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Activision-Blizzard layoffs after reporting record results (arstechnica.com)
365 points by tolien 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 335 comments



I wonder if this will end up being the straw that breaks the camel's back and leads to unionization in the game industry. I've seen a decent uptick in serious discussion about it already this year after so many other dumb decisions by AAA publishers.

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.


Not sure why people are opposed to unions in software dev - the basic function of a union is to equalise the power imbalance between employer and employee.

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.

Yet.

IOW The lack of a need for unionization in developers shows how lucky we are.


Right now for software development as a whole, unionization isn't necessary - we (if I'm allowed to speak for others) aren't exploited, forced to work 80+ hours / week, underpaid, etc. Generally speaking.

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.


Yeah you can't have a conversation about unions without also mentioning the state of labor laws in the US, which are far behind those in of the EU.

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.


the basic function of a union is to equalise the power imbalance between employer and employee.

... 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.


> 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.

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.


> You're suggesting there's some sort of logical relationship between income and talent.

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.


It is in theory, but companies have no idea how to find it.


>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?

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.


Who's the "rest of us"?

The other two thirds of the labor force. None of those people should be settling for a low wage in today's market.


> The power balance is so skewed in the direction of the employee in the software industry

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.


How do you automate software development?


In a way, software engineers are constantly automating their own jobs each time they improve code-reusability. The reason they haven't driven themselves out of work is because in software and especially in games, as soon as you automate something, your ambitions immediately expand to fill the void. I think the uniquely creative + technical nature of games means the industry will be more resistant to automation...however, it is also the source of crunch.


The same way you automate any other job: break it up into easily-definable processes and then automate those.


Yeah no, I don't buy that sorry. If a company tries to automate a good SWE's job to save $100k they are just digging their graves. What easily definable parts are there in SWE? 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. Going back and trying to reduce engineering cost is backwards and no one will be able to survive like that in this competitive industry.


> If a company tries to automate a good SWE's job to save $100k they are just digging their graves.

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.


> If your argument is that EU developers are dumber and less experienced than their US counterparts, then it's not much of an argument.

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.

No C programmer ever got fired because GCC suddenly became too good at optimizing C and "their job was automated". If your argument is that a novice coder who just learned how to write javascript frontend might get automated away, then that's just looking at the bottom minority and arguing for the entire multi-trillion dollar industry.


> In Germany et al employing a worker is seen as a favor to this worker whereas in US it's the other way around.

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.


> 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.

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.


I don't know why you keep talking about pay. That's not what the conversation is about - and is irrelevant to the discussion at hand - which is about the security of employment for those who write software for a living.

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.


By sending the jobs to Mumbai?


Read my comment above. That's not a fair argument. You can't compete in today's SW industry with rock star SWEs by outsourcing your product to Mumbai.


But this discussion is about game dev, where apparently you don't need to hire rock stars?

Or I'm missing some important point here?


Why is that true? Games can potentially be hard problems and might need very aggressive optimization; as well as your creative staff might need to be creative enough to attract a lot of people to your art. Even if you use a game engine for everything, employing a rock star engineer in something like Blizzard certainly will not make WoW development any worse.


As mentioned previously here on HN - the coder pool is binomially distributed. Theres the extremely high end coders who will get job offers falling out of the sky, and then there is everyone else. Further, this is only in America - in the EU and the rest of the world, coders don't get rock star salaries.

I'd say unions are definitely for everyone else - and especially for people in the Video Games industry.


I know I'm being overly semantic, but what you've described is a Bernoulli distribution :)


I got it wrong, and it’s not overly semantic - words have meanings, and even I felt something was weird once I hit submit.

As the other poster mentioned, it’s bi-modal.


To nitpick some more, I think the parent comment meant a bimodal distribution :)


in the EU and the rest of the world, coders don't get rock star salaries.

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?


It seems likely that the dominance of American tech could be due to how they pay their engineers. It is not as clear that America dominates game development, nor that it is due to paying devs rockstar level compensation.


Why would that be?

I personally suspect that it's more due to a larger/richer base of potential clients/consumers.


This does not apply to the gaming industry. There are so many enthusiastic kids willing to work for peanuts that the salaries there are pretty low.


According to Glassdoor (which I realize is not the most accurate source), Blizzard Software Engineer median pay is $88,500 which is definitely peanuts in Irvine, CA. That's the rough equivalent of less than $60k here in Charlotte, which is below market rate for entry level.


Those kinds of rates are what kept me from applying, despite a lifelong enjoyment of their games.

A highly competitive process to get my foot in the door for a pay cut? No thanks.


Yeah since this is Hacker News, we tend to focus on the software engineers, who have lots more negotiating leverage compared to say, a PFX artist.


It still applies to the gaming industry, but to your point, the bargaining power of high talent programmers is suppressed by eager programmers (not mutually exclusive groups).


Apple makes 400k per employee in profit, as an example.

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.


Would it be fair for engineers in Apple to get 400k, while the same engineer in, say, Microsoft would only get half as much? While engineers are important, they are not the key to huge Apple's success.

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.


> Would it be fair for engineers in Apple to get 400k, while the same engineer in, say, Microsoft would only get half as much? While engineers are important, they are not the key to huge Apple's success.

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.


