Pushing the Button: While PlayStation is also cutting jobs, there’s something seriously wrong with gaming

I Last week I wrote about the decades-long console wars between Xbox and PlayStation, and how Microsoft’s lax attitude towards games that can be played anywhere (even on rival consoles) could be the one that ends them start. Sony to lay off 900 employees Its studios are located around the world. Why would the maker of the hugely successful PlayStation 5, which outsells its main rivals three to one, want to do something so drastic? It looks like the end of the console wars may not have been voluntary, but there’s an inevitability: The way the gaming industry used to work is simply not the way it works now.

News that PlayStation will lay off 8% of its staff came via a company-wide email from outgoing boss Jim Ryan, who announced less than a week ago. was photographed Celebrating his Sony career at the London studio, he joins many who now no longer work: the company will close it entirely, along with downsizing Firesprite, and “various functions will be cut” across the company in the UK. The makers of the Horizon series), Naughty Dog (The Last of Us) and Insomniac (Marvel’s Spider-Man) also saw production declines. At the time of writing, Sony employees at US studios are still waiting to learn how they will be affected. “Please be kind to yourself and others,” the email ended with almost jaw-dropping irony.

Hermann Hurst, Director game console Studios gave some background on the decision in a PlayStation Blog post. “Our industry has undergone continued fundamental changes that impact the way we create and play games. PlayStation Studios is known for its immersive, narrative-driven stories, and meeting the quality standards we strive for requires a re-evaluation How we operate. Delivering and sustaining social, online experiences…requires a different approach and different resources. To meet these challenges, PlayStation Studios must grow…but growth itself is not an ambition…We took a look at our studio and our portfolio, evaluated projects in various stages of development and determined that some of them will not move forward.”

Reading between the lines reveals a familiar story of overinvestment during the 2020-21 boom, during which the video game industry was overrun and flooded with cash due to the pandemic and cheap cash. Many studios and publishers overextended themselves and found themselves vulnerable when investment dried up. Although it’s a very lucrative industry, 2023 and 2024 will see massive layoffs and “cost-cutting” almost everywhere in the gaming industry, with studios closing almost every week. sony Danish studio Die Gute Fabrik (owned by Mutazione and Saltsea Chronicles) has announced the end of operations after announcing layoffs.

But Die Gute Fabrik was a small independent studio that failed to find investment. Sony is the market leader in home game consoles. In this day and age, it seems absurd that even market leaders are apparently unable to fund large-scale game development. We know that so-called AAA game budgets are out of control, with executives everywhere insisting that studios develop ill-fated “real-time service” games in the hope of continuing to squeeze money from players to offset costs for years, with tragic results. .but Playstation 5 Recently sold its 50 millionth unit.Last year’s “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” was so popular (sales reached 10 million units) that it even That That didn’t protect Insomniac’s makers from the cuts. This makes me seriously worried about the sustainability of the console business: No amount of success seems to be able to isolate the people who actually make the games we love.

It also highlights a depressing truth about the modern gaming industry: you either get big or you go home. When blockbuster games cost $200 million to make, anything that isn’t a huge success is as good as a balance sheet failure. You can have two smash-hit games, but screw up the third one and you’re screwed. Big PlayStation games used to fund smaller games: your God of War came along with your Puppet Master, your Shadow of Shadows, and those middling titles that popped up every now and then. Big games like LittleBigPlanet will be hugely popular, but there seems to be no room for mid-sized games.

The independent studio Die Gute Fabrik, the producer of Saltsea Chronicles, has ceased production. Photography: Die Gute Fabrik

Tekken director Katsuhiro Harada, who has worked on the venerable fighting game series for 30 years, recently shared some memories of Tekken 5’s 19th anniversary when it was released on PS2. “We could think on disk. We didn’t have a plan from the beginning but developed the software as we thought it would,” he wrote. “Porting and development is much faster, with labor costs being much lower than they are now, it’s completely different now, everything is huge, all costs are skyrocketing, and it takes longer… More and more people are claiming Game industry people and executives who are not creators, don’t even have development experience… I’ve done a lot with an idea and that’s why we have the foundation we have today, but I don’t think people who don’t have production experience will understand this a little.”

