- 130 layoffs, Nintendo (Eurogamer, 6/6/14)
- 37 layoffs, Harmonix (Polygon, 5/29/14)
- 20% of staff across development and marketing, Trendy Entertainment (GamesIndustry International, 5/21/14)
- 16 layoffs, Rare (IGN, 5/19/14)
- [undisclosed] layoffs, PopCap (Polygon, 3/13/14)
- 700 layoffs, Disney Interactive (Joystiq, 3/6/14)
- 27 layoffs, Eidos (Joystiq, 3/4/14)
- [undisclosed] layoffs, Sony Santa Monica (Joystiq, 2/27/14)
- 70 layoffs, Irrational Games (Joystiq, 2/18/14)
- 12 layoffs, Eutechnyx (Joystiq, 2/18/14)
- [undisclosed] layoffs, Ghost Games (Joystiq, 2/1/14)
- [undisclosed] layoffs, EA Salt Lake (Joystiq, 1/30/14)
- 3423+ industry layoffs from 1/7/13 - 10/29/13 (GameJobWatch.com)
In a discussion on IGN’s Game Scoop!. the Daemon Hatfield, Greg Miller, Justin Davis, and Brian Altano discussed the Sony Santa Monica layoffs and the ongoing (and seemingly permanent) “ramp up / layoff” structure of AAA studios. During this discussion, the panel made comments around the need for the video game industry to unionize and operate in similar fashion to the film industry:
Daemon Hatfield: “I wonder if the video game industry should be more like the movie industry. You have a crew that works on a movie and when the movie is done, they go on to their next project. They are not full-time employees.”
Greg Miller: “Do you think as far as unionizing?”
DH, Justin Davis, and Brian Altano confirm and agree.
DH: “You have a director that runs a movie, he brings on his crew, they make the game…”
JD: “You assemble a “dream team” for each project. A director has certain DPs and other key positions [and] likes to collaborate with the same people over and over. Presumably all of those people that are one step down also have people they like and they bring their whole crew with them. You get the one guy and then you get his crew.”
GM: “I guess that kind of already happens right?”
BA: “Sort of.”
JD: “It happens a little bit but the issue is that it disrupts people’s insurance and things like that. If there was a union, the equivalent of a SAG card or something, you could just move from project to project. In my opinion (and I haven’t done a tremendous amount of reach on this), but on the surface it seems like something that would be healthy for this business.”
While, many devs may benefit from negotiated salaries, working conditions, hours, and insurance coverage, further research into unions does not seem to offer a terrible amount of protection from layoffs. Nor does it appear that the film industry works this way.
According to Lawyers.com, how a union benefits an employee during a layoff is largely dependent on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). In short, layoffs of union employees are usually handled on a measure of seniority. The source also goes on to mention the benefits of The Worker Adjustment & Retraining Notification Act (WARN):
Generally, WARN requires employers with 100 or more workers to give you 60 days’ advance notice of some closings and “mass layoffs.” A closing can mean the shut-down of a plant or facility. “Mass layoff” has very specific meanings, but basically it means that a substantial number of workers are being laid off for more than six months. -Lawyers.com
Systems such as WARN would appear to be very valuable for developers in the wake of the seemingly immediate purge of Irrational and Sony Santa Monica employees.
There is a looming fear that if the industry continues at this pace, great artists, programmers, engineers, writers, and the like will be swayed away from from the games industry, potentially diminishing the quality of games released. There is no doubt in my mind that the allure of working on a video game will continue to attract skilled creatives; however, lengthy tenure is sure to wane.
Some will argue that AAA isn’t for everyone and indie development is on the rise. While I agree, many of the skills possessed by indie devs were likely gained from experience at larger studios.
I have never been a developer, part of union, or involved in the film industry. I would appreciate any and all correction of the above information from those with experience.
Should video game developers unionize? Does the film industry actually work in this manner? Does a union offer more protection from layoffs than mentioned above? What is your solution to the state of video game development? Are things fine the way they are?