So... When Apple contracts a cleaner for their office, should they pay them more than, say, IBM? Surely clean office plays some role in company success?

What's about electricity? Should Apple be charged more per kWh using the same logic?


Good point. Note, however, that what you're describing doesn't sound like "management", or at least not like "managers", but VP-level strategists.


The thing is, the union won't end up negotiating a baseline rate of $400k for everybody. It'll be a lot closer to what all those salary surveys come back with as their "market average" rate. So, $70k.

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.


The profit a company makes does not equate to the value of each individual employee or what their salary should be. I'm not worth $400K / year, even if I was able to get through their hiring process.


> The power balance is so skewed in the direction of the employee in the software industry

Maybe for the folks at the very top, the Rockstars of yore. Bloomberg ran this yesterday.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-02-11/apple-bla...

At least in Germany, there are quite a few EU local body shops pushing the power balance in employers' favor.


I did not get the feeling that the Bloomberg piece was about devs. Did I miss something? They specifically called out Apple Maps, which requires a lot of data cleaning.


In the US, maybe contractor/body shops are rarer around dev work? Mostly around the Department of Defense.

My point was that employers' ability to pull in lots of short term employees weakens their negotiating power. At least in Germany.


I think the point of the parent comment is that we're discussing software engineers, who certainly have a different negotiating power than the (presumably nonengineering) contractors mentioned in the article.


You seem to suggest that unionized industries all have lower pay. How does movie industry, professional sports industry etc have unions and still have their principals paid at the high end of the wage spectrum?


> The industry would be happy to pay us all 70k a year with 3% raises based on seniority

Why do you assume that's what is going to happen alongside unionization?


Please see batty_alex's reply in this same thread which neatly showcases that version of pro-unionization people. Clearly some people see unionization as a means to make everyone "equal" and to remove any individual differences in pay except seniority. For the greater good, of course.


I don't appreciate the incendiary remarks and you putting words in my mouth. I said none of those things. I pointed out fallacies in an argument and asked what was wrong with leveling the playing field.

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.

Peace, brother.


Tech companies represent some of the largest concentration of wealth in the world...what power imbalance are you talking about?


The layoffs in this case are not happening in software development but in sales and administration.


There is an alternative to unionisation, in the form of professionalisation and certification much like doctors, accountants, legal professionals, surveyors, etc. Its not the same thing, but ends up having similar effects through professional associations. Basically posh unions. The British Computer Society could become something like that over here, I suppose.

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.


No, sorry, you're completely wrong. Doctors and other professionals have the option to be independent businesses whereas a coal miner or firefighter doesn't. Unions compel working conditions and fair pay where individual or government effort to accomplish the same would/did fail. The better alternative to unionization or professionalization are employee-owned co-ops where the workers also have a vested interest in helping the company and tend to earn base pay and bonuses according to their work and the overall success of the venture. And besides, anyone can code, the only situation where Professional/Chartered Engineers are needed is when public safety or large-scale cost are involved. There's no reason to put up BS barriers to exclusify an industry that is growing like mad and will likely be put almost out of existence by self-programming systems that use AI/ML/DL to make what users want thousands of times faster than any human team ever could. And then, at some point, compilers, packages and hardware will be developed by algorithms and gradually replace humans... because there's very little special that a deep learning algorithm couldn't do better than the best human ever in a few weeks.


It seems like employee-owned co-ops are an alternative to traditional company organisation. There's nothing to stop anyone from founding such things right now, in fact some do exist though not sure about in the software space, but I suspect there are so few for good reasons.

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.


In the UK the BMA _is_ a union for doctors.


And possibly the most unpopular union in the UK, too. I've parted ways with them, as have most of my friends. It's not because I disagree with their decisions, as much as they are completely impotent.

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.


Didn't junior doctors go on a record long strike recently. I was under the impression that the BMA took a reasonable amount of action.


Yep but the strikes (supported by a poll of members) fizzled out and then a second round if industrial action was decided against by the BMA (without a further vote).


And the Royal College of Nurses for Nurses, my wife is a member. Both organisations are publicly perceived more as 'professional associations' though and have more cachet than trades unions usually do. Both have the Queen as their royal patron. they also both have a very active role in promoting best practice and professional development.

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.


It would at least make the BCS actually fulfill a useful role than whatever they attempt to be at the moment


+1 - at the moment the BCS doesn't have a purpose, other than pushing its superfluous certifications. Its focus has usually been on IT management rather than ordinary developers/testers/etc.

Former BCS member.


Yeah, I'm not particularly keen on the BCS either.


Look at the credits for many major AAA titles and you'll see that a huge amount of work is done overseas in asset factories. Talent is a commodity.

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.


Most people that work in trades can't be automated yet either (at least at a reasonable price). Commoditization is kind of difficult to imagine for what is essentially general problem solving (which is what software development essentially is). Some are just better at it than others.


> Not sure why people are opposed to unions in software dev - the basic function of a union is to equalise the power imbalance between employer and employee.

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.


okay, regardless of my views on unions, contracts between unions and employers do not prevent lay offs. they would determine the order of who gets laid off in most cases but they don't prevent them. lower wage earners covered by unions generally don't see the level of service the true blue collar sees.

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


Labor is increasingly commoditized in software development. Compensation has not kept up with increases in CoL expenses, productivity and profits over the last decade.


