I know a lot of people here don't think there should be unions in software, but I think the game industry is a special case. There's enough starry eyed people that love the idea of working on games enough that they are willing to put up with total abuse and just about no one who cares about raising a family can seriously stay in that industry.
I myself spent a few years in it, and even though I love making games, it's just a serious hobby for me because I can't put up with the expected constant crunch, low salaries, and layoffs after every finished project.
Now, people who question the need for unions in dev, I understand where they're coming from.
Software development is rather unusual in its lack of unionization, and IMO, that's because no-one has properly figured out how to commoditise our labour yet. We're the modern equivalent of medieval guilds of craftsmen - we get paid far above the median precisely because we can't yet be commoditized or automated.
IOW The lack of a need for unionization in developers shows how lucky we are.
Game development however is a whole different ball game. The problem with game development is that there's a TON of people that would love to do it (because they love games), which makes for an easily exploitable labor force. Don't want to work 80 hours / week? Fine, everyone else does, and there's ten others that would love your job.
Of course, this is about the US which is also lacking in basic employee protection laws. The US is teeming with active cases of slavery (prison workers, unpaid overtime, sub-minimum wage payment to be stipended with tips, easy to fire people at very short notice without any compensation, etc), and no unions are around anymore to stand up for it - because companies can afford to fire anyone trying to, and there's plenty of desperate people to fill in the ranks. Free market.
The things that I believe in: minimum wage, overtime pay for anyone below a director-level salary, healthcare benefits if working more than X hours per week, are all accomplishable legislatively, as have been done in Europe. Doing so has the added benefit helping every industry at once, not just the ones organized enough to unionize.
There are also things I DON'T want: Unions fighting for job security of the lowest performers, making it nearly impossible to fire for incompetence or conduct layoff when the business struggling. I believe employment should compensate fairly...but fundamentally at-will. I'm also not a fan of the element of coercion in American unions--that if sufficient people unionize in your company, your employer will become union exclusive and you MUST join the union or leave your job.
... which is why good developers are so against unions.
The power balance is so skewed in the direction of the employee in the software industry that it would be insane to throw that away and form unions. The industry would be happy to pay us all 70k a year with 3% raises based on seniority, and sure, maybe the bottom third of the talent pool would benefit from that.
But the rest of us would see tens of millions of dollars chopped off of our expected lifetime income.
Talk about an inflated sense of ego there. Do you not consider the fact that people make less may have nothing to do with where they stand in the talent pool? You're suggesting there's some sort of logical relationship between income and talent. Does it? Are you sure it's not your own cognitive bias at work?
Scared that your own workers will unionize? I hate to break it to you, but your workers deserve the right to collectively bargain with you for what they consider to be fair. They are people and they deserve to be treated like humans, not your own expendable labor force.
> But the rest of us would see tens of millions of dollars chopped off of our expected lifetime income.
Who's the "rest of us"? You're arguing that we should all not organize because a handful of people might get rich. I hate to break it to you, but that dog-eat-dog mentality isn't helpful for workers or humanity. We're all in this together, it's not just jasonkester's world you live in. We're all humans living together, not just a salary attached to hands with programming ability.
Yes, there is. If you have the talent then in the current landscape you can work for about anyone you want and demand about anything you want. Talent is in _extreme_ demand in the software world right now.
In the US, we live in a mostly capitalistic society and have a mostly free market. If talent was not tied to salary then companies would hire cheaper engineers rather than paying the current high rates. They don't because, in general, better engineers cost more money. Better here means they provide more value to the company which may involve them having better people skills. Doesn't apply to everyone but there is a decent correlation or else someone would be exploiting the opportunity shamelessly.
edit: In fact, if you believe what you say then you should be able to create a great employee owned consulting business by taking advantage of the disparity between talent and salary.
The other two thirds of the labor force. None of those people should be settling for a low wage in today's market.
I really don't think this is nearly as true today as it was say, 20 years ago. Anecdotal evidence, sure - but my experience is that developers are crying out for unionisation, but have a bunch of rock-star crap in their heads which tells them that they're somehow going to release a groundbreaking new game or app that changes their lives completely, rather than acknowledging the more likely reality that they'll be constantly getting screwed by an industry that will automate their job away as soon as it becomes even vaguely possible.
Everybody says that about highly skilled work. Humans excel at making skilled jobs obsolete. You don't need a perfect replacement for human skill / creativity. You just need an acceptable basic replacement to which you can attach bells, whistles, and marketing. Nobody is going to hire a rock-star when a session musician will still fill your bar - and you don't hire a session musician if a jukebox satisfies your customers enough to keep buying pints.
> What easily definable parts are there in SWE?
Most software developers are not software engineers. Most software is not a feat of engineering.
