has been long in the making. We've been covering it at Massively for quite some time now. Though it's not quite ready to launch yet, SOE has surprised us this week with a Facebook gaming app, The Agency: Covert Ops. Though Covert Ops is a Facebook app based on an MMO, it's not an MMO itself. There is no real time interaction with other players, for example. However it does provide light entertainment for those who enjoy the spy genre and has the same tone and feel of their upcoming MMO title.

The Basics
The core of the game is leveling your spy via missions. The missions follow a storyline and some of them are accomplished simply by having the correct resources needed, others require you to complete a minigame. Rewards include in-game cash, experience for your character and components to build better equipment. Every mission requires a certain amount of Cover to complete and when you run out of Cover, you need to allow it to replenish over time or buy more through a microtransaction store. Pop ups provide a tutorial to walk you through the gameplay flow and videos explain minigame play.

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SOE unveils The Agency Facebook game, announces The Agency will be at E3

MMO Industry, The Agency, News Items, Crime

Hey, remember that time Sony Online Entertainment trademarked "The Agency Covert Ops" and we all wondered why? Now we know. It turns out that you're going to be able to play The Agency while you wait for The Agency to launch.

No, really. Covert Ops, the newest Facebook app from Sony Online Entertainment, serves as a tie-in to the upcoming secret agent MMO The Agency. Don't dismiss this as another boring mafia-style Facebook grind until you check it out, because our friends at Mashable scored an interview with the developers and Covert Ops goes way beyond "ask everyone on your friends list for two nails and a board." Customization is king here right from the start, offering a unique look from the tattoos on your character to their overall living space.

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Is The Agency launching on December 31st? Nope

New Titles, The Agency, News Items, Rumors

Normally we've got no problem speculating on rumors here at Massively. It's a fun way to pass the days until a beta really does begin or a release date actually is announced. Except, sometimes, it gets taken too far.

Rumors of SOE's The Agency receiving a December 31st release date have been floating into our inbox lately. Of course, that doesn't make any sense, because six days after Christmas (and one day before New Year's Day) is a horrible time to launch any game, especially one that requires all-hands-on-deck like an MMO. Additionally, any time a retailer lists a game at a default price on the first or last day of the month? That's a big shot in the dark.

The fact of the matter is nobody knows the release date for The Agency, even though everyone wishes they did. We're fairly sure that even the development team doesn't have a clear picture of that right now. Most videogames have a moving "release window" and this one is no different from the rest. When we do have a solid information expect to hear all about it right here on Massively.

SOE announces dates for Fan Faire 2010

EverQuest, EverQuest II, PlanetSide, Events (Real-World), The Agency, News Items, Star Wars Galaxies, Vanguard, Everquest Online Adventures, Free Realms, DC Universe Online, PoxNora

For fans of Sony Online Entertainment's stable of MMO titles, the time has come once again to start making plans for Fan Faire. It looks like we'll all be heading back to Bally's Hotel in Las Vegas from August 5-8 for a weekend chock-full of all manner of crazy gaming fun with MMO friends.

This year, they're offering everything from day passes at $35 on up to a Platinum badge which -- for $135 -- will net you access to all events, plus an additional in-game item, a special swag bag boasting more than just regular Fan Faire goodies, access to a VIP lounge, and even private VIP events. Add to that the room discounts starting at $65 a night for a swanky hotel right on the main Vegas strip, and this could well be a great vacation that just happens to include the awesome fun of this year's SOE Fan Faire.

For now, there's no details on the schedule of events, but we wouldn't be surprised to see Alan "Brenlo" Crosby wedging people into t-shirts three sizes too small, as well as an appearance by of one of our favorite Dwarves. If previous years are any indication, this is a should-not-miss event for any serious SOE fan.

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