Downsizing Dilemma: Why Game Developers Keep Getting Laid Off

By Jos ยท 24 replies
Jun 9, 2014
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  1. BlueDrake

    BlueDrake TS Evangelist Posts: 378   +112

    This is quite an important article for a various number of reasons. I think this should be more of a 'stickied' article, for a long enough while that people share this with pretty much anyone they know. It's really something they can talk about, even if a few people can't do anything a huge number of people will. It's not going to lead into some massive online protest or anything, but really the more knowledge in the hands of regular consumers it might make them appreciate things more.

    Yes x game was horrible, but really would you feel great in the end, when your company is letting you go? You could be some seriously talented person, that can do pretty much anything in your specific field well. Yes you'll feel amazing the game came out well, provided what you did was used in the game. Could be a number of reasons things could be cut, and after so long you end up burned out and no longer really have much reason to bother.

    Usually with those situations, it could lead to you being cut after the game ships. Then some other company picks you up, you're all excited and then it's just the same thing over and over again. Until you decide it's not worth the hassle, and take your experience somewhere that it does matter. Or move into a different field altogether, as of course this article talks about kind of.
  2. theBest11778

    theBest11778 TS Addict Posts: 296   +125

    The two solutions in the article are the only 2 real solutions. The problems with Unions are, the union only really cares about he union and it's dues. This will lead to higher development costs as bad developers can't be fired, and someone will have to be hired to do their work for them. This will lead to longer cycles for games, and higher prices to the consumer (aka you and I.)

    The contractual basis seems the best way to go, and if you're good/talented enough, you should be able to force a company that wants you on their project to demand a contract. If you're new in the industry you're doomed. However if it were common place to higher people for X amount of time for Y amount of money that would be great. This way the person knows the deal upfront and can choose to take it or leave it. If the game development takes longer than expected, the a new contract can be negotiated. If it's done quicker, you still get paid for the entire contract amount regardless. I would think this would entice developers to be quicker and more efficient from the start so they get paid more for less time (in years not hours... it'd probably still take the same amount of hours regardless.) In reality that's the best option. If I were a game dev or in any job environment this unstable I would demand a contract, and do something else in the meantime until a company excepts my terms. YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORK FOR THEM. People forget it's their choice who they work for.
    SalaSSin likes this.
  3. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,663   +1,949

    They play more than they work :)
  4. I'm sorry to hear about these practices and for all people who get let go regardless of industry. I've lived through a personal and professional bankruptcy and it can be quite challenging. I understand that businesses are here to make money however it seems we need to figure out a proper balance to things. I don't know what the best solution would be though I believe society needs to change in some way to help more people. I remember when the company that I worked for let many people go, the CEO received a 1 million dollar bonus. Something needs to change.
  5. How about "Why people who work hard get laid off"?

    Answer? Because the top 2% of the company ignorantly absorbs 75% of the revenue.
  6. wastedkill

    wastedkill TS Evangelist Posts: 1,423   +350

    This is the reason as to why I would make my game company privately owned with me being the sole owner as then it means my games can be top quality and my workforce moral will be perfect!

    Shareholders Ruin everything!!!!!!!
  7. Docus

    Docus TS Member Posts: 20   +10

    I'm digging the investigative journalism on Techspot. Looking forward to more articles like this!
    Misagt likes this.
  8. Ranger1st

    Ranger1st TS Evangelist Posts: 348   +124

    I left the industry pretty quickly from the film side in Toronto. It was very apparent that the management side took more then the lions share of the profits and left the artists and devs the bare minimum. The owners would then fold the company once it was finished a few contracts and resurface again as another company. This is and was rampant north america wide, there were a few Vancouver and Washington state companies that didn't behave like that, but it was impossible to work for them and an entry level as the cost of living surpassed the money you made.

    I took a look at the game industry and found it to be even worse. it was like the wild west back in 2000, companies coming and going monthly.. and the only people making out well were the management and owners.. I said good bye and never looked back and I can't say I miss it, my only regret is that I passed up the potential to go to med school for a post grad seat in a much sought after animation school.
    vernonlvincent likes this.
  9. Wagan8r

    Wagan8r TS Evangelist Posts: 603   +64

    One shining example to the industry is Valve. Last time I checked, they had something like a 98% retention rate.
    vernonlvincent likes this.
  10. robb213

    robb213 TS Maniac Posts: 330   +100

    I blame most of the layoffs on the publishers themselves. It's a little known fact, but many executives in the publishing business don't come from a gaming background at all, but perhaps from the food industry, manufacturing industry, etc. Chances are many of them have never played a single game.

    With that said, they insist they know their consumers. Therefore, they make developers put these ridiculous things in their games...when you should let the developers do what they want since they know what they're doing. They request some of the most *****ic things, even when told it won't work. Not to mention the ridiculous deadlines either.

    So when these games fail, specifically due to the publishers and their asinine requests, the game isn't anywhere near its sales target, so people get laid-off.

    Then there's that funny business with metacritic ratings, and even if the game sells way above target, and is genuinely decent, say 85 on metacritic, they won't get their bonuses. Maybe their bonuses required they get an 86 on there--the point being these guys and gals who have successfully done everything get deprived of a massive bonus because the critic ratings average 1 point less.
    vernonlvincent likes this.
  11. vernonlvincent

    vernonlvincent TS Rookie

    As a member of a union, I have to disagree with the premise that unions don't care about their members. In my experience, being a member of a union is helpful as it forces management to treat employees equally and reduces politics in the evaluation process.

