One Month In, Gaming In 2024 Is Already Exhausting

For God's sake.

Xbox ABK
Xbox ABK

Normally after the Christmas break, it’d take until around the end of April for me to start feeling exhausted enough to have another week off or whatever, but we’re only a month into 2024 and I already feel like I could slip into a coma for six weeks. You could argue that it’s due to a combination of Tekken 8, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth and being a flu-ridden mess, but there’s another, more dire cause that’s these hibernation tendencies within me.

In reality, what’s really exhausting is how depressingly bleak the gaming industry has become. This isn’t new to 2024 of course, as anyone who was following the news in 2023 will remember the sheer amount of layoffs that occurred across the industry, with a total number estimated to be around 10,500. However, we’re less than a full month into 2024 and it feels like the C-Suite execs of all the major companies have decided to hit the turbo button on their third-party controller, as we’re already over halfway towards beating that “record”.

Some of the biggest casualties so far this year have come from yet more studios owned by Embracer, who were already big contributors to the unemployment rate last year, along with Riot Games and Unity. Meanwhile, after spending $69 billion on acquiring Activision Blizzard King, Microsoft has also decided that 1900 employees are surplus to requirements there, even though Microsoft is currently valued as a $3 trillion dollar company. Naturally, Xbox and ABK coming together would lead to some overlap and inevitable redundancies, sure, but 1900 people feels like they’re taking some liberties with people’s goodwill.

The Microsoft decision in particular has even led to bigger names like Mike Ybarra, the President of Blizzard, deciding to leave the company, while Blizzard’s previously announced survival game has also been canned. The fact that Microsoft have almost immediately canceled a survival game, when games like recent phenomenon Palworld have proven how successful and lucrative survival games can be, is some of the most backwards logic seen in a long time, and that’s without getting into the livelihoods of everyone impacted.

Speaking of Palworld (briefly), anyone who’s spent any time on social media over the past week will likely have been exhausted by the sheer amount of DiscourseTM about Palworld. The amount of takes about whether it is or isn’t a Pokemon rip-off, or accusations that the game was made by AI alone, is just staggering. It’s become such a complex, hot button issue that any attempt to actually get to the bottom of Palworld’s controversy is just an exercise in frustration. Just seeing Palworld in the Twitter font right now makes me want to step on LEGO.

My inability to use the “Mute Words” function on social media notwithstanding, these layoffs were already a joke last year, and obviously it would have been foolish to expect that they would slow down just because the 3 in 2023 turned into a 4. Despite that though, I don’t think anyone was quite prepared for how quickly the rate of layoffs has escalated in the past month. A lot of people have likened the gaming industry at the moment to a bubble bursting, but if anything, it feels like the industry is in freefall and we haven’t even hit terminal velocity.

Palworld
Palworld

There’s just no end in sight, and no responsibility being taken for it either. In times like these, so every other week over the past six months essentially, people on social media love to share the story from 10 years ago about Satoru Iwata, former Nintendo president, who took a 50% pay cut alongside smaller pay cuts for other executives in response to weak Wii U sales. Bare in mind, he’d already had a pay cut before that thanks to the less than stellar 3DS launch. He also had plenty to say about the idea of laying off staff, with this lovely quote coming from 2013:

“If we reduce the number of employees for better short-term financial results, employee morale will decrease. I sincerely doubt employees who fear that they may be laid off will be able to develop software titles that could impress people around the world. I know that some employers publicize their restructuring plan to improve their financial performance by letting a number of their employees go, but at Nintendo, employees make valuable contributions in their respective fields, so I believe that laying off a group of employees will not help to strengthen Nintendo’s business in the long run.”

Of course, we know now in 2024 that even Nintendo isn’t some hallowed bastion of fair labor practices, especially in the Nintendo of America offices, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t forget about Iwata’s example. He understood that a leader should take responsibility for the mistakes a company makes, and that randomly punishing employees by laying them off or declaring them redundant serves nothing other than short-term profit margins.

Just one of these days, can a CEO, President or some other kind of executive skip the whole “we made the unfortunate decision” spiel, and instead take one on the chin? Instead of throwing 1900 jobs out the window, maybe Phil Spencer could have announced his pay would be halved. I’m sure he could just pull himself up by his bootstraps, sell some of the tat on his desk and he’d be fine.

Maybe this is reading a bit too much like a ramble, but these things need to be said anyway. As someone who played a bit of Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear To The Rescue on PS1 as a child and then decided to make gaming their whole personality, I feel like I’m watching an industry I love die, and there’s nothing I can do but scream into the void.

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