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Lego Group buys out Lego Universe team; remaining NetDevil teams moving to new office [Update]

lego universe netdevil
Big Download just got off the phone with Gazillion Entertainment's PR head who gave us more info about what's happening with one of its MMO game studios, the Denver-based NetDevil. The rep told us that Lego Group, the owners of the Lego toy brand, are now taking over full development responsbilities for Lego Universe, the family friendly MMO that NetDevil developed for the toy company and launched in October 2010.

As a result of this move, Lego Group is buying both the Lego Universe development team and the NetDevil offices that the team currently works in (Financial terms were not disclosed). The other NetDevil employees will be moving to another office somewhere nearby the original offices. The remaining Netdevil team members will continue to develop the browser-based online action-RPG Fortune Online, which was just announced a few weeks ago and is now in closed beta testing. The Gazillion PR rep would not comment on the status of NetDevil's long-in-development space-based MMO Jumpgate Evolution which is currently involved in a lawsuit with Codemasters.

There are layoffs associated with this transition but at the time of this post the Gazillion PR rep did not have specific numbers available although he did state the numbers would be small. The PR rep also sent this quote from Gazillion president David Brevik:

"The transition of members of our team to the LEGO Group allows us to conclude the work-for-hire segment of NetDevil's business and lets us expand our internally-published, free-to-play game businesses based on our own properties and licensed properties. Gazillion is wholly focused on developing, operating, and publishing the next generation of browser-delivered games We're proud of the LEGO Universe game that our team built, and we are certain that it has a bright future."

Update: We have now been told by Gazillion's PR head that less than a quarter of Lego Universe's team members were let go as a result of this move. However he did not have specific numbers. He also told us that about 40 NetDevil team members are currently working on Fortune Online.

Rumor: Mass layoffs at Lego Universe developer NetDevil?

netdevil
Long time MMO game developer NetDevil may have suffered through mass layoffs this week. Eurogamer reports that Toby Cochran, an animator for the company's Lego Universe game that launched just last October, reports that he lost his position at NetDevil, adding, "From what we've been told a handful of artists will be kept on board and continue working on Lego Universe. But at the moment that will be a very, VERY small team." NetDevil's parent company, Gazillion Entertainment, has yet to confirm news of the layoffs.

Netdevil still has another MMO in the works, the long-in-development space-based game Jumpgate Evolution, which is now dealing with a lawsuit from its publisher, Codemasters, for alledgedly taking too long to complete. More recently Netdevil launched a closed beta for a browser-based action-RPG Fortune Online.

Fortune Online announced; closed beta begins

Gazillion Entertainment is making steps to enter the free-to-play game business. Today the publisher announced and launched the closed beta for Fortune Online, a browser-based free-to-play fantasy action-RPG. The game comes from its Netdevil studio who launched the MMO Lego Universe last year and are still working on the long-in-development title Jumpgate Evolution.

Fortune Online looks like it is very much of a dungeon crawler game in the Diablo mode with the press release stating that players can team up with others online to slay monsters, gather loot and gain experience points. It promises that the game also has "extensive skill trees and awesome item upgrade choices." You can sign up for the closed beta test now at the game's official web site.

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