In recent weeks, video games have entered a new crisis. Publishers and studios follow one another announcing waves of layoffs. Yet the industry has rarely been in such good financial shape.
Epic Games, 870 layoffs; closure of the Volition and Square Enix Montreal studio by Embracer; deletion of posts at Creative Assembly after the game’s cancellation Hyenas by Sega. In recent weeks, bad news has been increasing for video game workers.
The latest example comes from Naughty Dog, PlayStation Studio fired dozens of workers who were developing a multiplayer expansion for the hit game The Last of Us. The year Sony expects record sales of the PlayStation 5, aiming to sell 25 million copies.
An imaginary crisis
At the start of the year, tech giants severely caused waves of layoffs. We are talking about waves of more than 10,000 layoffs for Microsoft, or 11,000 at Meta. A readjustment after massive recruitments during the pandemic may analyze some. Still, for companies that rake in tens of billions of dollars in net profit, this leaves a bitter taste.
This time, it’s the video game industry’s turn to pay the price. However, the sector is still doing very well and 2023 is seeing very big launches like The Legend of Zelda Tears of The KingdomOr Baldur’s Gate 3. For each announcement of these waves of layoffs, “external factors” And “a difficult economic context”, without much further explanation. In 2023, it is estimated that the video game industry is expected to generate $188 billion in revenue, an annual growth of 2.6%.
It therefore seems that video game workers are, above all, victims of a runaway, a snowball effect: “if the neighboring studio is downsizing, then maybe we should too» is a thought we might hear right now. Each publisher seems to have its own reasons for causing these job cuts (problem of development on a future game, shrinking of investments or even contract problems with a partner), but, taken together, it is indeed a crisis which Those who make video games are victims.
In the case of Epic Games, we can for example draw up a list of poor strategic choices made by Tim Sweeney over the last few years. In particular the removal of the flagship game Fortnite from the App Store and Google Play Store. The founder and boss of the firm has not announced any reduction in his salary or any questioning. For his part, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan will leave Sony after more than 30 years of service. Nothing indicates a link with the crisis and he leaves a PlayStation at the best of its form, but the shift towards service games still seems difficult to negotiate for the Japanese manufacturer.
The need to protect yourself, more than ever
In parallel with this dark year for video game workers, there remains hope for unionization which continues to progress, particularly in the United States. After the birth of the first workers’ union in a AAA game studio in 2022, the year 2023 saw replicas form at Sega in California and Corsair Gaming. It is today the preferred method of protecting workers’ rights, particularly in the QA sector. This precarious sector where short-term contract workers are generally recruited whose work is essential for the production of a video game is rarely considered sufficient to appear in its credits.