A year-long wave of layoffs has rattled video game makers, who say they are hard to square the industry’s success with the quantity of layoffs.

According to VideoGameLayoffs.com, a site operated by game developer Farhan Noor, over 6,000 positions in the games industry have been destroyed since the beginning of the year spanning more than 100 businesses.

Epic Games cut around 800 positions last month, Niantic, Electronic Arts, and Unity cut hundreds of staff earlier this year, and scores of other smaller cuts and complete studio closures, such as Embracer’s shutter of Volition since the beginning of the year.

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What they’re saying: “2023 is just too unstable,” says Andrea Saravia Pérez, a narrative designer who was laid off by strategy game producer Firaxis in the spring.

Saravia Pérez has sought for hundreds of jobs since then, but has received few responses.

“2022 was probably the best year to break into games,” she said. “However, many agree that 2023 is worse than 2009,” when much of the world was in a slump.

Current situation: Developers are resorting to Discord groups, shared tip sheets, and LinkedIn gurus to locate new jobs, despite the fact that their laid-off pals are all looking for work as well.

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“I’m literally competing with some of my best friends,” says Dianna Lora, a seasoned producer who was laid off by a big studio last month.

Developers told Axios that veteran workers with more contacts are in a better position to find new job, but the industry’s predilection for secrecy can be a huge hindrance. Saravia Pérez can’t present her most recent game development work to interviewers because the project she worked on was never announced. “My best work,” she explains, “is entirely under NDA.”

Lora has seen many women lose their employment in the game industry, as layoffs extend beyond development roles and into DNI and HR positions. This is consistent with other reports about recent tech layoffs hitting women disproportionately.

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Between the lines: According to Dom Tait, games research director at OMDIA, the video gaming business is anticipated to grow this year, but not at the rate it did during pandemic lockdowns, which could help explain the wave of layoffs.

OMDIA expects gaming spending to reach $167 billion this year and $174 billion in 2024, but Tait claims that revenue increased by $50 billion between 2020 and 2021, potentially giving employers excessive growth expectations.

“What we could be seeing is a notable reduction in headcount caused in part by companies belatedly adjusting to the new, less positive market reality,” he told reporters. Other concerns, he said, may include the influence of global conflicts, as well as the problems surrounding hot innovation investments like NFTs and the metaverse.

Workers like Lora worry if companies are attempting to reestablish control after the COVID move to work-from-home provided workers with greater independence and power. She believes that unions, which are growing in fits and starts across the industry, could help counteract this.

While there is universal agreement in the industry that 2023 has been terrible on gaming workers, even more than previous years. However, making data-driven comparisons to previous years is difficult.

According to a representative, the International Game Developers Association, which provides assistance to employees, does not keep extensive track of layoff statistics.

Noor, who began the layoff tracker in his own time, says he’s been gathering data informally since 2010 or so, when major publishers like THQ and Midway were crumbling, but he’s not ready to draw any trend lines.

Veteran developers expect some of the layoffs to be cyclical and hope for a quick rebound, lest the 2023 layoffs burn out too many of the surviving developers.

“Companies are running lean and mean,” adds Lora. “So you’re talking about overworked devs who are already doing the work of two or three people in some cases.”

“So they’re going to have to hire people to make up for the fallout.”


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