It's quite simple. The people with most influence and income feel like they have nothing to gain from unionizations and feel that regulations would only stifle their livelihoods.

I know plenty of people that are making 6 figure salaries and simply can not relate to the plight of the average employee.


Tech is boom bust, and nobody ever sees the boom end.

The problem is that large segments of the workforce have a relatively short shelf-life.


spot on


Would a union make life better for the starry-eyed people entering the industry. The only parallel I can really draw is the movie industry, which also has lots of starry-eyed people entering it and has a union. I'm not sure it's better, I've talked to a number of people who had to work for years at very low rates just to get their SAG card, after they got it they had a lot more earning power. But you still get the same effect of low wages for entry level people. That seems tough to avoid when you always have a bunch of young talent flooding the market.


The problem with game dev isn't the entry level jobs.

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.


The game development industry would probably start outsourcing even more tasks if unionization takes hold. If relatively cheap roles like QA and art asset production suddenly get more expensive then setting up remote development offices abroad becomes much better from a cost benefit perspective. Unionizing would likely bring better pay to those jobs that still exist, but make it a lot harder to get one of those jobs to begin with.


The video game development industry already makes extensive use of contractors, dedicated outsource studios in various disciplines (art, audio and QA being the most common), and "support" studios (internal or external studios that work on large, cross-functional parts of a project). While I can see this increasing, the majority of the staff on the larger projects are not full-time staff at the "lead dev" studio but fall into one of the aforementioned categories.

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.


The unionization efforts in European countries don't seem to be doing much good. See fiasco after fiasco at Eugen Systems, for example.


Most studios need leads/experienced developers/artists/audio folk in house. If they are unionized, wouldn't they have leverage over how and when outsourcing was used?


Maybe. But they're competing against developers that aren't subject to these limitations. Art assets often make up the bulk (50-70%) of the development costs of modern games. If one studio has to pay 3D modelers $50,000 a year and another only has to pay $10,000 a year (not to mention no healthcare, retirement fund, etc) then the former is at a huge disadvantage.

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.


The heavy lifting in game music is not outsourced. It’s really only the orchestra musicians that are outsourced. The music direction, supervision, engineering, orchestrating, score prep and copy services, editing, mixing,mastering, integration and testing is still done in-house or by a contracted music service, usually US based. The reason for outsourcing orchestras is ironically to avoid overly strict contracts with AFM, the musicians union. This is why Nashville is bursting with video game scoring sessions. Tennessee is a right-to-work state.


The former Soviet countries probably have a bunch of low cost talent as well.


Guess it's time for a outsource music and art tariff.


Not if the union was globalized.


It actually already exists in some countries so USA would not be first unionising software workers. That would seriously help with the outsourcing problem if everyone would get the same benefits in all countries. Stop outsourcing everything to China would probably stop them from growing into the superpower it has become during the last decades. But I guess that train has left the station already.


Doesn't even have to be a global single rate, just a way to collectivize the negotiations worldwide while still accounting for local economic conditions.

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.


> Their working conditions and pay are much better than they would be without the unions.

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).


The working conditions are horrible. That's why unions are necessary, and it's been the main driver of unionization over the centuries. Ancillary benefits don't drive unionization nearly as much as core horrible working conditions and bad pay.


The labor movement's utility in improving horrible working conditions was based on the fact that laborers were considered to be coerced into these conditions by the threat of starving to death (or the modern-developed-country equivalent of standard-of-living resource constraints). I don't know much about game development, but aren't the majority of the relevant skills for most roles quite transferable? If the working conditions are miserable enough that unions are necessary, what is keeping people from switching to a similar role in an industry without substandard conditions? Is it the broader problem that these roles aren't well-treated in any industry? (certainly not the case for developers, but that's just one role).

These aren't rhetorical questions trying to make a point, I'm genuinely curious.


There is no "similar" role. There's no other industry that is involved in making games. That's why it's the video game industry. That's what they do. If you leave that industry, you're not making games anymore. And that's what people want to do. And before you or anybody else argues, that isn't reason enough for shitty work hours, ridiculous amounts of crunch, complete lack of life balance, etc. to be acceptable. The same way it's not okay to pay teachers or nurses or firefighters so much less just because they might be fulfilling a passion in helping other people.

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 thing is that if you fire a teacher, they must find another job _as a teacher_ because they have no other skills because it isn't transferrable. As a game dev, programming is programming and if you can program a game you can program other things. You won't starve or even have a serious problem if you get laid off and need to change fields.


Programmers are not the only employees in game companies, nor even the majority or biggest plurality (the latter are probably graphic artists). Programmers are indeed the ones in the best position & probably why they are generally the best paid segment.


I already addressed this. Why are we okay with an entire industry having shitty work conditions, regardless of circumstances? Why should a game developer have to work 80-100 hour weeks for months on end just because he wants to make games? The issue of skills transference is just distracting from this issue.


> The issue of skills transference

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.


That's what they do after a few years, but I'm not sure how that excuses it.


I don't understand why it's so hard to understand that these people don't want to work in other industries, they want to make games. And thus it makes sense for them to organize and try to improve the industry they want to be in rather than having to flee to another industry, which currently happens all too often after severe burnout.

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.


But most involved in game making are not programmers.