> From my point of view, the only reason USA tech industry is so much better than EU tech industry is because US companies realized the success of a company is strongly linked to its product's quality which can only be made by hiring better, more educated and more experienced engineers.
If your argument is that EU developers are dumber and less experienced than their US counterparts, then it's not much of an argument.
> Going back and trying to reduce engineering cost is backwards and no one will be able to survive like that in this competitive industry.
The problem is you're viewing 'software development' as the industry. But that's not how the rest of the world sees or interacts with it. Developers are not interchangeable. Software products are not interchangeable. Within each industry, jobs and processes which can be automated, will be. Most software developers do not work in the games industry. They are not creating new products. They aren't being creative (or at least, not particularly creative). The skills required to implement most software are generally already a few years behind where the technology actually is.
No the point is that EU engineers are paid peanuts compared to what they could be paid in the US, and this is not an accident, this is a product of European way of organizing companies that favors paying management and not engineers. In Germany et al employing a worker is seen as a favor to this worker whereas in US it's the other way around. In US good companies realize if you employ a good engineer things will just work out, so they make sure they don't underpay their senior engineer, they make sure they're happy and they can be productive, and they see it a great opportunity to be able to work with this great engineer. There is no argument whether American software/hardware industry is doing better than EU software/hardware industry. I mean look at the numbers, EU is not even in the race. I worked in both EU and US as both software and hardware engineer, and in EU companies cannot give 2 shit about their key engineers when in US, some companies are even smart enough to spend a lot of resources keeping their junior engineers happy (benefits, bonus, more fun problems etc) and the difference is day and night.
> The problem is you're viewing 'software development' as the industry. But that's not how the rest of the world sees or interacts with it. Developers are not interchangeable. Software products are not interchangeable. Within each industry, jobs and processes which can be automated, will be. Most software developers do not work in the games industry. They are not creating new products. They aren't being creative (or at least, not particularly creative). The skills required to implement most software are generally already a few years behind where the technology actually is.
This really doesn't mean anything. Technology doesn't have to be cutting-edge and not being cutting-edge does not imply that it can be automated. You can automate a given task two ways: hire bunch of very cheap people from 3rd world countries to do a similar task, or build a machine that can do a similar task. My point is none of these will ever solve the problems American SWEs are trying to solve. You cannot build an Uber this way. You cannot make rockets go to sky this way. You cannot write Airbus's OS this way. You cannot do these and retain the same, competitive quality required in this industry. You cannot do that unless you spend a lot of resources for R&D how to automate programming.
But again, this is only true because of the delusional rock-star fantasy which grips the tech industry. The vast, vast majority of software developers are not rock-stars. They are seen as disposable - precisely because they are - which is why mass layoffs can continue to happen as a predictable part of a development lifecycle.
You are approaching this discussion as though the key factor is the pay of a company's top employees - but those people are a tiny, tiny fraction of the people employed in the software development industry.
> There is no argument whether American software/hardware industry is doing better than EU software/hardware industry
Yes, but what people are (rightly, and increasingly) concerned about is how well the employees of those industries are doing. The fact that US tech makes more money than EU tech is largely irrelevant to the discussion of whether and how those employees should unionise (they should).
> My point is none of these will ever solve the problems American SWEs are trying to solve. You cannot build an Uber this way. You cannot make rockets go to sky this way. You cannot write Airbus's OS this way. You cannot do these and retain the same, competitive quality required in this industry. You cannot do that unless you spend a lot of resources for R&D how to automate programming.
Yes, but again - most developers do not work on these problems. Most developers aren't building an Uber. They're not building rockets. They're not writing Airbus OS'. And in each of those areas - what can be automated will be.
> No C programmer ever got fired because GCC suddenly became too good at optimizing C and "their job was automated".
Plenty of developers have been fired because management decided that throwing faster hardware at slow software was more cost effective than paying slow humans to make slow software work on slow hardware. Optimisation of code wasn't really what I was thinking of in terms of 'automation'. Rather, what I was arguing is that machines, given a (relatively) well defined problem, will be able to implement a solution that is cost effective enough to be cheaper than hiring developers.
This is still irrelevant because even juniors in US are paid more than seniors in EU. You don't have to be a rock start to have 6 figure salary in US. My college grad class had median $105k salary straight outta college. Sure seniors will be paid $300k and will have orders of magnitude more job security, but junior engineers are still doing pretty well.
> Yes, but what people are (rightly, and increasingly) concerned about is how well the employees of those industries are doing. The fact that US tech makes more money than EU tech is largely irrelevant to the discussion of whether and how those employees should unionise (they should).
