Sony Online Entertainment's innovative spy-themed MMO The Agency has been shelved in the restructuring announced today.
Sony first mentioned The Agency way back in 2007. A blend of shooter and stealth gameplay, the MMO was sometimes subtitled Covert Ops and featured an almost cartoonish feel similar to Valve's Team Fortress 2. The game would let you live out your James Bond fantasies as a spy working for one of two organizations that thankfully didn't seem to have a "good" or "bad" feel. The game was set to feature minigames like poker, which could then be used to unlock missions by winning or losing too much. Unfortunately, we will never be able to play a new and possibly innovative MMO because SOE announced today that The Agency is cancelled. Sony's Seattle studio where work on The Agency was headquartered, will close and unless positions can be found for its former employees in Austin, Texas, everyone who worked on the game is out of a job.
"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 statement from SOE read today.
"All possible steps are being taken to ensure team members affected by the transition are treated with appropriate concern," the statement continued.
I respect Sony's decision to try to remunerate the developers who have been working The Agency for at least 4 years, possibly much longer. Any company must make tough decisions if it is to survive, and it couldn't have been easy for SOE President John Smedley to pull the trigger on dumping three studios and laying off 205 people.
But in these times of WoW, the layoffs from Sony and the cancelling of The Agency only prove that companies making MMOs must make careful decisions in order to stay competitive.
And apparently that means focusing on EverQuest and making PlanetSide: Next.