[flagged]


> I don't know what it is about labor issues that makes some people so hysterical that they lose all ability at reading comprehension and pattern-match to their closest hobbyhorse rant. Go soapbox about irrelevant things somewhere else, adults are trying to talk.

Including stuff like this will get your account banned. Just please leave it out and comment civilly and substantively.


This was unnecessarily hostile and I'm sure is breaking HN rules of conduct if I'm not wrong. If you want to have a discussion, we can have a discussion, but if you're going to insult people and put them down for not sharing your views, maybe you should go back to Reddit.


Wow. Your bar for being insulted is _very_ low.


> makes some people so hysterical that they lose all ability at reading comprehension and pattern-match to their closest hobbyhorse rant. Go soapbox about irrelevant things somewhere else, adults are trying to talk

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.


I don't think lighting, sound and stunt people have the same influx of young starry eyed people coming into the profession though. That's what makes unions really difficult. Same thing applies to academia, which is arguably worse than both game-devs and actors.


From a friend, I've heard great things about the treatment they got as part of The Animation Guild, and I imagine that that demographic of artists and creators is quite similar to the "young starry eyed people" going into the game industry. In fact, there's likely a good amount of overlap of artists that have worked in both (supported slightly by anecdata of friends who are 3d artists).


I'm not sure that's true

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


Can’t speak for SAG - but having worked non-union camera crew jobs and union jobs as a member of the Cinematographers Guild, my experience was day/night with regard to pay, safety, and limited (and compensated) hours. 100 percent would go back to union film jobs.


Same. Absolute life changer.


Another parallel: the animation industry. Life's a lot better after you get into a union shop, according to my friends who stuck it out longer than I did - the studios are constantly pushing to have one person's work duties expand to what several people used to do without paying them anything more, and the unions fight back against that and generally make sure that if you can keep picking up union jobs, you can afford to live in Los Angeles.

Like games, animation is an industry full of eager kids with stars in their eyes.


While entry-level actors in Hollywood might struggle indefinitely to find enough very small jobs (maybe even a single day) to qualify for SAG membership, entry-level software developers easily get full-time positions, with a duration of at least a few weeks and more realistically a few months: they are immediately past the stage of "entering" anything and in need of unions.


Sounds like the union works well for the people in it


isn't that the point?


Ideally it should be working well for society, right? (by whatever metric you choose, not simply an easily measurable one like GDP). It could go either way, in theory, even if you narrow your optimization objective to the working class. If a union benefits its members and has second-order effects that benefit other workers, then great. OTOH, if its second-order effects on the economy or industry come in some way at the expense of other workers, then it seems fair to call this out.


See an example of transport unions in the UK. Tube drivers are in the top 5%/10% of income in the UK, for a 35 hour or so week, and a lot of other benefits. The union power has done amazing things for them... but at a huge cost (albeit dispersed) cost to the rest of society.

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.


Yup. It's very much about putting their members first and too bad for everything else.

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 certainly should work for the benefit of employees, while employer's associations certainly should cater to the interest of the industry.

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.


The moral hazard is that if a union has second-order effects benefiting other workers in the industry but not in the union, workers in the industry lose their short-term incentive for membership in the union.

At which point everybody loses except the rentier class.


The movie equivalent is VFX, which has no real unions.


Yup. Earlier in my career, I was offered a gig doing engine optimizations for the first Gears of War. I took a look at the work/life balance of the team, and said, "Nope!" It's one of the best career decisions I've made.


The article says the layoffs are "mostly" not dev teams, but rather on the publishing side.


What's the difference between development and publishing?


In this case, since Blizzard is both publisher and developer, it basically means marketing.

When a publisher is separate from the developer, the publisher is also mostly responsible for funding the game development.


Developer: artists, developers, writers, ...

Publisher: marketing, distribution, payment processing, support, ...


You can add QA for publishers too.


Developers are the people who's job is to make a game. Publishers are the people who's job is to sell a game.

Developer = programmers, designers, artists, sound guys, ...

Publisher = marketing, finance, accounting, advertising, guy-who-says-you-must-have-microtransactions, ...


Why not employee owned co-op game development? That doesn't need to be mutually exclusive with unionization.


Mid-sized game companies have been dying off for over a decade now. Their burn-rate is too high to compete with small shops that churn out casual games and they don't have enough money to compete with the AAA studios so they die off from one failed game. Just look at Runic for example, great hit game series (Torchlight) wasn't enough to keep them afloat.


This is the saddest aspect of the current state of affairs, I think. Mid-sized companies had the talent and the flexibility to deliver some of the most meaningful and memorable experiences.

I hope that smaller publishers, like Devolver, fill that niche.


I think such organizations would not be capitalized well enough to make AAA games. Look at the development costs of the most expensive games out there: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_video_g...

And then there's the publishing costs, just as crazy.


Publishing can be free or near free depending on the platform - there’s no need to be on store shelves anymore. For a AAA game though you need to either have a real hit of a game, or a giant marketing budget to convince people their friends will play it. Else, you need have a reputation - making good games is hard.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the majority of the publishing expenses these days probably do come from marketing.


Not at all weong - just saying there are ways around it. Respawn just launched Apex Legends with a (my estimate) $100k marketing budget to pay popular streamers to play it.