No it is not irrelevant, my entire point is the better you pay your engineers, the better product you'll have so the more money you'll make. If Blizzard fires their engineers cause they felt like it, this is their problem. I don't think I would say employees should unionize -- I don't believe in moral arguments -- but I have nothing against unions. My point is that the framework around this discussion is way off; it's irrelevant whether your engineers are unionized or not, if you want to make tons of money in US tech industry you simply cannot do anything other than paying your engineers well and making them happy.
Many sectors & industries will undergo some degree of automation, either total or partial. Included in that is the work done by software developers.
Your initial suggestion was that you couldn't automate software engineering jobs (a straw-man). Now you're arguing that the US tech industry is better because it makes more and pays more than its EU counterpart. This is irrelevant to the discussion about whether software developers should unionise. Joining a union is about more than securing good pay.
Or I'm missing some important point here?
I'd say unions are definitely for everyone else - and especially for people in the Video Games industry.
As the other poster mentioned, it’s bi-modal.
Isn't it a part of the reason why Google (Amazon, Netflix, Apple) has emerged in the US and not in the rest of the world?
I personally suspect that it's more due to a larger/richer base of potential clients/consumers.
A highly competitive process to get my foot in the door for a pay cut? No thanks.
I imagine you will see similar numbers for Amazon, when you look at their reinvestment numbers. Sounds good, but still when someone uses your production to expand their business, it's still your work, and that number is a tax on your work.
I don't doubt we'll see similar very large numbers at Google.
Our unwillingness to unionize allows them to run away with so much of our valuable work it's insane. There isn't a single engineer at Apple that should be making less than $350-400k. They might, if they had a union.
Engineers working for Apple are not much smarter than those at Microsoft. But Windows Phone is dead, while IOS is alive.
Traders in Bear Sterns were much worse than traders in JPMorgan, but the former collapsed, while the latter stayed.
Sun engineers are probably much more bright than those in Oracle, but it's Oracle who bought the Sun, not the other way round.
As much as I hate to admit that, the management makes a lot of difference and a good manager is worth his weight in gold literally.
They are an essential component of Apple's success. All of their workers are. Sure, some are worth more than others, but my point is that $400k in profit per employee is a tax against their work, and that it should be more equitable for the workers that make the things happen that the oh so valuable managers request.
We need to bring productive work back to the forefront. It is just as valuable as management/adminstrative work, probably more so. I think that the best way to bring market forces back to normalcy in regards to productive activity is by unionization or aggressive tax policy.
What's about electricity? Should Apple be charged more per kWh using the same logic?
You, on the other hand, absolutely can negotiate directly with Apple to receive a $400k total comp package. They hire thousands of engineers a year in that range.
Maybe for the folks at the very top, the Rockstars of yore. Bloomberg ran this yesterday.
At least in Germany, there are quite a few EU local body shops pushing the power balance in employers' favor.
My point was that employers' ability to pull in lots of short term employees weakens their negotiating power. At least in Germany.
Why do you assume that's what is going to happen alongside unionization?
You neatly showcased a knee-jerk anti-worker response. I hope your coworkers know how you'd gladly sell them out so that you can increase your salary.
Look, bud, you're fighting against your own interest and you don't even know it. I really hope you find some empathy for people who are less "equal" than you.
One route towards that might be people int he games industry here joining say the BCS en-masse and pushing it in that direction. I'm not even sure the BCS, on the whole anyway, would resist such a move.
Meanwhile a lot of startups do compensate employees with stock and options though, under conventional company structures. That's overall a small segment of the industry, but it is an option. A lot of programmers work for conventional businesses in traditional domains though, where radical corporate structures are just pie in the sky.
I do empathise; the BMA are stuck between a rock and a hard place, in that their members want better work conditions, pay rises that actually match inflation (shock horror), but the government just say no.
The difference between the other unions and the BMA, though, is the BMA go back to their members and say "the government said no, sorry", whilst the others say "so be it", and the strikes commence.
I'm not quite sure how I'd improve the situation if I was a BMA representative; it's complex. However, there is literally no reason currently to pay the membership fee.
That's the sort of angle I'd go for. Organise coding camps and conferences, provide guidance on professional development, establish an online library, promote certifications. Make it a useful resource, not just a campaigning outfit. To get traction it needs to have a credible claim to provide value to employers as well as employees.
If an employer does respect their employees, values them and wants to attract valuable talent, they should see this organisation's activities as complementing their own goals more than they clash with them. That's the sweet spot to aim for. It is a tricky thing to pull off though.
Former BCS member.
Automation is here and has been for quite some time. The skill required to produce assets and code for games has fallen through the floor thanks to good tools that do much of the heavy lifting.
Games was never lucrative for the lowely employees, and it's certainly not going to be in the future.
