Posted: January 25th, 2009
Last Updated: January 25th, 2009
I'm going out on a limb and making some pretty big assumptions and some pretty big predictions for the future of gaming, so take what I write below with that in mind. This is all about the current global economical crisis, the recession, the new "depression", etc. As most any cultured gamer knows, there has been huge layoffs in the video gaming industry as of late. EA has been hit hard and has had job cuts numbering in the thousands to divisions such as Black Box (Need for Speed Series, Skate Series), Mythic (Dark Age of Camelot, Warhammer Online) and Tiburon Studios (Madden Series). Microsoft, and subsequently Xbox has also been hit even harder with reports of 30% of Microsoft's video game testers being laid off. This was also in addition to Flight Simulation, Gamerscore, and Games for Windows team cuts. Sony has also been planning some cuts, although in some weird twist of fate, they are pretty sure that very few (if any at all) of those cuts will be from the Playstation division - interesting indeed (considering their abysmal sales). This may eventually be a good thing for them and perhaps an added advantage they need to grab some more market share from EA/Microsoft. SEGA has also been making some cuts with at least 30 employees being laid off - I know it doesn't seem like many; however, SEGA is pretty small nowadays. Eidios, another star of the past has also let lots of its staff go including closing their Rockpool Games Studio in Manchester (employing about 14 people). This is just as of January 25th, 2009 - the recession is far from over.
What does this mean for games, gamers and game developers? Will we see less games altogether? Maybe we will see less bad games, and more quality games (ya right, but it could happen?), or maybe we will just see more bad games because of all the cuts the quality assurance and testing departments. It could go a couple ways - but with the way things are going, it doesn't look good. This is also just the beginning to decline in the video game industry during this recession. A couple months ago I remember hearing that the gaming industry was kind of invincible, and they had nothing to worry about; however, the industry isn't looking so bulletproof anymore. More and more reports come in during the weeks about more job losses. It's looking pretty grim.
I remember a time in gaming when there was tons of these independent, or overall less commercial (or less mainstream) game developers out there. Then came a long Electronic Arts, well they didn't really come a long, they have been around since the early 80's and have been constantly gaining steam ever since. A long their progression it seems like their main focus was just buying everybody out to succeed. They have a huge history of acquiring who ever they want more or less. Here's an unordered list of their aquired companies: BioWare (2008), Maxis (1997), Origin (1992, now defunct), Westwood Studios (1998, now defunct), Black Box (2002, now EA Canada), Criterion Games (2004), Digital Illusions CE (2004), Bullfrog Productions (1995, now defunct), Pandemic Studios (2008), Kesmai (1999), Phenomic Game Development (2006, now EA Phenomic), Mythic Entertainment (2006, now EA Mythic), Tiburon Entertainment (1998, now EA Tiburon). Notice a couple names there? EA has mentioned cuts to at least three of those divisions that they now own. So what are we going to see? EA is going to keep cutting out from their divisions that they acquired.
What are all these job-less video game developers, designers and artists going to do? Probably either start up their own indie companies or join some of the ones that already exist. So what are we going to see in a few years time when the global economy has finally balances itself out is EA is going to be buying back all the staff they let go. Probably not the actual "people/persons" that they laid off, but the companies that they proliferated through laying people off. It's kind of an ironic circle for EA... and not very cost effective.