That probably works only for FPS/Battle Royale games though. I mean, it's crazy that if the 2 or 3 biggest streamers play a game it instantly gets to the top of the twicth browse list. They all play only that kind of game though.


MOBAs were the top of twitch before. I don't mean to imply its easy by any means to become popular based entirely around twitch - but I do think its very possible to go entirely word of mouth if the games is good and fresh. Publishers have a lot of trouble marketing newer game types - they like to stick to what people know. Demon Souls/Dark Souls is a good example, though From Software does have a long history - just not huge hits in the US.


This sounds like how things should be done. Many game dev companies basically started out this way. The problem with this is that most (many?) people aren't willing to risk starting a business like this. There's a high chance of failure.


Do you think the costs and complexity to develop a game this way are too high now? I know there is the occasional Angry Birds, but I would imagine that it would be fairly hard to coordinate the number of people needed to build a serious or complex game? Has any game been developed via Kickstarter?


I would say it easier than ever to make a game. You have game engines, like Unity and Unreal, asset stores where you can buy graphics, and a distribution system; steam.


Pillars of Eternity was successfully funded through Kickstarter, and they just put out the sequel, which also had a Kickstarter campaign.


I think they got some other funding sources, in addition to Kickstarter.


>Do you think the costs and complexity to develop a game this way are too high now?

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.


Well I think this counts as a AAA game, but how "developed" is a bit controversial:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cig/star-citizen


If you think unions will improve the situation, consider: https://www.econlib.org/archives/2006/01/union_disillusi.htm...


"Pushing up wages creates unemployment by making employers less eager to hire." There's a lot of assumptions in that statement. First off, I haven't read the Activision-Blizzard article, I work in an industry adjacent to games, but I can see a scenario where it makes sense to lay off people the same year you make record profits. It just looks really bad. Just because you're making money, doesn't mean you have more work you're willing to pay people to do. Businesses aren't charities, ideally they profit by filling demand. The fill that demand with workers. Along the way they try and fill that demand with fewer workers and leveraging previous investments.

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.


Also consider the source.

They are a libertarian think-tank.


Maybe that. But also the industry is oversaturated with game devs. And for AAA titles they're basically fungible. Need to stop graduating so many.


For game client programmers I think this is the case, though experienced devs are hard to find and retain. The gaming industry really hits issues when trying to attract non-engine devs, infrastructure and server specifically. Due to the portability of these skills to... much better industry sub-segments a lot of talent here just jumps ship and leaves.

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.


> The gaming industry really hits issues when trying to attract non-engine devs, infrastructure and server specifically. Due to the portability of these skills to... much better industry sub-segments a lot of talent here just jumps ship and leaves.

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.


Art has a hard time? That surprises me - if your artist leaves you can’t just hire someone with the same style can you?


At my company we had an "Art Director" for each title that dictated the style to use, this employee was indeed highly valued (and only the longest/most loyal folks got picked for it), but the actual artists working day-to-day were quite replaceable.


For larger titles you absolutely can. They basically write a "how you do this art style" guide, character design guides, etc.


The reality is a lot more complicated than that. Certain entry-level art roles are pretty fungible, for instance, and most of them are already contract positions or outsourced to other studios (in places like Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia). However, beyond a certain level of experience and in some cases, entire disciplines, there is a dearth of quality candidates. Experienced developers, who have a good reputation, do have leverage but usually not to the extent to equalize comp with what one would see outside the industry. I've seen studios have critical roles go unfilled for the better part of a year for lack of qualified candidates at the budget set aside for them.


> And for AAA titles they're basically fungible.

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.


AAA is more like the old Hollywood "cast of thousands" films, like Ben Hur. You need a lot of people, but no individual contribution stands out. The overall look is determined by the art director: so you need only a few experts at the top.


As I understood it, actual developers was the category least impacted by these layoffs at Activision.


The more people that could be even potential union members, the stronger the union's negotiating position is.


This is not always the case. If there are a large supply of workers then many will be willing to work for non-union employers.

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.


Where things get complicated is, the drive to reach the higher tier over a length of time drives us to be better ourselves - learn more, improve soft skills, build networks of people who we otherwise would lose touch with, and much more.

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.


Yes. There is currently a post about Buzzfeed union, which I don't think is going to help anything because of the existential problem regarding the fact they are a losing business.

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).


> 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

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.


I too would like to see a union take over just to see the effects it would have on a fast paced industry (in terms of technology change and game release cycle) It would be a nice laboratory to peek into, to see how a union either becomes symbiotic or parasitic in behavior.


Do you not consider live entertainment a fast paced industry?

And the easy (but unsatisfying) answer is: every local is different.


I don't think acting, directing, scoring, or cinematography have changed all that much with the advent of computers. But the computer industry? There are several languages very popular today that didn't exist when I was in college---heck, try even 10 years ago.

So, what must one know to join a "programmers' union"? Or what can a company expect from a "unionized programmer"?


Editing's changed, you can try a lot more crazy things a lot faster with Final Cut/Premiere/etc then when you had to cut apart film and tape it together.

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.


Directing has changed, too. I used to know a B-list Hollywood director. Directors used to come from a theater background. Theatrical directors make a script work by walking through it on a bare stage and making changes until it works. This doesn't work in films with lots of effects. If you try that on an effects film, you go way over budget. Which has happened more than once.

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.