That's a good question. It may have something to do with the solitary nature of the work encouraging an individualistic attitude and a predilection for mechanistic ideologies (like those focused market economics, any of which have strong anti-union streak). Startup success stories may also prime developers to think of themselves as future business owners rather than as life-long workers.
plus there are many positions in this layoff that may never have qualified for participation in any union. unionization won't fix the game industry
I know plenty of people that are making 6 figure salaries and simply can not relate to the plight of the average employee.
The problem is that large segments of the workforce have a relatively short shelf-life.
Also a game dev union would probably work more like the film and TV trade/technical unions than SAG. I know people who work in film doing things from lighting to sound to driving. Their working conditions and pay are much better than they would be without the unions.
I wouldn't mind seeing broader unionization in the video game industry - it already exists in some European countries - but I don't see it as a panacea to the issues often associated with it. Collective bargaining wouldn't have prevented a company like Activision Blizzard from making a strategic decision to move in a different direction, a direction that necessitates staff restructuring. Potentially, it could improve severance agreements, work rules, or entry-level pay, all laudable goals, but much of that is orthogonal to what is happening here.
Outsourcing isn't a hypothetical. Naughty Dog started outsourcing art asset production to Asia with Uncharted 3. Music recording has been outsourced for at least a decade. Sure, the company hires experienced people (like art directors and composers) in house but the heavy lifting is done offshore.
Business people form conglomerates together whenever it makes strategic sense. How this became so stigmatized an action for business people selling their own labor makes no sense at all.
This is true, but those are gig jobs, not full-time jobs. A show might last 8-12 weeks. The crew need the union just to carry over health care and retirement benefits, and it's less about higher pay.
In games, the art department might need these kinds of unions, since many of those people are hired on contracts for a game. (Though a lot of art creation has gone overseas already.)
I don't really see a union being necessary for engineers or game designers for now, for the same reasons it's not needed at tech companies (engineers are hard to hire/retain).
These aren't rhetorical questions trying to make a point, I'm genuinely curious.
I'm not sure why one should need to leave the industry one wants to work in before one is afforded a job that doesn't guide one directly towards burnout within 5 years.
And even if these people leave, there's plenty of young blood who'll gladly work in these conditions because they want to make video games, so nothing changes.
The issue of skill transferance is that nobody is forcing them to work in such companies; it means they can leave and try to find another job.
If it's so bad that many people are being forced out, then clearly it meets the bar of unionization being helpful. I'd rather start organizing than quit the industry I love, as the worst that could happen is I get fired (and potentially get a big payout on a subsequent lawsuit), and if it's so bad that the alternative is to leave anyway, it's the same result.
Including stuff like this will get your account banned. Just please leave it out and comment civilly and substantively.
I come to HN to have insightful and interesting discussions with people. Nothing about this part of his comment, nor the tone of the rest of it, is productive, helpful, necessary, respectful or civil.
Plenty of starry-eyed people enter academia. There isn't quite the same unionization gateway into academic jobs, but mostly just markers of effective work - papers, grants, etc
Like games, animation is an industry full of eager kids with stars in their eyes.
Fully agree the ideal is where you have both. Germany seems to have good models where unions improve the efficiency of companies in giving a point of contact for negotiations, and helping the company succeed - winning together.
Railway Signalers are unionised. After a series of incidents the recommendation was that all signaller's maximum shift length be restricted to 8 hours to avoid fatigue. Same as air traffic control. Unions should be on board with that right?
Nope. Signallers liked 12 hour shifts. 3 working days is 36 hours and that's your whole week. Nobody was going to pay them the same wages for 24 hours work, so they'd be putting in an extra day and a half per week to make it up.
So the UK rail unions fought this safety change. That's what to expect from unions. Good for individual employees, bad for society as a whole.
Unions are a required counter-balance to the forces of business who employ people. If either end dominates, things go sour very quickly. It's the state and government that should maintain this power balance between these out so that neither party is in the position to dictate decisions to overrule the other party.
That is for the benefit of the society.
At which point everybody loses except the rentier class.
When a publisher is separate from the developer, the publisher is also mostly responsible for funding the game development.
Publisher: marketing, distribution, payment processing, support, ...
Developer = programmers, designers, artists, sound guys, ...
Publisher = marketing, finance, accounting, advertising, guy-who-says-you-must-have-microtransactions, ...
I hope that smaller publishers, like Devolver, fill that niche.
And then there's the publishing costs, just as crazy.
There's two answers to this depending on what you mean by "develop a game".
1. This is the "let's make a game like X, but better" category. If you're talking about developing a game that companies like current day Blizzard do, then the answer is probably yes. These are games that aren't trying to do something new or necessarily even focus on the fun aspect. They are more about making a game of a specific type that has already existed before, but they're just trying to do it better. Usually they don't even try to do it better in terms of how fun it is, but rather how impressive and amazing it is to the player. This is where the push for graphics and all those things comes from. This can require a large amount of investment if you're trying to create a game in a popular genre. These are also the types of games that players usually dream up when they think about their "dream game" (a mash up of other types of games).
