Stop the Schadenfreude Over Bloated Tech Layoffs


Video games are increasingly entwined in the Big Tech business cycle. After the pandemic boom, from Assassin’s Creed developer Ubisoft Entertainment SA to his Frontier Developments Plc, profit warnings are piling up and industry layoffs are on the rise.

But unlike the expressions of shock and disgust seen online when Alphabet Inc. employees experienced their first layoffs, the stereotype that qualified Gen Zers will lose access to corporate tiki bars. Contrary to images filled with games, what is happening in the game is a virtual workplace. His threatened strike at Ubisoft in France this week gives a glimpse of the battle to come.

Game developers are in the business of making hits and have long been exposed to job instability and instability as game projects stop and start. And unlike apps that rely on user-generated content, games’ paid staff are those who generate immersive and detailed worlds to meet increasingly risky deadlines. By that I mean his 100-hour workday from the brutal 60-hour work week known as “Crunch.”

The shift to remote work during the pandemic has helped people stay employed, but has led to production delays and, in some cases, exacerbated the stress of work-life balance.International Game Developers’ Association ) has led to wage increases and bonuses for most people surveyed, but one-third report working overtime at no extra charge. The industry, where 79% are under the age of 40, is accelerating its drive to organize, along with experiments such as four-day workweeks.

That momentum is now hitting the harsh reality of slowing demand. Ubisoft describes it as an “amazing” development of new games expected to launch, including Mario + Rabbids 2 and his Just Dance 2023. The company recently canceled several titles and expects an operating loss this quarter. I told the staff that it was up to them to cut costs and meet the new deadline. “The ball is in your court.

The reason this message is so jarring is that Guillemot, who has since apologized, has effectively acquitted management of making a very bad decision. Strategically, the company has pursued all sorts of shady trends. From battle royale games (reportedly with dozens in development at one point) to non-fungible tokens, the market is collapsing. Giving hope to Mario + Rabbids 2 is a baffling move for a company with a wealth of franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry.

Whatever the cause, Ubisoft looks bloated as a result: Revenue per employee was around €103,000 ($112,000) in its most recent annual result, down 21% from 2016. , also assumed that management would make the most of its personnel. But it’s not. A former Ubisoft developer said the repeated delays in the Skull & Bones game look like a classic case of mismanagement, even with the Singapore government’s subsidy.

Unlike the post-Fordist vision of the future, perhaps the truth is that video games can never quite escape the shadow of the assembly line. It cannot easily operate at different speeds. That’s why his one of Ubisoft’s strike workers’ proposed demands, a four-day work week, is an idea worth considering. Some companies that have tried it have reported success in increasing productivity and reducing the risk of burnout, although it’s not for everyone.

It is also important to have a more positive view of everyday work, as rising life expectancy and tight government budgets place increasing demands on future generations to work longer. In a world where work and leisure have become blurred and skilling must become more pervasive, what we need is not the encouragement of work ethics.

But as gaming becomes part of the stable of conglomerates, such as Microsoft Corp. leaning towards Activision Blizzard Inc., the struggle for a fairer split of loot never stops.

Bloomberg Opinion Details:

• Dealing with Microsoft is a formidable target for Trustbusters: Chris Hughes

• Are tech giants safe from activist shareholders?: Olson and Hughes

• Sony Earnings Interesting Again: Calpan & Lady

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering digital currencies, the European Union and France. Previously, he was a reporter for Reuters and Forbes.

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