> Or what can a company expect from a "unionized programmer"?

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?"


>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.


You make it sound like you don't know a lot about medicine here. A good nurse who's been out of the field for 10 years will eventually get back up to date, but it's not going to be in a week. Or even a month. A lot of nursing is about understanding the meds you're dealing with.

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.


> There are several languages very popular today that didn't exist when I was in college---heck, try even 10 years ago.

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.


Even better. We’ll get to see how a union gets to affect an industry, whether symbiotically or parasitically. Remains to be seen, but if they affect a slower industry measurably and negatively, then we can have some confidence that in even faster technology sectors the effect would be greater. If they have a positive influence, they could possibly add to a faster paced industry, perhaps.

I would love to see a unionized AWS -the whole org., from top to bottom. Then see if MS or Goog would approve,


Java wasn't a thing at all when I was in college. C++ was just a few years old at the time. Assembly language was still heavily used, with C becoming popular for game development.


Interesting. For a factual reply (college from 1987 to 1994) there seems to be quite the hate ...


Unity is c#

And the c++ of a decade ago is quite different from today.


I work at an org that has an IT union, its horrible.. in fact just today i saw a manager have grievances filed against her because she was asking developers to do work on improving this project she had just taken over. Then an argument ensued that union chief even said..you can't file a grievance for someone asking you to fill your 40 hours of work... now another battle is beginning.. and this is just one instance, I could list hundreds like this.. another good one.. grievance for being woken up to suddenly during slumber. i am not sure people would even believe the shit i've seen


> Grievance for being woken up to suddenly during slumber.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me, if I'm not explicitly being paid to be on call work shouldn't be contacting me.


I assumed he meant being awoken too abruptly while sleeping on the job, but now I'm curious as to what the actual situation was.


When you have a complaint system, you'll inevitably have people filling dumb complaints, but why is that a problem?


> 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.

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.


How do unions work? Can an employer hire someone if they are not part of the union?


In Hollywood that’s ... complex. There’s nothing stopping you from filming a production with non-IATSE (or any other union) labor, but you wouldn’t be able to get union labor or “above the line” union talent (actors, writers, directors, etc). (In practice, it’s not quite that simple, especially given the ubiquity of international shoots and that many indie filmmakers see even the ultra-low budget SAG-AFTRA sheets as unrealistic, but the basic rule holds.)

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.


So from reading it appears that there are a lot of folks who want to work for a game company, but they are not considered precious, because there are so many of them (this totally baffles me as what I saw in game dev was really hard).

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?


Gamedev is and is not hard. The availability of engines like Unreal and Unity and all the plugins and example game kits available mean that it's trivial to make a simple game. The proof, 20000-40000 new games ship every month on iOS+Android

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.


It's just like any other art form in this regard. Anyone can splatter paint on canvas or fill a book with words. Making something worth looking at or reading is much harder. Being able to masterfully execute the motions of your craft is just the bare minimum requirement for entry.


> 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?

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"[1][2]. 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.

1. https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/UnionsInH...

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taft%E2%80%93Hartley_Act#Close...


The way you explain the Hollywood example, it sounds like the star actors are the linchpin of ensuring junior actors and commodity workers get union benefits - and yet, the star actors don't need the union's negotiating power, as their agents negotiate much better rates.

That's all very well for Hollywood, but surely it's a difficult model to kickstart in other industries.


Not necessarily. Every production will need mostly non-star workers. If they're all unionized, the stars have little choice but to sign up or work in the few productions that re non-union. Additionally, the Hollywood model is to sign up stars to unions before they're stars. This is further bolstered by the fact that every trade in Hollywood - directors, writers, producers, technicians and handymen - has its own union.


I think what confuses me is the chicken and the egg problem - I wonder how did Unions in Holywood become so powerful, that they could command companies to hire only unionized employees.


The SAG's own history page is pretty vague about why big stars signed on: "Protests against provisions in FDR’s National Recovery Administration's proposed Motion Picture Code of Fair Competition result in mass exodus of stars from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in early October. Major stars like Robert Montgomery, Fredric March, James Cagney, Ann Harding, Eddie Cantor and Groucho Marx join SAG." [1]

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.

1. https://www.sagaftra.org/about/our-history/1930s


Given the voice talent, maybe the key to this is to get the core artists accepted by the IATSE, or some kind of subunion.

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.


Companies should be able to freely lay off people independent of what a Union wishes. The other members of the union should just show solidarity and threaten to quit/protest if a company does that.


Unions work by collectively bargaining with the employer to secure terms for the benefit of the group. The terms that get negotiated aren't set in stone: the point is to present a common front in the negotiations so that the employer can't use a divide and conquer strategy against the workers.


The problem is you switch having almost no negotiating power against the employer as an individual... to having almost no negotiating power against the union as an individual. You're just trading masters and you don't get any more say. If you are young for example, and the union wants pay to be by seniority, then the union may be working against your interests and you could be better off negotiating with the company.


That is a more fundamental issue than whether or not you have Unions, and that's the out-of-control scaling of the economy. Companies have become so big that individuals are insignificant, period, outside of a few elites. If corporations were kept within healthy limits, unions wouldn't have to be equally huge to keep pace. The law of large numbers demands that individuals get reduced to statistics. Statistics get measured, they don't get to negotiate! Individual misery can be averaged entirely out of the picture.

