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Studio behind one of Xbox’s biggest upcoming exclusives hit with layoffs, studio closures

The logo for Contraband. It has "Contraband" in physical letters inside a case lined with straw.
Avalanche Studios

Approximately 50 people have been laid off from Avalanche Studios Group, the company behind the Just Cause series and the upcoming Xbox console exclusive Contraband, according to the studio.

In an official blog post published Monday, the company also announced that it will be closing two of its five locations: the one in New York and the other in Montreal. It’s unclear of the exact number of layoffs, but the post says “around 50” workers were affected, or around 9% of the workforce.

“This is an exceptionally difficult decision, but we believe it’s necessary to ensure a stable and sustainable future for the company,” the post reads.

The studio is currently working on Contraband, an upcoming open-world co-op game published by Xbox Game Studios. It was announced during Xbox’s 2021 E3 showcase, but the trailer teased very few details beyond that it takes place in a fictional 1970s setting and is a “co-op smuggler’s paradise.” Game director Omar Shakir said in a press release that Contraband would be the studio’s most ambitious game yet. There hasn’t been any other official information on the game released since the announcement, and there was no mention of it during the layoff news.

These layoffs are yet another hit to the video game industry in 2024. Contraband publisher Xbox laid off around 1,900 workers earlier this year, and just last month, Microsoft closed a number of studios, including Hi-Fi Rush developer Tango Gameworks and Arkane Austin. It’s not known if Avalanche’s layoffs are related.

Avalanche is probably best known for the Just Cause franchise, a series of action-adventure and driving shooters. The last entry was Just Cause 4 in 2018, which was published by Square Enix. However, the game didn’t perform up to expectations, and didn’t sell enough to cover development costs, according to Square Enix. Other recent Avalanche titles include Rage 2 and Generation Zero (under its Systemic Reaction branding). Over 100 developers at the studio unionized last year with the Swedish trade union Unionen.

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Carli Velocci
Carli is a technology, culture, and games editor and journalist. They were the Gaming Lead and Copy Chief at Windows Central…
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