As a gamer and someone who has been professionally involved in the industry for decades, it’s hard not to miss this era of game development by observing up close the impact of these “business decisions” on developers. Andrew Fray, lead programmer at British studio Roll7, makers of OlliOlli World and Rollerdrome, took to social media earlier this month to share what they called the PS2 manifesto: “7-13 hours of content.” . Combine some old ideas in a new way, or a great new idea. No complicated character upgrade trees. Limited online, little post-launch support. 2 or so years, 30 game developers. Thank you for your money, Move on to the next one.” This attitude has given us 20 years ago many weird classics that would be hard to imagine now existing games, from ICO to Gitaroo Man. None of them sell millions of dollars, but the bottom line is, they don’t have to.

It’s a far cry from how most modern games are developed, but I can’t help but question whether it really has to be that way – whether it’s really impossible to make a game sustainably without constant layoffs – or whether the recently starved engines Stage capitalism just made it happen, and the growth-at-all-costs model that has long influenced the tech industry has irreversibly trickled down to video games. The inability of a Warner Bros. studio like Rocksteady to make a game like Batman: Arkham is no longer sheltered: instead, higher-ups will decree it has to be a real-time multiplayer game, and you end up with Suicide Squad , which was a game that the studio didn’t particularly want to make in every aspect, and the audience didn’t respond well to it.

“Our philosophy has always been to allow for creative experimentation… PlayStation Studios will continue to be a creator-led organization, evolving our beloved franchises and bringing the highest quality new gaming experiences to our fans,” Hulst said in a statement. .” is a market leader with decades of experience and always praises the creators who make its consoles so beloved, showing that it appreciates its history. You’d hope for something better than this for its people.

playing what

Balatero. Photo: LocalThunk/Playstack

You know what, it’s stressful to talk about popular games, so this week I’m going to recommend two different card games. Digital card game, but still.the first is Balateroa roguelike poker game This totally took up my weekend: it is kind of Poker, but very trippy and strange, you’re only playing with yourself and you should cheat with impunity, and You are not in danger of losing any money.

the other is Regency Solitaire 2, a calmer atmosphere, and a sequel to a game I really enjoyed a few years ago. You’re in Austen’s England, clicking around a pile of cards, enjoying some lighthearted upper-class drama along the way. Give one of these a try and let a few hours disappear.Or, as one commentator for The Guardian kindly suggested My article about Balatero: “Play bridge. A proper test game. And you don’t need any silly multipliers or bonus cards.”

Can be used as: personal computer
Estimated play time:
From 30 minutes to, well, the entire weekend

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What to read

Lady Gaga attends the 2022 British Academy Film and Television Arts Awards. Photo: Tolga Ackerman/AFP/Getty Images
  •’s Neil Long has been talking to developers who trigger the alarm about apple arcade, an excellent iPad/iPhone game subscription service that frees you from the free App Store junk. Developers say spending is decreasing, fewer games are being commissioned, and there’s less interest in the diversity of games that have made the service great so far.

  • A new Pokémon game announced: Legends ZA. The trailer is set in a cyberspace similar to Tron, but in Paris. Additionally, we saw the Pokémon Trading Card Game Pocket, which brings the popular card game to smartphones and looks really nice.

  • It’s been a while since I’ve seen an interview with Dark Souls mastermind and current FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki. IGN interviewed him About Elden Ring’s upcoming expansion, and about the director exiting FromSoft’s future Souls games.

  • Lady Gaga Coming soon to “Fortress Heroes”. I repeat: Lady Gaga is coming to Fortress Heroes. Five years later, her infamous “What day of the fortnight” Twitter, she now Season 2 headlines The game’s festival mode.

What to click

problem block

It’s a rich edition today, so we’ll leave you with a question box, but as usual, send your questions to and I’ll answer them – or, if I can’t, I’ll join in with some Contact with capable people.

If I’ve heard enough, I’ll be doing an extensive Q&A version of Pushing the Button over the next few weeks, so if you’ve been pondering a question, now is the time.

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