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.


Well that is the fault of the #1 union in the center of the north American continent... The US federal government, which is there to represent "We the People" not the corporations, or political parties, k-street lobbies, or any of that other nonsense.


I think you deeply misunderstand the way the US government functions. Let's start with: it's not a Trade Union. That's some audacious spin.


How it functions, or how its suppose to function, or rather how the elites want it to function?

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.


The way it actually functions is to reward those who are able to organize, and repeatedly that has been overwhelmingly those with money and resources to devote to such organization. That means wealthy elites and corporations, who have lobbyists and PR firms working for them. Individuals who are not able to organize at scale are not represented. The PR war against trade unions is part of the effort to suppress the influence of those lacking large bank accounts or leisure time.


To reply to the later bit about spin...

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.


Representing the interests of its citizens is "How it's supposed to work" but the way it actually works is that politicians represent the people who have real influence over getting them elected. That means anyone who isn't very rich or the leader of a big voting bloc has no influence.

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.


I see the logic but still have to dissent. The needs of labor are sometimes at odds with the needs of any given community or the nation as a whole. Pork-barrel spending is a thing, and it has a negative connotation because it's not necessarily good for everyone, even if it can be good for labor. So, some politicians are elected to prevent it, to varying degrees. This is the (a?) way in which the government is not a labor union, even at the conceptual level.


That's not how it works for actors, though...


You may have heard the term Right to Work state. This is the situation it covers. In a rtw state an employee doesn't have to join the union to work, in a non rtw state you have what are called closed shops. You can't work there without joining the union.


That depends entirely on the union.

There are a multitude of ways to organise and run a union.


I completely agree and hope they unionize. I've worked with two people that used to work at mid size game studios and it sounds like hell. They both quit a couple of years (!) after having kids.


> but I think the game industry is a special case. There's enough starry eyed people that love the idea of working on games

Doesn't sound like the group of people to form a union.


I think that since this largely wasn't engineers laid off (according to the article), it probably won't have much effect.

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.


Assuming that Unions can't be corrupted by Big Money.


Unions are leaches of value. Everyone loses.


Yeah, I definitely consider my right to industrial tribunal, paid time off, sick days, safety regulations and guaranteed maternity/paternity leave as defeats.

Without all those things the unions fought for I might actually have a shot at being miserable!


I don't think unionization will do much good. American-style unions are more like the mafia than a "real union". Unions in places like Scandinavia is the only way to fix this in my opinion but doubtful that will ever happen.


Can you explain the difference?


Just to be brief, non-adversarial and in-between models such as works councils [1] are allowed that are not legal per the NLRA in the US. The US also has restrictions against common sense methods of representation such as having elected union representatives serve on a company's board of directors or even in upper management. I'm all for the collective voice of workers having a say but the NLRA was basically the equivalent of the PPACA (in terms of being written for the benefit of megacorp insurers, pharma, and other stakeholders) but still being sold and defended as if it was free (at point of service) universal healthcare. It only allows for a purely adversarial relationship between unions and businesses with any sort of mutual ownership/leadership/stakeholding being expressly forbidden.

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.

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_council


Propaganda. Basically Americans view US unions as something approaching demonic but somehow are able to conceive as unions in different companies* as having value.

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.


The comment you're referring was actually making a claim that there's a difference between how unions operate in the US and Scandinavia, although it is somewhat vague.


The thing is, nobody who isn't brilliant at it should think of it as a career. If you are not stunningly productive, then it does not make sense to invest in you when they could turn to the swaths of people who come to work because they love making games (regardless of how good the financials are).

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.


> 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.

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.


> A company with happier, more productive...

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 [0]; 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.

[0]: https://news.gallup.com/poll/146687/Union-Workers-Score-Lowe...


They fired a well know community manager [1] for their World of Warcraft franchise, this after making more promises during Blizzcon in November to increase communication with the community.

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

[1] https://twitter.com/CadenHouse/status/1095450053001371649

[2] https://twitter.com/LashesSashes/status/1095452768364457989

[3] https://twitter.com/jjhill_ii/status/1095451189758455808

[4] https://twitter.com/hitstreak/status/1095456359594610689


None of the twitter accounts you linked to are developers, just FYI. Apparently the actual dev staff was safe from firings.


He never claimed they were - in fact he said "community manager".


Here's some additional context for these layoffs:

As of June 2018 Blizzard employeed around 9,800 people[1]. 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% [2]

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[3].

[1] https://www.forbes.com/companies/activision-blizzard/#2a4ede...

[2] https://www.informationweek.com/strategic-cio/team-building-...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z2_(company)


If your company is acquired, it is reasonable to expect that you'll be laid off, no matter how talented. Acquisition = layoffs - general rule of thumb.


Members of the acquired company had a 7 year run between King and Activision, so not sure it is fair to attribute layoffs to either acquisition.


There is always overlap. No need for two HR departments.


This seems like the real answer to what folks are wondering about here. If they just acquired a bunch of companies there are going to be redundant roles to eliminate.


I wonder how much "has recently had or is planning on having massive layoffs" affects employer satisfaction rates. How could Blizzard possibly be considered one of the best companies to work for next year if they just canned so many people this year? That's gotta be terrible for morale, no? I've fortunately never worked at a company that's had big layoffs (ever, not just while I've worked there), but I can imagine that even if I wasn't laid off, I'd start looking for another job, because who knows? I could be next.


reeeeallly depends.