2. If you're talking about developing a game that is fun and new, that could seem like a new genre, then I think the answer is no, but with an asterisk. We don't understand game design well enough to be able to argue that something is or is not fun without trying and testing it. We can guess, but sometimes even rather boring activities become fun in a game if done well. We can reason about it after the fact, but we can't sit down with a blank piece of paper, come up with a game design and say "this is going to be fun!" without it falling into category #1. This means that there's plenty of room for people to explore, but it also means that we can't guarantee success. As a result this might require a lot of iteration.
>Has any game been developed via Kickstarter?
Yes. Pillars of Eternity, Pillars of Eternity II, FTL, Elite: Dangerous, Factorio, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Divinity: Original Sin, Divinity: Original Sin 2 and many more. Oh, and I guess there's also Star Citizen.
Back to the quote; unions also prevent companies from squeezing existing workers too much, forcing them to hire more people. That quote assumes the only thing unions do is force wages unreasonably high. Whether a company hires more people has more to do with demand (or investment in future potential demand) than income.
"The way to improve conditions for workers in general...is to raise worker productivity." The reason people would want some sort of collective bargaining is that they feel increases in worker productivity go disproportionately to the business owner instead of the worker because of the power differential. I'm not saying unions are the perfect answer, but every anti-union thing I read hand-waves this away as not existing or not needing to be addressed.
"In the best-case scenario, unions engineer a transfer from consumers and relatively immobile employers to themselves, with considerable deadweight cost in the process." To me this sounds like rent-seeking. I think it's disingenuous to say this is "in the best-case scenario," it's not a great outcome anywhere it happens, but unions aren't the worst offenders, by far.
They are a libertarian think-tank.
As a former server-side game dev I was always supportive of my co-worker's rights (QA & Art in particular have a _terrible_ time) and I think this is where pressure to unionize is likely to originate.
Back when I was actually interested in entering the industry none of the companies I found would even talk to devs without games industry experience, generally major shipped titles, too. That could be part of their problem.
I would have thought it was the opposite, and to produce a AAA title you'd need the very talented people - the experts - and they have more leverage to negotiate.
In many cases, unions increase the value of labor by constricting the supply of labor. Unions can often be difficult to join. If there is a overabundance of labor, then the union has little negotiating power.
Sure, fight for better conditions. But you need to keep that drive, too, somehow.
Not talking about the gaming industry specifically here, but IT more broadly. Only datacenter employees and government workers have unions, where I live. It's not pretty to work with them.
Edit: this is a response primarily to the below comments about top and low salary tier distribution and equalization of pay for the bottom half (or whatever large distribution) via union negotiations for everyone.
But gaming is definitely unique and there should be a union.
I'm generally against such kinds of intervention, and many unions can be a problem, but there are definitely situations wherein they make sense - here for one. Also - fast food and retail workers (looking at you Wallmart).
Have we tried simpler solutions, like raising awareness about the widespread abuse? Unionisation is opposed for a reason - it's a very blunt tool which introduces all sorts of dysfunctional dynamics and this ends up screwing the ordinary folks even harder.
And the easy (but unsatisfying) answer is: every local is different.
So, what must one know to join a "programmers' union"? Or what can a company expect from a "unionized programmer"?
Scoring's changed, you can simulate a whole orchestra right there in your laptop long before committing to hiring an actual one. Or you can do any of the many things that has changed music since samplers started becoming affordable in the eighties. Also editing's easier.
Acting's changed, what used to always involve getting together in the same place with everyone else in a scene can now just involve hanging out on a green screen stage, pretending that a crude puppet standin is the other person in the scene. Or you might be wearing a motion capture rig that'll be used as the basis for a photoreal animated character who'll end up being composited into the shot over you.
Animation's changed, now you're as much a technician as an artist, you may be expected to pick up a new software package for a new production. Personally I left the animation industry in part because it looked like all my future gigs were likely to be on a software package I kinda loathed.
Directing's changed, you need to be aware of all these possibilites, maybe you decide to not use most of them, but if you do, you get to talk with the people who know them in more detail and figure out how to use all this power.
Big movies are now waterfall projects - everything is preplanned. As one ILM guy said, a Star Wars movie is three years of preproduction, three months of principal photography, and three years of postproduction. Movie directors now are more like animation directors - they storyboard, they plan, they previsualize, they have a full previz version created, and only then do they get the green light for full production.
Upper management gets to see all this work, so there's more interference from above.
The same thing they already expect from a non-unionized programmer? Why would anyone expect anything different?
Should a hospital expect something different from a "unionized Nurse" instead of a "non-unionized Nurse?"
