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Surgent Studios, Tales Of Kenzera: Zau Maker Hit By Layoff

Surgent Studios, Tales Of Kenzera: Zau Maker Hit By Layoff

A yet-to-be-identified number of people have been laid off from Surgent Studios best known for Tales of Kenzera: Zau released April 23, 2024. Impacted employees have made posts about the layoff on LinkedIn with one saying his contract with the studio will end by the end of the month.

Surgent Studios, Tales Of Kenzera: Zau Maker Hit By Layoff

Surgent Studios was founded in 2019. According to their LinkedIn Page, the studio “brings a pioneering philosophy to storytelling across film, television, games and emerging platforms”. Although the number of impacted employees is not clear yet, GameBaba Universe spotted 8 former employees who have now added the #OpenToWork badge to their profiles.

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Surgent Studios’ Tales of Kenzera: Zau launched to generally positive reviews, grossing an average of 76 points across PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC on Metacritic. Its average score dropped to 71 on Nintendo Switch. The game also enjoyed very positive reviews on Steam.

Published by EA Originals, Tales of Kenzera: Zau tells the story of a grieving boy who begins to read a Bantu tale written by his late father. Eventually, he strikes a bargain with the God of death to bring his Baba back from darkness.

Surgent Studios, Tales Of Kenzera: Zau Maker Hit By Layoff

“Wield the dance of the shaman. Reclaim your father’s spirit. Brave the beautiful and treacherous land of Kenzera with the God of Death in Tales of Kenzera™: ZAU, a Metroidvania-style adventure crafted by Surgent Studios,” read the official blurb on Steam.

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According to VGInstights, Tales of Kenzera: Zau sold only 13,470 units, earning the studio around $211K. While there has yet to be an official statement from the studio, the poor sales of the game likely contributed to the layoff.

Update: Surget Studios has now confirmed the layoffs saying that just over a dozen people were impacted. the studio said its work on Zau will continue and that they are already looking forward to the next creative project.

Reaction from former Surgent Studios employees

Game producer Phillip Smy was one of the first former employees to post about the layoff on his LinkedIn profile. “I’m another casualty of the wild west industry that is video game development,” he wrote.

Surgent Studios, Tales Of Kenzera: Zau Maker Hit By Layoff

Technical artist Jordan Smee corroborated the story at about the same time with a post on LinkedIn that read, “Well, it looks like I’m joining all the people affected by industry layoffs this year, and I am now seeking Technical Art and Environment Art positions”.

The layoffs this year have been so severe that LinkedIn now has a GIF for those affected by layoffs. The GIF has an image of people celebrating with a cake when a bomb lands on the cake and exploded to ruin the party.

Surgent Studios, Tales Of Kenzera: Zau Maker Hit By Layoff

“Unfortunately, I have been affected by the layoffs at Surgent Studios,” wrote 3D environment artist Joe Phillpot. “If you or anyone you know is looking for a 3D Artist/3D Environment Artist with 3+ years of experience, and multiple shipped projects in Games and VR, I would love to talk more!”

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Level designer Pete Brisbourne broke the news in the most creative way we have seen. Brisbourne wrote, “Hello! The chapter entitled “Pete Works At Surgent Studios” is coming to a close at the end of the month.”

In a recent interview with Lits Play, founder and CEO of Surgent Studios Abubakar Salim was asked what’s the next plan for the world of Tales of Kenzera since it is called “Tales”.

“Yeah, I designed Tales of Kenzera to be a world in which it’s about human truth, it’s about the human story, and that’s something that I wanted to keep doing,” said Salim.

“Obviously, it’s set within the world of Kenzera and I’ve got a whole plan and an idea with it and that’s what’s been really good fun as well with people like Critical Role. They’ve built these and conjured these incredible universes and worlds that you can dive into. And that’s something that I wanted to learn from. Yeah, Tales of Kenzera is a universe that I want to keep jumping into, telling these human stories that span across different time frames as well.”

It is not particularly clear if the current layoff at Surgent Studios will affect whatever plans that Salim has for the game. Only time will tell.