Game developers are feeling the effects of pandemic layoffs

INGLEWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 03: Signage is seen at The Ultimate Fan Experience, Call Of Duty XP 2016, presented by Activision, at The Forum on September 3, 2016 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Activision)
INGLEWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 03: Signage is seen at The Ultimate Fan Experience, Call Of Duty XP 2016, presented by Activision, at The Forum on September 3, 2016 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Activision) /

The gaming industry has had an interesting year. With lockdowns turning people to play video games more than ever, you’d expect business to be booming, right? Unfortunately, not everything is going smoothly in the industry. The pandemic has brought numerous layoffs since March 2020 which affects how game developers produce and release content.

Layoffs leave people without jobs and those who keep their jobs suddenly have a lot more work on their plates. They must quickly adapt to their new responsibilities on top of the stress of the pandemic. For game developers, this added workload could push back release dates for some games.

Publishers have already delayed several games this year. On Twitter, developers announced the delays of the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time remake as well as the new title Riders Republic. These are just a few of many delays within the industry due to pandemic stress and time constraints. Layoffs add even more pressure.

These layoffs aren’t exclusive to the beginning of the pandemic either. In 2019, Activision began to lay off their employees. This past March, Activision let go of anywhere from 50 to 190 employees who worked at the company and at branches of the company. Big Huge Games laid off 32 employees this past January as well.

As layoffs continue, developers may continue to feel stressed as they strive to accomplish their new tasks on time. Balancing personal lives and mental health then becomes a difficult act.

Remote work also adds collaboration difficulties. Video game development is a hands-on job, which can be hard to do when people must remain apart throughout the pandemic. With this distance, too, developers have to watch out for cybersecurity threats. Since people are more reliant on technology than ever, digital threats increased significantly in the past year.

With all these challenges, what happens now?

A Challenging Time for Gaming

These countless challenges for gaming developers come at a time when more consumers are playing games than ever before. In 2020, 79% of consumers played video games to some degree, which is up from 2019. Time spent playing video games also increased.

With the layoffs though, not all companies can keep up with the demand. Recently, Google announced plans to shut down Stadia Games Studio. After the platform failed to accomplish what the big tech company promised — an innovative shift to cloud gaming — Stadia struggled throughout the pandemic. Ultimately, the platform couldn’t compete in such a competitive industry.

The effects of Stadia’s collapse and the layoffs of countless other developers are widespread. The parent company fails to make a dent in the industry and employees see the added pressure quickly. What happens to the employees that get laid off, though?

Some have to try to find other jobs, which is no doubt a hassle as the U.S. comes down from record-high unemployment rates. Immigrant developers may find themselves in uniquely complicated situations if they get laid off. Every year, the U.S. allocates thousands of H-1B visas and H-1B1 visas for specialty occupations. If an immigrant loses their job and these work visas, they may risk deportation.

It’s clear that layoffs affect every aspect of the industry — from the laid-off individuals to the employees who still have their jobs to the companies themselves. Delays are likely to be common throughout this year as the industry tries to restabilize itself.

Still, some bigger companies are seeing success. For instance, Nintendo recently had one of its best selling periods for the Switch ever. If anything, this growing consumer interest and investment in video games will help support developers through this difficult time.

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Moving Forward

You’ll see some video game delays coming as a result of layoffs and the combined pandemic slow-downs. It’s likely that some developers are holding back on official announcements and release dates, too, in case they need to delay them in the coming months.

There’s building pressure for developers to take on more responsibilities and produce content throughout all of the added stress from the pandemic. From here, it’s important for video game companies to account for their losses and slow production to create better content that’s not rushed. That dynamic will hopefully alleviate some of the pressure on developers.

Are any of your favorite games now facing delays?