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Mass games industry job losses in 2023, but is the end in sight?

Not counting the losses at Alphabet, these collective layoffs surpass 3000 jobs
Mass games industry job losses in 2023, but is the end in sight?

This year may be considered massive for the gaming industry, with many stating it will be looked back on as one of the best the industry has seen in a long time. Mobile has had huge hits with the likes of Monopoly GO! hitting milestones at breakneck speed. The release of the iPhone 15 is welcoming console-quality titles on mobile, and speaking of Console and PC, this has been an enormous year for games, and the best may yet still be to come!

Despite all of this, behind the scenes, it has been a tough year for industry workers. Market changes are causing a stir, such as the recent announcement of Unity’s Runtime fee. One of gaming's biggest shows, E3, was cancelled, and the gaming and tech industry has seen widespread layoffs.

In this article, we look back on the year, highlighting some of the big layoffs that have hit the industry and ask, is the worst over?

January: Unity axes 284 staff and shelves projects post ironSource merger

On January 18th, Unity laid off another 284 staff members, following on from the 200 it let go around seven months earlier. Unity CEO John Riccitiello said in a letter to employees that these cuts came about after the company “reassessed our objectives, strategies, goals and priorities in light of the current economic conditions. While we remain focused on the same vision, we decided that we need to be more selective in our investments to come out stronger as a company.”

January: Google parent company announces 12,000 jobs to be cut

Google parent company Alphabet announced massive layoffs of 12,000 jobs on January 20th, impacting 6% of the workforce. These cuts were supposedly made in the wake of “a different economic reality”, according to a staff memo. These cuts targeted more experimental projects as the company looked to hone in on artificial intelligence work.

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai’s email to Google employees stated, “Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today.”

“I am confident about the huge opportunity in front of us thanks to the strength of our mission, the value of our products and services, and our early investments in AI. I am confident about the huge opportunity in front of us thanks to the strength of our mission, the value of our products and services, and our early investments in AI.”

February: Tilting Point lays off 14% of its workforce

News broke at the beginning of February that Free to play games publisher Tilting Point cut 14% of its global workforce of 440. The cuts were made as the company was restructuring and approaching new strategies.

The company stated to “At Tilting Point, a great strength has been our adaptability to changing market conditions and focusing on new opportunities. The video game industry has been undergoing significant upheaval and rapid evolution, which has created real hardship, but also incredible opportunity for those with the right business model.”

February: Electronic Arts lays off around 300 QA workers AND Electronic Arts cuts 6% of its workforce

At the end of February, Electronic Arts disbanded its QA team in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resulting in around 300 people losing their jobs. These were all primarily focused on Apex Legends. This was a notable pullback for Apex Legends as we saw them cancel development of Apex Legends Mobile the month prior, despite its success.

To make matters worse, less than a month later, Electronic Arts announced it was cutting 6% of its workforce toward the back end of March. EA's CEO, Andrew Wilson, stated that the job cuts came about as the company was reevaluating its investment strategy and reducing its office space. These layoffs were looking at a total cut of over 700 employees.

CEO Andrew Wilson shared in a statement that “As we drive greater focus across our portfolio, we are moving away from projects that do not contribute to our strategy, reviewing our real estate footprint, and restructuring some of our teams.”

March: Take-Two announces Layoffs

March got off to a rocky start when Take-Two announced layoffs as “necessary steps”. Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier shared on Twitter that the decisions were made to “better align our organisation with our long-term priorities.” These layoffs targeted reduction in its US teams, mostly in corporate operations and label publishing.

March: Team17 Layoffs from art and design teams

The company behind the iconic Worms franchise announced on March 20th that there would be layoffs due to restructuring business operations. However, anyone impacted by such layoffs could still be eligible to apply for other positions within the company.

In a statement to Eurogamer, a Team17 spokesperson stated, “Team17 Games Label has initiated a re-alignment of elements within its studio operating business model in order to better meet the needs of our development partners and growth of our owned IP. This could result in a small number of redundancies; however, we have a number of roles open across the Group and will be encouraging and supporting any colleagues that wish to apply.”

April: InnoGames suffers job cuts

Forge of Empires developer announced in April that the company was undergoing “a comprehensive strategic organisational realignment.” This was in an effort to remain competitive and have the studio become “faster and more agile”. The cuts resulted in the loss of 75 jobs.

Modern Times Group president and CEO Maria Reddin commented, “Their leadership team has had to make tough choices, which unfortunately have resulted in the studio needing to reduce the total number of roles. InnoGames has put in place a strong plan to support the people who have been affected by the decision to make sure that they are treated fairly and provided with support during the transition period."

April: Ten Square Games cancels two major projects and cuts staff

Later in April, mobile game developer Ten Square Games cancelled two projects - Undead Clash and Fishing Masters. On top of killing those two titles, the company also cut 25% of its staff. This would result in around 120 people being made redundant.

Ten Square Games CEO Maciej Zuzalek announced, “We have decided to end work on two projects - Undead Clash and Fishing Masters - and to significantly reduce employment in areas outside the company's main products. This will allow us to focus Ten Square Games' resources and energy on the development of the main titles - Fishing Clash and Hunting Clash - in the coming months, and prepare for the further scaling of Wings of Heroes.”

May: Another set of Unity layoffs as 600 jobs are lost

Despite layoffs earlier in the year, Unity hit with another round of layoffs at the start of May, this time even larger than the previous two combined. Around 8% of the company’s total workforce was impacted, with some of the cuts being attributed to roles that had doubled up due to the merger with ironSource.

