Embracer has had a bad year. What once felt like the inexorable rise of a games industry goliath began to stagger in May, when a six-year, $2 billion mystery deal the company had drawn up collapsed at the last minute. Embracer announced a "comprehensive" restructuring the following June and since then, news about the company has been a grim parade of studio closures and job losses.
Now, in the wake of Embracer's Q2 (that's July to September this year) earnings presentation earlier today, we have a rough idea of how many workers were affected by those layoffs: 900, or about 5% of the almost 17,000-strong workforce Embracer said it had back in June.
Addressing the crowd in the presentation's opening minutes, Embracer CEO Lars Wingefors said that he wanted to "start this conference by saying a personal thank you to the 900 people that left Embracer during the second quarter.
"As you will hear today, we are determined to transform Embracer into a leaner, stronger company," Wingefors continued, "That said, it's painful to me that you need to leave the group… we have been and are doing everything we can to preserve jobs without changing what we need to achieve."
Wingefors then concluded his segment on the layoffs by declaring that, for him personally, "it's crucial that the [restructuring] programme is carried out with compassion, respect, and integrity," before transitioning—a little awkwardly—to talking about Embracer's financials for Q2. "In Q2, we delivered a stable performance and improved cashflow," Wingefors told the crowd, but "the financial benefits of the restructuring programme," that is, those studio closures and lay-offs, are "mainly ahead of us" at this point.
It is, in other words, a bit grim, and opening the call with a thank-you to those employees who have "left," already a rather passive way to describe swingeing layoffs, does little to ameliorate it. To be fair, that's more to do with the nature of earnings calls and how the games industry is run more broadly than anything to do with Wingefors or Embracer in particular, but it's still a bit jarring for civilians like you and me.
After all, Embracer may have had one of the more spectacularly bad years of games companies in 2023, but it's hardly unique. Despite how many excellent games have come out and sold very well indeed in the last 11 months, we've seen a dizzying number of layoffs across the board this year. Humble Games, Frontier, Unity, Ubisoft and others have all announced layoffs in recent memory, and I doubt they'll be the last we see. It's not just Embracer that wants to get "leaner" and "stronger" by hacking away at itself.