Death from Above

So, let me get this straight. The games industry is suffering in the depression, and as of Febuary 2009, has laid off well into several thousand staff, globally. They’ve also cut projects, cancelled games, and provided us with little choice, which apparently is better because as far as they’re concerned, most people can barely afford food in London, Los Angeles, and Tokyo, let alone videogames.

The first problem with your new "mass redundancies are the way forward" agenda, Mister Games Industry, is you’re sacking the wrong people. So far, I’ve seen the head of Games for Windows Live, the entire staff of Ensemble Studios, a shed load of people at Mythic, and around 70 Disney employees lose their jobs. This has to be the most bizarre set of layoffs I’ve ever seen.

The head of Games for Windows Live made no sense. You can’t fire someone who’s leading a fledgling company under Microsoft, with a catalogue of fewer games than there are days in the month. Dawn of War II is approaching shelves, and you’re switching staff on the one title that’s really going to need a ton of online support?

Ensemble Studios I could go on about for hours. I’m at a loss as to why you’d fire the staff working on a title that’s shaping up to be one of the most popular console titles of 2009, if not the most popular console RTS on the current generation of consoles. Not only didn’t they fight Microsoft (and really, what’s the point), they went on to promise DLC, finished the game and set up not one, but two new development companies to assist with supporting the game and creating new titles. How’s that for staying power?

I could go through a huge list, not to mention Mythic’s layoffs which are affecting people working on an MMO about to release a load of new content shortly after hitting the 300k mark. But I’m not going to, I’m simply going to illustrate to you the utter stupidity of your actions, Microsoft and friends.

The recession is affecting the prices of the average night out. In an interview I did with some staff at a Waterstones store last month, I was informed that their sales were going through the roof. Why? Because more and more people are staying in on weekends due to the soaring prices of places offering night-time activities, and the plummeting salaries of those who would attend them. If people are staying in, why are you creating a job market in the games industry in which fewer games can be produced?

Secondly, why are you firing the wrong people? I can understand the Disney staff behind Turok finding their jobs in jeopardy, after the farcical FPS experience they created over a couple of years, but Ensemble? Mythic? Should we not be endangering the jobs of those we know are producing poor title after poor title? It seems Microsoft and other parent companies are firing games development staff at random as opposed to layoffs being dictated by poor sales figures and even poorer reviews.

The games industry is growing. You don’t see Wii title development companies being canned, and this is because companies like Nintendo understand that for an industry to grow, sometimes you’re going to need to plant more seeds than you need flowers. However, it’s not wrong to prune weeds from the field, as long as you’re not taking a ton of roses with them.

Enough gardening metaphors. This is an issue, and when it’s reaching into my industry via 1UP and other gaming journalism layoffs, it’s a lot easier to sit up and take notice. After all, when a twenty-year-old male with no business experience beyond his college qualifications could select more financially beneficial options than a boardroom of ten fifty-year-old company directors, I think you need to start worrying less about what good titles are going to be appearing in 2009, and worry more about whether there are going to be any titles at all.


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Author: Christos Reid View all posts by

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