While nursing certainly chanes over time and is a difficult job, a good nurse from a decade ago could likely get up to speed within a week or so.
Given the pace of change in coding, I don’t think ai could say the same for a decade younger version of myself.
Also, I contend a good programmer who's been out for 10 years still has the ability to be a good programmer. Sure, they're not going to know whatever language/framework is popular this week, and they'll probably be slower to pick up a new one than somebody who's up to date, but I contend they'll be productive in less than a month.
Honest question: how many of them are used in game development? My limited understanding is that the majority of games still use more traditional languages like C++ and Java.
I would love to see a unionized AWS -the whole org., from top to bottom. Then see if MS or Goog would approve,
And the c++ of a decade ago is quite different from today.
Sounds pretty reasonable to me, if I'm not explicitly being paid to be on call work shouldn't be contacting me.
Union privileges (usually) are based on seniority. Which means the said starry-eyed people would occupy the lowest rung of the union ladder. And if you think union leadership would go out of the way and sacrifice the interests of tenured members to protect starry-eyed snotnoses, you may be also interested in investing into buying a couple of bridges in Brooklyn...
But more interesting - where that leadership would come from? Situation A: the same starry-eyed snotnoses elect them. Of course, their immense wisdom and life experience would allow them to elect the right persons and not become a victim of a bunch of demagogues that would promise them heaven and then take advantage and abuse them... oh wait.
Situation B: existing large union comes in and takes over. The said union would, of course, have the interests of the same starry-eyed, easily deceived people in heart, despite meeting them for the first time 2 hours ago, and would never try to make a deal that would afford all the power to the union reps and put the starry-eyed, easily deceived workers in disadvantaged position, even though they now don't even have where to complain against it, because all complaints are now handled by the union.
Somehow the picture that I am seeing does not look like a happy ending. Wait, I just had a horrible thought. Maybe this is the happy ending you meant - keep those starry-eyed people under control, or lock them out if the industry altogether, so that people with more established status could bargain themselves up and get the conditions they want without other people intervening and agreeing to do the same job for less? I hope it's just my imagination tricking me, and not anybody's actual intent.
So, in the video game industry a “global rule one” scenario would see a nonconforming studio unable to hire experienced and unionized programmers, artists, QA, or even SAG-AFTRA actors or AFM musicians. This wouldn’t be so much an issue for indie developers, but it would do a number on studios who depend on high-profile vocal talent as well as experienced developers, let alone tie-in games that trade on actors’ likenesses.
But on the other hand, if you standout somehow (experienced?) - you would not face such issue. So why employer would employ "commodity devs" who are part of the union, and why devs, who standout and have a leverage would option to join union?
At the simplest level you basically download a kit for the genre you want, skin it, ship it.
Of course a good game is often much more work and requires more talent but in some ways it's getting to be the same as video and music. It used to be to be anything at either required lots of expensive equipment and connections to the gatekeepers. Now a days anyone can make a video on their phone and post it to youtube or make some music in music app of their choice and post it to youtube etc.
So, we see an explosion of content. Youtube has tons and tons of channels. Twitch a bunch more. The stuff people like raises to the top but there's zillions of people who get very few views because whatever they are making isn't quality or appealing.
Games are getting to be the same. So many people making so many games.
Also as the industry goes mostly toward a few engines it gets easier to shuffle people around. You and post a job listing for someone with Unreal or Unity experience. Before those 2 engines became so popular no one generally had experience with the engine another studio was using.
Also to the business people it's not clear what's needed for a hit. In general the top movies are mostly big budget movies. The top 10 movies for 2018 are all effects based movies with staff of 1000s+. There's a few non big budget movies in the to 20.
In games in the last few years there have been several hits that had low budgets including Candy Crush Saga, Clash Royale, Puzzle and Dragons, PUBG, Minecraft, and others, many of which made as much or more than their AAA expensive competition like GTA5 or Red Dead Redemption 2 and cost 1/10th to 1/20th those bigger games.
The parent poster answered that question for Hollywood. Union members (and here I'm speaking of SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors) are not allowed to work on non-union productions. Union productions, which encompass almost all major studios, are required to give first preference to union members and only hire non-union members when they are of "essential skill and quality". A non-union member who works on a union production has 30 days to join the union. If they do not join, they can't work on any more union productions.
Since all the big name stars are union members, big studios have to have union productions in order to be able to hire them. Stars make plenty of money regardless of whether they're in a union or not, because their agents negotiate well for them.
But most stars were once unknown and so they had to join the union when starting out, in order to be able to book gigs and build their career. For a millionaire actor union dues aren't a big financial hardship, and union membership doesn't affect how much money they make now. And they need to maintain union membership in order to continue working on union productions with other big stars.
