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2024's games industry lay-offs: The stories so far - all in one place

January's end find the industry still travelling through tough times. Here are all the companies that have resized, restructured, shed staff and felt the pinch so far in 2024

2024's games industry lay-offs: The stories so far - all in one place

January 2024 has been a tough month - and a tough year so far - for many devs and publishers.

2023 proved to be a year of corporate resets as the impossible, stellar, flash-in-the-pan success and growth of 2021 and 2022 (bouyed by a captive, pandemic-fuelled audience looking for new ways to spend their time) proved to be a bump in the graph rather than a never-ending upswing.

Caught by the reality of 2023 looking more like 2020, many companies who geared up for endless growth have been shedding staff and winding back plans. And while much of those descisions were made at the end of 2023 it's clear that 2024 will continue with companies falling back into line with the real rate of progress, as the year continues.

Here - in an article we'll be updating throughout 2024 - is a round-up of those pivots and palinodes, resets and restructures so far:

Unity to lay off 1,800 staff as it continues company reset

January 4th. After promising a “comprehensive assessment” in November, Unity's new CEO Jim Whitehurst (taking the chair from John Riccitiello post Unity Runtime Fee Farrago) continued his “rip-off the band aid” reset for the firm with approximately 1,800 staff leaving as part of its ongoing restructuring plans. The redundancies amount to a loss of 25% of its entire global workforce and followed 265 job cuts and the terminating of its deal with Lord of the Rings VFX studio Weta. In May last year, Unity slashed 600 jobs, with some of the job cuts attributed to its merger with IronSource.

Twitch slashes 500 jobs - 35% of its staff - in latest cuts

January 10th. Despite its widespread popularity, experiencing a surge in users through pandemic lockdowns, Twitch continues to grapple with financial challenges. Its now cut 500 jobs, around 35% of its workforce following executive departures and financial concerns. Twitch layoffs have been ongoing under new CEO Dan Clancy, with 400 cuts in 2023 followed by 180 more after Amazon shut down its Crown channel and Game Growth group. 

Cookie Run makers Devsisters cut staff at US office

January 11th. While initially reported as a US office closure by the staff themselves, Devsister's downsizing in the US - while affecting key members of the team - would not result in the closure of the office itself, clarification from Albert Chung, director of US operations & marketing confirmed. "While it is true that we are facing a challenging period, the decision to reduce our workforce has been a strategic one to address our current financial challenges. Contrary to speculation, I want to emphasize that we are not closing our US office. We are dedicated to maintaining our presence in the US, and Devsisters USA remains committed to delivering quality entertainment to our fans and community."

Unity restructure sees six ironSource co-founders step down

January 11th. Following the 1,800 staff cuts just a week earlier it was time for new CEO Jim Whitehurst to carry out a sweep of the board with his new broom. In the Jan 11 swap-around, six key ironSource figures moved to non-executive roles while Tomer Bar-Zeev - who was with ironSource since the very beginnng - will continue to serve on the Board of Directors.

Playtika to cut 300 - 400 more jobs in latest rounds of layoffs

January 11th. In December 2022 the company parted ways with 600 employees - 15% of its staff - as a precursor to a rocky 2023 which saw the company unsuccessfully aquire Angry Birds maker Rovio. The company eventually sold to Sega in parallel negotiations soon after. In early Jan 2024 news broke of a further 300 to 400 more jobs coming under the axe.

Discord to cut 17% of its workforce

January 12th. After previously riding high, the tech-focused social media platform company let go four percent of its staff in August 2023 and in early 2024 have let go a further 17% in order to cut costs and remain viable as growth slows. "We grew quickly and expanded our workforce even faster, increasing by 5x since 2020. As a result, we took on more projects and became less efficient in how we operated," said CEO Jason Citron.

Netspeak CEO announces the loss of approximately 25 jobs

January 16th. After a successful soft launch of their first game, Sunshine Days the studio was not able to obtain further investment to continue its development, this despite attracting $12m investment in 2022 and 1.5 million downloads so far. "When we realised that without extra financial support (needed to combat the rise in price of UA across all channels as well as to keep cash flowing for a game with a long payback period) and after considering all other possible options, we unfortunately concluded that we will likely have to scale down our operations," said CEO Callum Cooper-Brighting.

