On the Layoff Epidemic in Video Games…

To an extent, I’m not entirely surprised.  This sort of thing was a long time coming, and no, greedy executives and shareholders are not the only ones at fault.

There are a multitude of factors that lead to this collapse of the workforce, despite companies reporting “record profits.”  Yes, a very big one is shareholders who aren’t gamers trying to take an industry that really isn’t one that can work under a model of sustained growth and trying to force it into sustained growth.

In any creative field, it simply isn’t something that makes money to make money.  You are going to have lulls.  You really can’t expect even a large company of developers to be able to crank out increasingly more sales and profits every year before they start to crack and burn out.  It simply can’t happen for any prolonged period of time, even if you happen to find that one big hit that you can keep adding onto.  For every World of Warcraft there are thousands of titles that simply shouldn’t be expected to have those sort of legs.

Another huge problem is mismanagement.  When every studio starts copycat chasing whatever the flavor of the month is, you get a huge over-saturation of titles where there can really only be one or two winners.  Everything else becomes wasted money and development time, which makes shareholders unhappy.

Innovation and creative are the lifeblood of any entertainment field.  Copycat developing is the antithesis of that.  Add to that mismanagement staples like feature creep, indecision, and demands for crunch… and you have a terrific cauldron of stupidity that leads to catastrophic failure.  If you have a vision, then stick with it.  If you don’t; trust the people that do.

And finally… the fact is that the video game industry isn’t in very good financial health.  Despite Kotrick declaring “record profits,” the simple fact was that these cuts were made in anticipation of the bottom falling out.  The consequence of all this copycat developing, mismanagement, and demands for ever increasing revenues is that we have an industry where everything is built on a fragile skeleton, and the simple fact is that games simply aren’t very profitable, even with methods like DLC and microtransactions and lootboxes.

I’ve said this before… but us gamers simply aren’t spending what we need to in order to keep this industry healthy.  Expect this continue until (at the very least) we accept that $60 in 2019 isn’t the same as $60 in 1999.  We can’t expect this life to continue to grow if we insist on starving it.

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