A game industry union would probably work the same way. An employer would be forced to give first preference to a "commodity" union dev if they want to be able to employ the star producer or designer on their production. A non-union commodity dev has to take union membership after getting their first job offer else they can't work on another union project.
It would also probably mean that game industry jobs become like entertainment industry jobs: you're hired for a specific project and you move on when it's finished - instead of being like the rest of the white-collar workforce's model, where you're hired at a single company and build a career there.
That's all very well for Hollywood, but surely it's a difficult model to kickstart in other industries.
I think the amount of control studios exerted over even big names was a factor. Stars did well financially but were still treated as disposable and second-class. They were signed to multi-year, exclusive contracts that had onerous restrictions.
That said, its really hard to imagine any union growth given 27 states in the US have right to work laws (aka right-to-get-laid-off laws). Meaning companies will be free to have layoffs like this independent of union wishes to negotiate such actions.
Unions are a response to a shitty situation, and they have flaws. Not having unions, in the face of dwindling individual share in a growing economy, that's even worse.
Or maybe its all nonsense because repeatedly people in the US have shown a susceptibility to propaganda and a willingness to vote against their own best interest? Or for that matter to vote for politicians that refuse to take stances which deviate from the party talking points.
Fundamentally, the us government is there to represent the interests of the citizens. Or if you go back far enough the states, which in turn are there for the citizens. Unless you buy into the idea that really the representative nature of the government is to represent the interests of the wealth elite and make it appear that the people have a say by electing their representatives. Something that I think the 17th amendment/etc tries to clear up...
Labor unions are there to represent the interests of labor.
Given that the majority of voting age people in the us, fall into the labor category there is a fairly large crossover of common interests between labor unions and general government when it comes to economic issues.
As I mention in my cousin-comment, our system is set up to reward those who can organize, which the wealthy elite and large corporations are much better at than the population of individuals with divisive identity politics being shoved down their throats by PR companies. Breaking people's ability to organize is why there is such a push to convince us that trade unions are evil.
There are a multitude of ways to organise and run a union.
Doesn't sound like the group of people to form a union.
Today's software engineers have been heavily influenced by libertarianism, and for some reason that includes the idea that collective bargaining is a freedom that we should not enjoy (somehow they belief is that corporations have a right to speak on behalf of people... but not employment unions). Additionally, unions are often villainized in media - and there are some unions with some horrid, strongarm tactics, but they are the exception, not the rule.
Without all those things the unions fought for I might actually have a shot at being miserable!
It afforded workers the right to form independent governing bodies and self-finance things like strike relief funds that are important in cases where a company is simply unwilling to bend in any way. However, my experience there is an enormous, unserved middle ground between "no collective representation at all" and "we need a separate warchest and leadership to force any sort of compromise" yet creating something in that space is effectively illegal thanks to existing law.
The US's relationship with unions is pretty crazy.
*Excuse me, this was a typo, I had intended to write "countries" sorry for the confusion.
I don't see what the union would accomplish aside from employing union leaders and sinking companies which allow it to form. The market is competitive enough that if a major studio has any considerable union power, the firm will most likely just lose to more efficient companies, due to cost.
I was fired once (according to people who heard from him about it, so grain of salt I guess) because the CEO thought I was attempting to organize the workforce at his (horribly dysfunctional) company, but I can't really see how organizing those people under that particular company would have done any good.
It's not a zero-sum game. A company with happier, more productive employees under a union may have higher costs, but their odds of putting out a more-successful product are also higher than a company that burns out and/or screws over its devs.
Union workers, including professionals, across the U.S. report considerably lower trust and comfort in the workplace, and feel more distant/guarded from their bosses than non-union workers in every sector ; and I'm not exactly sure how you measure productivity, but I can't exactly assume that that's higher in a union shop either (anecdotally, it is the exact opposite of the case).
Now, some of this might just be a matter of unions being more common in crappier industries, which is plausible, but it certainly doesn't indicate a positive impact of union membership.
Well, seems they fire four and these were the well liked CMs from more than just the WOW property.
As I posted on a previous thread relating to this upcoming issue. Activision / Blizzard has been incredibly tone deaf with regards to the desires of their fans.
The most blatant on Blizzards part was the big Diablo announcement of it going mobile. Which was so badly received you could see the shell shock among the developers
As of June 2018 Blizzard employeed around 9,800 people. So this layoff represents a turnover of ~8% of staff. Depending on Blizzard's base turnover rate, which I couldn't find, they may be better or worse overall than the industry turnover rate of ~15% 
Blizzard was considered one of the best companies to work for in 2018, at least by Forbes, though you can absolutely find examples of poor working conditions and unreasonable expectations as is the unfortunate par for the course in the games industry.
The 78 person studio mentioned in the article (Z2Live) was a second degree acquisition (acquired by King who was then acquired by Blizzard), with their last release being in 2012.
