The games industry reached new financial heights last year, but the job security of game developers feels as fragile as ever. Some of the people who make the games we love are exposed to sudden layoffs, unethical crunch periods, and a workplace that has no history of unionization like the film industry.
Successful studios, producing games based on some of the most beloved worldwide licences like Marvel, Star Wars, and Batman, have shuttered. In its history, EA has closed nearly a dozen studios that it previously acquired, including Westwood, Maxis, and Black Box Games.
Telltale Games' expected closure adds a tally to the now 10 studios that have closed completely in the last 12 months. 275 Telltale employees were laid off suddenly and without severance last Friday, though 25 remain for the time being to "fulfill the company's obligations to its board and partners," Telltale said in a less-than-encouraging statement about its future.
These are the studios we've lost in the last 12 months. Where known, I've noted the number of people who lost their jobs.
Creator of Gigantic
pic.twitter.com/gQ8ImScBofOctober 17, 2017
Creator of Dead Space, Battlefield Hardline, and an unreleased Star Wars project
At least 80 employees
Creator of The Walking Dead and other episodic series
Creator of LawBreakers and Radical Heights
About 60 employees at peak
Creator of Torchlight and Hob
Creator of Wildstar
Creator of Drawn to Death and a cancelled unannounced project
Wargaming Seattle (formerly Gas Powered Games)
Creator of Supreme Commander, Dungeon Siege
Approximately 150 employees
Unfortunately Capcom Vancouver shuttered today. I’m in a bit of a shock, but if you know of anyone looking for an 18 year experienced game designer send them my way. Spread the word!September 18, 2018
Creator of Dead Rising
Creator of Marvel Heroes
Approximately 200 employees
Although the games industry lacks solid employee organization, there is a growing culture of solidarity between developers around these issues. Many studios have chimed in on social media to make their job listings visible under the hashtag #telltalejobs.
A spreadsheet listing 20 former Telltale employees who are most adversely affected by the layoffs is also circulating on social media, requesting donations. "An unsung victim of Telltale’s sudden closure is Delmis Luna, who has been cleaning the offices for many years," reads one of the ko-fi.com donation pages. "Last week, she lost her primary source of income, and her mother died. It was a really bad week. Any financial assistance, to help keep her children fed and rent paid, while she looks for new work would be very appreciated."