The scale of the past year of videogame layoffs is a hard thing to wrap your head around. We're confronted with more big numbers almost every week: the latest "regrettable" cuts made by this or that gaming company in the name of staying "agile and competitive." The announcements blur together and the numbers become talking points, but within each statistic are scores of intimate miniature apocalypses: someone's livelihood, maybe their dream job or first break in this competitive industry, dashed against the wall.
The causes of this recent industry contraction include studio consolidation, tightened margins after an early Covid-era boom, and good old fashioned corporate greed. Today, we're just focusing on the personal impact: a snapshot of the industry crisis from January 2023 through January '24 with testimonies from some of the people who lost their jobs.
Each individual dot on the graphic above represents one person laid off at some point in the last 13 months. In addition to PC Gamer's own reporting, Gamesindustry.biz, Wrapped.games, and the public Games Industry Layoffs tracker hosted on Obsidian Publishing were essential resources in compiling the big picture.
Our own estimated total for 2023's layoffs was 11,250 people (the Obsidian tracker posits at least 10,500), while in 2024 we had already reached nearly 6,000 layoffs (5,900 on the public list) by the end of January. More layoffs have been reported in the early days of February, including an unknown number at Visual Concepts Austin, which Take-Two acquired in 2021.
As many observers have pointed out, the industry is already halfway to 2023's total layoffs just one month into 2024. 2023 was higher than 2022's estimated 8,500 total layoffs, and the wider tech downturn that these games layoffs spun off from was already underway by the end of that year.
One question we keep coming back to at PCG is how aberrant these layoffs are in games history, with the possibility that a combination of social media attention and increased scrutiny of industry labor practices has brought an issue that's always been this bad more to the forefront. While we don't have a statistical answer to that question, I was struck by former HakJak sound designer and industry veteran Michelle Hebert's testimony on the matter. Despite this being the fourth time she's been laid off in 15 years, Hebert has found the recent situation far grimmer than in the past.
"Before there were plenty of places to land and studios would respond to swoop up talent," she said. "This time, they're not there because everyone is drowning it feels."
On the other end of the spectrum, this is the first time former Blizzard senior environment artist Molly Warner has been laid off in her 10 years in the industry, but she understandably says that "one is enough."
With thousands of developers now looking for work, new roles are difficult to come by. But there are also resources dedicated to help game developers find new jobs. On LinkedIn, Amir Satvat organizes volunteer mentorship and CV reviews in addition to constantly updating lists of laid off developers and job opportunities. Cristina Amaya runs a Slack server for job-seeking devs. There's also a UK games industry Slack group to turn to.
Below we've included a number of responses from developers who were willing to share their stories with PC Gamer. All of them have been affected by layoffs in the last 12 months. They represent just 0.05% of the total impact.