Microsoft slashed nearly 2,000 jobs across its gaming division on January 25, impacting staff at Activision Blizzard, ZeniMax, and Xbox. And now, we’ve learned that an in-development survival game from Blizzard, codenamed “Odyssey,” has been canceled and most of the team working on the game were let go.
In a statement to Bloomberg on January 25, Blizzard spokesperson Andrew Reynolds said Odyssey’s development has ended so that the company can “focus on projects that hold the most promise for future growth.” While Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier noted that “most of the team” had been laid off, Reynolds countered that “some of the people on the team” would be moved over to other projects. Many of the folks who did work on the game, which has been in development for six years, took to X/Twitter to deliver the unfortunate news that they’ve been let go.
Odyssey begin in 2017 as a pitch by Blizzard veteran of almost 20 years, Craig Amai. Blizzard apparently bet big on the project, building out a team of over 100 people to work on it, but everything remained a mystery until January 2022. In a short blog post, the company announced the game, stating it was in “a whole new universe” and posted job openings for roles in art, design, and programming.
One of Odyssey’s main roadblocks was the engine. The project was prototyped in Unreal Engine, but according to Bloomberg, Blizzard executives wanted the team to use a different one that would support the ambitious plan of having 100 players in the game’s world at once—and Unreal couldn’t handle that. So, in came Synapse, an internal engine the company had developed for mobile games. This engine came with a host of problems, prompting artists to continue working in Unreal despite knowing the work would get scrapped anyway because of the switch to Synapse, leading to wasted assets and time.
In spite of the headaches with prototyping, the team was targeting a 2026 release. However, due to the Synapse engine not being ready for production, Odyssey was canceled and the team largely gutted.
“As difficult as making these decisions are, experimentation and risk taking are part of Blizzard’s history and the creative process,” spokesperson Reynolds said. “Ideas make their way into other games or in some cases become games of their own. Starting something completely new is among the hardest things to do in gaming, and we’re immensely grateful to all of the talented people who supported the project.”
Kotaku reached out to Activision Blizzard and Microsoft for comment.
The Xbox layoffs come just three months after Microsoft completed its $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Last year, Microsoft slashed 10,000 jobs, including folks at 343 Industries, Bethesda Game Studios, and The Coalition. After a difficult year for the industry, 2024 is already off to a grim start as more devs lose their jobs.