You've asked a broad, general question - I have no knowledge of Blizzard whatsoever.
But while in many (most?) cases layoffs have negative impact on morale, it's not necessarily the case.
High performing teams and individuals can have their morale boosted if they perceive that unproductive employees have been trimmed. While perhaps less common in startups, I'd venture that in large corporations, there will be team members who are perceived to not be pulling their weight or are downright drain on the team; layers of management, not to mention bureaucracy and administration, that average employees would gleefully see removed; or branches that are perceived as diluting focus of the company -- etc etc.
No mention of StarCraft. This makes me sad. While I don‘t play video games anymore StarCraft was a big part of my childhood and it had a big influence on gaming and e-sports. I don‘t think Twitch and streaming would be as big if it weren‘t for StarCraft and the amazing people around it. Something about this game attracted driven people with great personalities.
I think it's worth saying that, on some level, the social phenomenon of Starcraft 1 and Warcraft 3 came from the user-created content that came out of the games' full-featured map editors. Now, it feels like that creative energy is flowing through Minecraft-like games and massively improved freely available game engines.
I know they didn't mention it, but Blizzard's support for Starcraft seems as good as it has been. The tourney viewership numbers are better than ever in recent memory.
So it's not like they're shutting it down like they did to Heroes of the Storm, they're just keeping status quo.
then they were surprised that no mod community popped up
Lack of LAN mode for competitions was just such an obvious indicator they spoke about esports but didn't really understand it.
Is it really? I play a lot of strategy games on steam (civ, stellaris, crusader kings 2, eu4) and they seem to have a wealth of mods available.
I'm thinking about the products that rarely get distributed - the MOBA map my friends and I made for WC3 where each one of us got characters. I think a lot of people who might have gotten into the SC2 map editor are now building 4-bit adders in Minecraft.
These morons don't give a shit about e-sports. They're just looking for a quick buck with this overwatch and HotS rubbish before they toss it to the curb as soon as they encounter the slightest bit of friction.
Blizzard has made so many bad decisions in the space of the last 2 years that it's almost unbelievable. The fact that Kotick can say this with a straight face makes me think they won't even be a company in 10 years time. They're nearing zero trust from the consumer, the e-sports community, and anyone else that isn't one of their paper pushing peers, way in over their head in an industry they don't understand. How can they expect to survive long term? It feels like the company is being sold off for parts, just with a few extra steps.
What would happen if you asked your local restaurant in the West to replace the NFL or NBA game with a video game?
They should resurrect Lost Vikings.
It's generally not a good sign when a company decides to try and live on the graces of its past success and not continue striving for greatness.
Same here, I still play Broodwars with my buddies once or twice a month.
I think the 'problem' is that Starcraft is hard/impossible to monetize further than the actual initial sale, and thus with the way these companies are currently being ran, Starcraft is not a very attractive model.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - Hey Ash Whatcha Playin'? (2013)
> The implication is that the positive results reported came thanks to a fairly narrow bench of franchises, with many of the company's efforts outside those franchises not meeting expectations.
Sounds like the good properties did great and the second tier properties did worse than expected. I'm not sure why a company would chase bad money with good, sounds like a reasonable choice to reduce properties and downsize in favor of bolstering properties that are working and growing.
IMO this is a sign video games are reaching the stage of Neil Gaiman's "American Gods," where popular franchises become part of the culture with life of their own.
As a consumer, I'd rather the large players invest in new creative ideas. Create new franchises and more diverse ideas.
But I'm not their audience for video games nor AAA movies...
You say that, but many of the games that Activision is focusing on, were new projects not too long ago.
Specifically, Hearthstone and Overwatch, are relatively new, when you compare them to the real old projects, like World of Warcraft, and the Diablo francise.
Them only focusing on these projects means that they have effectively given up. They will stagnate, with no new projects. Just merely rehashes of the same old thing that they have been doing for years.
Giving up on growth doesn't seem like a great strategy to me...
Wherever there is attention, someone will monetize it.
But one of the highest performers "Destiny" decided to end their relationship abruptly. This led to a bunch of marketing staff with jobs dedicated to a product that doesn't exist anymore and a bunch of under performing products that can't necessarily absorb those jobs.
Its not Destiny's job to subsidize that staff and those B-Tier games. But its unfair to frame this as layoffs amid record profits when its so obvious that next year is going to be a completely different situation that Blizzard had no way to prepare for.
It was mentioned in the earnings call yesterday.
And even if it they were negative, when Destiny left Blizzard still abruptly has an excess of dedicated support staff for a game they are no longer working with.
If a Hurricane destroyed Disneyland... Disney would have to a shareholder responsibility to lay off the workers from that park while they rebuilt. It's not a reflection of corporate greed, but a fundamental part of decision making.