    That said - unions are a hard sell for most people because everyone thinks they can do better on their own merits than as part of a group. And many people feel they are better than their co-workers and so don't want to feel 'held back' by their less-competent colleagues.

    As for the fact that you don't have to work for them, I hear that argument all the time in every sector. If you don't like the job - don't work for the people. It completely ignores the fact that people need a job and can't just pick up and move all the time. That may be find for the unmarried - but if you have a family, then it's very disruptive. What if your spouse still has a job - do you make them quit so you can move? Do you yank your kids out of school because mom or dad got laid off again? You effectively become a migrant worker under that system.
    ddg4005 likes this.
  12. vernonlvincent

    vernonlvincent TS Rookie

    I also meant to add that I'm sure people have had bad experiences with unions - either as a member, or seeing the effects of one. The union I'm in has had it's share of bad times, so I've seen it myself. Unions are only as good as the people in them. They don't magically become noble or corrupt - they only reflect the will of the members. But in my experience, I'd rather have a union on my side when negotiating a contract then not, because I'm not going to trust any company - however excellent a place it may be - to look out for my interests.
    ddg4005 likes this.
  13. Great article, best techspot article I have read ever since I discovered this site back in 2006

    the way to solve this issue is by making game companies private, stick to what they know best which is creating games not pampering shareholders

    shareholders are the root of all evil these days, destroy families, marriages, everything, even the planet, because of shareholders companies dont spend enough money to recycle and take care of our planet, if they can make shareholders happy even for a month they dont mind chopping down all the trees in a whole country.

    shareholders is like the head of a snake, just have to cut the head to fix the problem with the industry and society.
  14. It is a lot cheaper to develop a sequel if it is a hit and if it is a bomb you don't need me to tell you why you got laid off.
  15. They should do one on: Why Techspot censors peoples posts, by deleting them? Why there are so few posts on Techspot? Why I will never post on them again?
  16. theBest11778

    theBest11778 TS Addict Posts: 296   +125

    As you said unions aren't inherently bad, however over a long enough time span (after leadership changes hands a time or two,) good intentions go out the window in favor of the almighty dollar. In fact they're like the shareholders invested in your job. If you lose said job, they lose dues/profits which leads to lowering their income, or job loss. Also it is their choice whether or not to choose that career. If you have a wife an kids, do something else. In this world no one will hold a job for more than a few years anymore. Careers are gone. I've had 12 jobs in the past year, and 1 job the 8 years before that.

    Skilled labor is contract only, unskilled labor is PT/Seasonal, Management gets laid off first sign of a down turn, technical skills are a dime a dozen (too many people in the field.) Self employment is best option. Do some contract work, run your own company or two, and just roll with the times. It's hard, but unless you're a doctor/nurse (medical field,) then you're easily replaceable by a large percentage of the workforce out there right now.

    I agree. When a CEO has 10,000 bosses looking down at him every day saying "Where's my money," it makes a company ineffectual. When a CEO has 1-5 people looking down at him saying "where's my money," it's easier to convince them you're ideas, although seem crazy, could pay off in the long run.
  17. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,714   +3,695

    And since you are posting as a guest, no one will ever notice your absence. One less guest posting will never be noticed.
  18. yRaz

    yRaz Nigerian Prince Posts: 2,306   +1,401

    Screw profits, these are peoples lives they're playing with.
  19. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 4,736   +3,757

    I gathered the following from the article.

    1. The video game industry is just like every other industry.
    2. This is apparently news.
    3. VG industry employees leave when the lifestyle and pay are unsatisfactory.
    4. Therefore, evil corporations.
  20. I believe the major problem is due to the fact that gaming publishers give studios a super strict timeline and budget that fits. Problem is, the budget they give these studios is about 20% for the game, and 80% for the advertising.
  21. It's not lost on me that the studios who treat their staff well are the same ones who let their fans monetize their game-play videos.

    Is it any wonder they do well when they get free advertising and customers who earn enough from playing the last game to buy the next one! (y)UbiSoft, Valve, Team 17, et al. (y) I salute you!
  22. Ubisoft are snakes. They constantly give Bullshots at conventions showing up their games, and never truly deliver on what they show. Look at the E3 footage for Farcry 3 compared to the actual gameplay footage for the game and you'll begin to see drastic differences.

    Same for WatchDogs. Look at the footage comparing the two and once again you'll see horrible differences. They aren't the only ones who do this, From software also did something along this lines with Dark Souls 2, the lighting that they said would be in the game is no where to be found. I remmeber when Alpha footage actually looked like Alpha footage and not cinematics. Investors want to see these amazing graphics on next gen previews so what they do is make these amazing looking "gameplay footage" that really are just cinimatics, then promise the game will look like this, but at the same time saying "Alpha footage only, this is not the final product"

    It's like we've gone a step back. Show amazing stuff but then take that stuff away. Its pointless and upsets everyone.
  23. Footlong

    Footlong TS Booster Posts: 79   +38

    You are talking about "vertical slice". Ubisoft is not the only company who does that. All game companies engage in this kind of demonstrations. Ubisoft just happens to downscale their alpha versions. If they cared a bit more for there PC customer base you could get Watch Dogs and Far Cry 3 as shown in those alpha versions.

    As for the topic I don't see this kind pratice changing any time soon. Sure some companies will hold their personel, but those companies usually have a huge company backing them. Santa Monica and Naughty Dog have Sony for example. I'll say that the more developers use distribution and form start up companies of their own the less they will be screwed over by executives.
  24. Therebewaspspss

    Therebewaspspss TS Rookie

    I never..never ever ever ever ever EVER! liked Disney owning Lucasarts...smh

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