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More than 1,000 jobs lost to studio closures over the past year

Plus more affected by layoffs at Big Fish Games, Harmonix, Hangar 13, Volition and more

A series of high-profile closure over the past 12 months have taken their toll on the industry's workforce, with more than 1,000 developers losing their jobs.

In the wake of mass redundancies and the near-closure of Telltale Games, PC Gamer has compiled a list of the studios that have been forced to close since September 2017, including (if known) the number of people rendered unemployed by each. It makes for harrowing reading.

Telltale, of course, has not quite been closed but reduced to a team of just 25 people as they wrap up the studio's final project. But with at least 250 people dismissed, the company is a shell of what it once was.

The year kicked off with Electronic Arts' decision to close Dead Space developer Visceral Games back in October, with PC Gamer reporting at least 80 employees affected.

Similar to Telltale, Gigantic developer Motiga saw significant layoffs - reportedly around 70 people - in November, leaving a small core team maintaining the game. However, in February it was announced the game would be shut down during the summer.

Motiga's closure came at the hands of its publisher Perfect World, which also shut down Seattle-based Torchlight developer Runic Games in November.

Shortly after, CCP announced it was exiting the VR business, leading to the closure of its Atlanta studio, a reduction of its Shanghai studio and "the elimination of a number of positions worldwide."

At the end of November, Marvel Heroes developer Gazillion Entertainment was forced to close down, making approximately 200 employees jobless. This was due to Marvel ending its partnership with the studio.

February ended with the closure of The Bartlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency, David Jaffe's lengthily-named studio responsible for Drawn to Death. This came a month after the firm laid off the "vast majority" of its staff.

In May, Cliff Bleszinski's studio Boss Key Productions was forced to shut down, less than a year after releasing its debut title LawBreakers. At peak, the developer had 60 employees.

A further 150 people were lost later that month when Wargaming closed its Seattle studio, formerly known as Gas Powered Games.

Earlier this month, MMO developer Carbine Studios closed after more than a decade, with its final title WildStar due to go offline in November.

Finally, it was revealed last week Capcom Vancouver was closing down. The Dead Rising studio had 158 employees, having laid off around 50 back in February.

All in all, it totals at more than 1,000 - considerably more given the number of studios that did not disclose the final headcount before they shut down. And these are just from studio closures.

Additional layoffs have been suffered at The Chinese Room, Volition (more than 30 staff), Harmonix (14 employees), Wooga (approximately 30), Nexon America, Failbetter Games, Hangar 13, Robot Entertainment (30 staff), Jam City, Twitch, Codemasters Evo, Sekai Project, and most recently Big Fish Games (15% of its workforce).

While studio closures and layoffs are sadly a reality of the games industry, it seems to have been a particularly harsh 12 months. Fortunately, the industry often rallies around those affected by redundancies - most recently demonstrated by the #TelltaleJobs hashtag currently doing the rounds on social media.

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Latest comments (4)

How many people working on game developer and publisher companies in the world? That would be an interesting story to read. It seems that this kind of estimate isn't easily to be found. The number of game developers in the world would give some reference to lay-off numbers as well.

EGDF ( The European Games Developer Federation) is saying to represent over 40,000 employees in Europe, but this figure doesn't cover Eastern Europe, for instance. Apparently this number is on the low side according to Dean Takahashi's article titled "Where in the world are the game jobs?" as even in Germany alone there are 30,000 game developers, although this sounds like a really high number to me.

ESA in the US says "There are an estimated 65,678 direct employees in America’s video game industry." This figure includes people working on publishers as well, so developers is estimated to employ 56,5% of those people (roughly 37,000). Of course, a big portion of publisher's employees are related to game development as well.

Canada has an additional 20,000 or so game jobs.

No idea how many game developers there are in Asia and RoW, but maybe we are in the ballpark of 200,000-250,000 developers in the world? Any comments and insights from anyone?
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James Batchelor UK Editor, GamesIndustry.biz3 years ago
@Ilari Kuittinen: It's a fair point, and some sort of industry census would certainly make for lighter reading. This story was more to illustrate the impact of the many studio closures over the past year.
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As always, news about downsizing and layoffs are more dramatic than hiring people one by one. I have been wondering how much game development capacity actually has grown over the years. and how on earth we as an industry are on boarding more people in to the industry.

There are many successful online titles that need teams to support them and develop the game further. (Another interesting topic, how many people are working on top 100 online games). Also many games are demanding more work and bigger teams. Outsourcing and co-development services have expanded tremendously during the past decade, which is taking some pressure off from recruiting.

Even at Housemarque we are working on a biggest game we've done. Although it is a relatively small new AAA IP compared to thousand plus people teams on some games, we have added more than 20 people to our company this side of the year and looking for more great people to join the ride.
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James Batchelor UK Editor, GamesIndustry.biz3 years ago
@Ilari Kuittinen: All very interesting definitely, and I'll do my best to look into some of this. As you say, it's much harder to keep track of the jobs and studios created than it is those that are lost. I once tried to get a definitive number for the amount of studios that opened doors within one year (just in the UK) but it proved to be impossible, because there's no telling how many indie and student firms are being set up. Plus, larger companies tend to be a little guarded about their exact headcounts (although I've never been sure why!)
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