Gas Powered CEO lays off employees, then nearly breaks down when asking for more money on Kickstarter

Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor

Chris Taylor, CEO of Redmond-based Gas Powered Games, starts this video on Kickstarter off like this:

“This is the wackiest video update you’ll ever see,” he says.

He’s not lying. An emotional Taylor nearly comes to tears as he explains this extremely odd story.

Here’s what’s going on. Less than a week after launching a Kickstarter campaign for a new game called Wildman, Taylor laid off his entire company — about 40 employees — with the exception of himself and a few others.

It had been four days and the Kickstarter earned around $173,000, a far cry from the $1.1 million goal set for Feb. 15.

He told Gamasutra that the company had to “slim WAY down to conserve cash reserves” and mentioned to Joystiq that he had to make the decision to “properly pay severance and remaining [paid-time off].”

But then last Friday, the same day sources first reported the layoffs, Taylor posted the aforementioned video to explain what was going on.

“If I ran this team through the entire Kickstarter campaign and it fails to fund, then I have to let everyone go, shut the company down, no one gets any unpaid PTO or severance, or anything,” Taylor said in the video. “And that I decided was not worth it.

“It’s one thing for me to risk and gamble this company that frankly is something that I’ve been building for 15 years, and I feel comfortable with that because I’ve done it i the past many times,” a visibly emotional Taylor continued. “But this time is different. I really felt like it was a crazy idea to gamble in this economy and gamble with the people here who are the most talented and loyal people. To play a card game with their livelihoods is not smart. So I made a very, very tough decision. 

“But I have another tough decision,” he says. “Now that the team has been laid off, should I continue the campaign to see if the numbers do improve and hire them back if they still want to come back? Or do I shut the campaign down tonight or tomorrow and call it done?”

Taylor then asks fans and supporters to help him make the decicion in the comments of the Kickstarter update. It certainly seems like the campaign is marching on, as funding was nearly at $300,000 Tuesday morning.

Taylor, who created the popular real-time strategy game Total Annihilation, just posted another video update Monday, saying that he went through lots of emotions over the weekend and realized that “we did what we thought was right.” He then says he’ll show more details about Wildman in the coming days, talks about more Kickstarter tiers and then asks people to share this story over social media channels.

Taylor previously said he was going “all-in” and betting the company on the success of this one game. Now that the funding is not going as planned, he’s had to let go of almost every employee. But now it seems he’s using this backstory as a way to try to raise more money on Kickstarter.

Do you think Taylor is being sincere here, or was this a risk that should never have been taken?

  • Guest

    When I invest in a game company via Kickstarter, how much equity in this company do I receive?

    None, you say?

    Thanks.

    • Fred Glastrom

      Because Kickstarter represents the crazy notion that suggest you don’t HAVE to be a greedy bastard all of the time. I know… this blows your mind.

      • Guest

        I agree; you don’t have to be a greedy bastard to use Kickstarter. You just have to have blind faith in a man you’ve never met and a little disposable income.

        Kickstarter shall die when a majority of its users start to think critically before spending their money. Savvy investors like me know that we’re entitled to a windfall when we risk our capital.

        • Fitz

          Oooh, yeah, when you risk your capital… of 20 bucks.

  • http://twitter.com/samcaplat Sam Caplat

    If he raises thousands of pounds via Kickstarter, what’s the chances he’ll keep the money and shut down anyway?

    Quite high, you say?

    Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/Wistark Wistar Kay

    I know Chris Taylor and believe in him. He is an honorable man who has been a great advocate and ally in support of our regional game industry. He is facing a terrible decision I have seen other local game companies go through too often.

  • Douchebagcentral

    douche

  • seriously

    @Taylor Soper – why even pose that ending question? Because we live in a world full of Lance Armstrong’s and Mante Te’O's and it bites? I say shame on you Taylor. Shouldn’t go there. If the man’s legit, it will come to light. If not, same answer,

    • haveacupofrelaxbro

      What kind of world would we live in if no one was allowed to question people’s motives? You say “shouldn’t go there” as if posing the question is some kind of uncomfortable taboo that shouldn’t be talked about. Answer the question if you have an opinion, but that comment just sounds overly defensive and weird.

    • http://twitter.com/TroyJMorris Troy Morris

      No, it was to generate comments.