ActivationBlizzard made record profits for the fiscal year 2018 and then promptly laid off 8% of their global workforce. 775 people, lost their jobs not because a company was in a dire financial situation, not because they were closing down a line of the business, but because they didn’t see the value of keeping them around and this is a path forward to making more money.
Some business, like landscapers, have a cycle, they staff up for the summer and draw down for the winter, this is natural. One could argue that game development has an ebb and flow as well even though it should be handled way better. The smart landscaping business diversify in the winter, providing other services to keep as much of their employees employed as they can.
Layoffs will always occur, but they are the Hail Marry of options, you in a situation where you have way too much staff to support, you’re hemderging money and have to right the ship quick. Mass layoff should NEVER be used for normal operation of a business.
But those people laid off were not working on pushing a game out the door, they were QA, esports, community managers that were working for current, on-going projects like World of Warcraft. These are people who could have provided a benefit for other projects, other initiates but that’s harder and more costly than just laying them off.
People have argued that “They are going to increase their development staff by 20%” to which I would counter “They just laid off the QA who are going to make sure it works, and the community managers whose job it is to keep those developers informed with what YOU want”. It’s assine, you have a train on the tracks and you are firing the people building the track and putting more people in the caboose trying to make it go faster.
I a Line of Business software developer, I have it easy. But I’ve worked with people who have been in the games industry and one of my best childhood friends is in the game industry and the stories are rough. Long hours, low pay and no job security built upon the passion of people who love making games as an art form, not as a means to an end for late-stage capitalism.
None of the above even includes what a layoff does to morale, how it will impact output and the quality of the work. When you grow, you need to grow smart. Hire smart people, pay them well and treat them with respect, don’t do this quickly. Rapid growth will always lead to issues and put your culture at risk. Start small, increase slowly and deliberately. This will prevent you from overhiring. If you need to staff up very quickly for a temporary project use a consulting firm instead of massive direct hires.