The loss of 600 jobs was said to prepare the company for the future and help improve its top and bottom lines.

May: Ubisoft cuts up to 60 jobs

May 10th, news broke that Ubisoft was making cuts in its customer relations centre team. In a statement to Eurogamer, Ubisoft stated that “Ubisoft's Customer Relation Center team is evolving its organisation to focus on where we can have a significant impact while remaining steadfast in our commitment to consistently support our players anywhere in the world.”

The cuts would impact those from Cary, North Carolina offices and Newcastle in the UK.

May: Kabam lay off 12% of its workforce

Disney Mirrorverse creators Kabam announced it would be implementing layoffs in late May. Back in 2022, the studio had already laid off 7% of its workforce but was now following this with a further 12%. These layoffs would impact a variety of positions, including those working in QA and liveops.

In a statement sent to Kotaku, a Kabam spokesperson shared, "In light of current economics and the industry's market realities, after reviewing our strategic priorities, Kabam has made the difficult decision to reduce its workforce by 12 percent. This restructuring provides greater financial flexibility to invest in new growth areas while also streamlining our existing development teams. We want to thank those leaving Kabam today for their contributions and we are supporting them through this challenging transition."

June: EA’s Firemonkeys Studio hit with layoffs

At the start of June, mobile-focused studio Firemonkeys suffered layoffs of up to two-thirds of its team as the company transitioned to a monotitle approach to support The Sims Freeplay.

An EA spokesperson commented that the company was “making some changes to the structure of Firemonkeys Studio, allowing teams there to focus on supporting live services for The Sims FreePlay.”

June: Hi-Rez announces layoffs

In late June, Hi-Rez Studios announced on LinkedIn that the company had undergone “restructuring to better organise and focus the business around its top priorities and establish a better corporate framework for future growth.”

This resulted in Hi-Rez Studios rebranding as Hi-Rez Ventures and breaking the business into three units operating independently. These changes also, unfortunately, included some layoffs. However, a spokesperson commented to, noting that “it was isolated to a little less than 30 employees, from a mix of divisions and disciplines.”

June: Ludia lets 45 staff members go

Around the same time, in late June, Jam City subsidiary Ludia announced that restructuring had occurred, “We are committed to maintaining a strong and sustainable business and are restructuring some of our teams in Montreal to optimise the performance of our titles. We understand that restructures within the organisation have an impact on our valued employees. We are committed to treating all affected individuals with respect, appreciation, and support for their years of service, including severance packages, extended benefits where applicable, and career assistance to help them navigate their transition."

An anonymous source claimed that the total amount of redundancies made was around the 45 mark, including multiple company directors and a VP. Back in 2022, Jam City also announced it had laid off approximately 17% of its workforce around the same time it had acquired Ludia Studios.

August: Imagendary Studios hit with mass layoffs

A subsidiary of FunPlus, Imagendary Studios was hit with layoffs in late August, leaving only a “skeleton crew” behind. These layoffs were said to have affected most of the then 54-person staff.

A staff member posted on LinkedIn that “This dream is done, Imagendary Studios has deeply restructured, and most of us were laid off. I remained on as one of the last skeleton crew members to tidy some things up.

August: East Side Games announces round of layoffs

At a similar time, East Side Games announced that it had a “strategic restructuring plan” that resulted in the loss of 20% of its workforce. The official statement noted that the cuts were down to a “realigning of the company’s priorities to ensure a more robust and successful future.”

The shift was intended to help the company adapt to the changing mobile landscape and propel its market position.

September: Roblox cuts talent acquisition team

Recently we saw news that Roblox had downsized its talent acquisition team and let 30 employees go. The cuts impacted no other teams, but this action was taken to better align the company with its growth goals.

A Roblox spokesperson commented, “With our commitment to getting our cash compensation growth in line with our bookings growth by the end of Q1 2024, we now need a smaller Talent Acquisition organisation to meet our adjusted hiring needs.”

September: Epic lays off 16% of its employees

September 28th, news hit of the vast layoffs over at Epic. The announcement stated that a massive 16% of the company's workforce would be let go. That's around 800 employees. Epic said, “For a while now, we've been spending way more money than we earn, investing in the next evolution of Epic and growing Fortnite as a metaverse-inspired ecosystem for creators. I had long been optimistic that we could power through this transition without layoffs, but in retrospect I see that this was unrealistic.”

The layoffs are driven by the financial need to keep up with the ever-changing and competitive games industry.

September: Sega cuts projects and teams

In addition to the news of layoffs at Epic, Sega revealed that it would cancel its shooter title Hyenas with layoffs imminent at Creative Assembly. It is currently unclear how many jobs will be impacted by the cancellation.

Sega declared that the economic downturn in Europe was a major cause of the cuts.

So, what comes next?

While there is no way to predict if this is the end of layoffs, we know that the gaming industry is forever growing in popularity. With over 3 billion active gamers worldwide, there is a massive demand for video games, so there will always be a need for talented and creative professionals to make them.

At our Pocket Gamer Connects events, we have been connecting talented games industry professionals with major studios and publishers with our Careers Zone, and we also have a games industry jobs page to keep an eye on.

The power of social media can also be an incredibly powerful tool. For those who have lost jobs and spoken about it on the likes of LinkedIn, X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook, many have gone on to be shared by hundreds of people to help connect them with suitable studios and job roles. One of the top voices on LinkedIn, Amir Satvat, posts a valuable games job resource. Further resources can also be found here.

While it has been a tough time for many, the gaming industry also has a great way of banding together when losses hit, and as they say, when one door closes, another opens.