Google lays off 1,000+ employees in stealth as AI takes on the workload

January 16th. Employees from ad sales, hardware, AR, Pixel, YouTube and more have been quietly let go through the month continuing a trend that the company established all through 2023, following the shock departure of 12,000 employees in January of that year. It's not hard to draw a connection between the firm's ongoing work adding the influence of AI to all its systems and the ongoing loss of jobs at the company as it gears up for the future.

Thunderful Group to lay off 20% of workforce in the first half of 2024

January 17th. Mid January saw the company announce that approximately 20% of Thunderful Group’s workforce (approximately 100 roles) will be laid off in the first half of 2024 as part of a restructuring programme aiming to strengthen the company's "long-term competitive position". Layoffs factor into the cost-cutting side, with divestments also being considered like the potential sale of Headup Games.

Layoffs confirmed at Choices: Stories You Play maker, Pixelberry Studios

January 18th. Game developer Pixelberry Studios laid off an unknown number of employees this month across various roles including QA staff, producers artists and programmers. "I found out I'm going to be laid off along with a lot of great people at Pixelberry," posted Pixelberry associate engineering manager Paige Lowe. The company was acquired by Nexon in 2018 which confirmed the layoffs.

Support studio PTW cuts 45 positions as game industry layoffs continue

January 18th. Gaming and support studio PTW formerly Pole to Win let go of 45 employees primarily consisting of QA workers, but job cuts also extended to other departments. PTW has previously worked with industry giants such as Blizzard, Capcom, and Sega to provide quality assurance, studio support, and localization. “PTW made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce in several countries where we operate. This decision was not made lightly. We want to thank our departing team members for the time and effort they put into the company," said the company.

Riot Games trims workforce in new layoffs, cuts 500 jobs

January 23rd. League of Legends publisher Riot Games laid off 11% of its staff, approximately 530 jobs as part of cost-cutting strategies in response to increasing expenses. Riot announced in a company-wide message, “We’re changing some of the bets we’ve made and shifting how we work across the company to create focus and move us toward a more sustainable future. We have to do more to focus our business and center our efforts on the things that drive the most player value – the things that are truly worth players’ time. Unfortunately, this involves making changes in the area where we invest the most — our headcount," said CEO Dylan Jadeja. 

YouTube Games chief Leo Olebe is among 100 job cuts in their gaming division

January 24th. The YouTube layoffs come as part of Google's broader restructuring mentioned earlier and even as far at Olebe, a seasoned gaming executive, who has previously worked at Facebook (Meta) as senior global director for game partnerships. The search giant announced that it was, “testing playables” on YouTube in September 2023 but has since been silent on the feature in its “experimental stages", casting doubt on future plans.

Blizzard president Mike Ybarra is out as Microsoft lays off 1,900

January 25th. The inevitable restructure and consolidation of Activision Blizzard and Microsoft didn't take long, with the nuking of dual roles and freshly superfluous departments inevitably following the sealing of Microsofts $68 billion takeover deal on October 13 2023. And while the most high profile 'thanks but no thanks' goes to Blizzard president Mike Ybarra, the 1,900 now redundant staff aren't exclusively from the Activision Blizzard side. The new structure has also meant the removal of surplus roles at both Xbox and Zenimax as Activision Blizzard settles in and the new giant takes shape.

We'll be updating this list as more news unfolds… 

 

Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash


Editor - PocketGamer.biz

Daniel Griffiths is a veteran journalist who has worked on some of the biggest entertainment media brands in the world. He's interviewed countless big names, and covered countless new releases in the fields of videogames, music, movies, tech, gadgets, home improvement, self build, interiors and garden design. Yup, he said garden design… He’s the ex-Editor of PSM2, PSM3, GamesMaster and Future Music, ex-Deputy Editor of The Official PlayStation Magazine and ex-Group Editor-in-Chief of Electronic Musician, Guitarist, Guitar World, Rhythm, Computer Music and more. He hates talking about himself.