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.


I was thinking about that, but it's hard to imagine a large lay-off being surgical enough to reliably target just the under-performers. They usually target entire under-performing product areas.


> In the future, Kotick said Activision-Blizzard will invest primarily in live services, Battle.net, and esports, with a focus on the following franchises: Candy Crush, Call of Duty, Overwatch, Warcraft, Diablo, and Hearthstone.

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.


Blizzard really tried to make Starcraft 2 "a thing" and, while it has a devoted following, I don't think it ever got to the level of success Blizzard was seeking. I can understand why, from a business perspective, Blizzard decided not to pursue Starcraft for the foreseeable future.

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 can understand why, from a business perspective, Blizzard decided not to pursue Starcraft for the foreseeable future.

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.


for starcraft 2 they essentially killed the ability for third parties to build any sort of mod community via their crappy battle.net chat/custom games system

then they were surprised that no mod community popped up


Definitely. Even on the more competitive side, Quake 3 got something like the CPMA mod to tweak the balance and rules to make it better for competitive gaming. Zero chance of that for SC2.

Lack of LAN mode for competitions was just such an obvious indicator they spoke about esports but didn't really understand it.


> Now, it feels like that creative energy is flowing through Minecraft-like games and massively improved freely available game engines.

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 think we continue to see a broad, general interest in modding using traditional tools.

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.


Dota 2 seems to have eaten the custom map lunch.


These guys are idiots. SC2 has been getting bigger internationally lately, it's still huge in Korea, it's the only e-sport I find interesting to watch without actually having played the game myself (outside of half the single player campaign), and it's got decades of history and name recognition behind it as a marketing asset.

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.


StarCraft 2 perfected the classic RTS, but the genre was dead the day people started knowing Warcraft 3 as "Dota". I doubt it can compete with MOBAs until some real innovation happens.


Does it need to compete with MOBAs, though? I mean RTS are now a genre separated from MOBAs, less mainstream/more niche, but they can still make some money from RTSs


The MOBA scene was built on top of the RTS scene. You could say sports/fighting/FPS games don't compete with RTS, but MOBA does.


MOBA is the newer genre. It emerged out of a mod for an RTS game, Warcraft 3.


But they are releasing Warcraft 3 Remastered.


SC2 is way larger in the west than it is in Korea.


Starcraft is so big in Korea that games are literally broadcast on over-the-air television and displayed in restaurants.

What would happen if you asked your local restaurant in the West to replace the NFL or NBA game with a video game?


It's also disappointing because that's about as conservative as they can be in terms of franchises.

They should resurrect Lost Vikings.


Also this points to no new projects coming out of Activision. What employee in their right mind would want to take a chance on a new thing at a company that throws away fellow employees like that?


And no discussion of new franchises.

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.


They're striving for greatness in new ways, like teaching kids to spend irresponsibly on loot boxes then firing everyone and waiting on a plan B when they realize Europe is not open to gambling options for kids.


You have a point, but Overwatch is still a new franchise, and for me it resurrected online FPS gameplay which hadn't changed much since I played TFC and Counterstrike nearly 20 years ago. I'd expect them to dedicate a substantial portion of their efforts towards maintaining and growing that franchise, and would for at least the next few years would consider that investment towards the "new".


>No mention of StarCraft. This makes me sad.

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.


It's not the worse thing to monetize. They started releasing skins, announcers, etc for players to purchase.


With a focus on Candy Crush! It just makes me sad...


There's this funny video that exemplifies Kotick's mindset.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - Hey Ash Whatcha Playin'? (2013) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuHqUpleIfA


> The layoffs, which will mostly be in non-game-development areas like publishing, will impact Activision, Blizzard, and King. In one case, an entire studio of 78 people was shut down—Seattle-based mobile game studio Z2Live.

> 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.


That's a trend with oligopolies in the entertainment industry. The same reasoning propels movie studios to remake the same franchise movies every year. Costs for AAA are large already -- why take risks?

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...


> Costs for AAA are large already -- why take risks?

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...


I would much rather have new properties as well. It's unfortunate that economic incentives don't align to make that more common. Although kick starter has helped a bit. Maybe new properties could be like startups and have lottery style exit strategies... I don't just thinking out loud. Great comment.


With the availability of Unity and other engines funded by AAA companies, that's enabled startups to pursue new game concepts using AAA efforts as a foundation. That's an ideal model. AAA games are both the standard bearer and the entry level. It's up to gamers to pursue and support a community built on top of that for more experimental games.

Wherever there is attention, someone will monetize it.


We don't need so many increasingly massive AAA games. All the best games we remember from the 90s were made by much smaller teams than work on big budget games today.


That's a good point assuming that's all under their control.

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.


Destiny 2 was underperforming.

It was mentioned in the earnings call yesterday.


Under performing compared to analysts predictions, which affects stock price. That doesn't necessarily mean they lost money working on Destiny.

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.


I was under the impression Layoff was technically different from firing only in: We are ending our relationship with this employee, and _not_ looking for someone to replace their existing responsibilities. I'm honestly confused by all the uproar -- it seems like relatively predictable and expected behavior.


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