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Pressing Buttons: If even a company like PlayStation is experiencing layoffs, there must be a larger issue within the gaming industry.
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Pressing Buttons: If even a company like PlayStation is experiencing layoffs, there must be a larger issue within the gaming industry.


In my previous article, I discussed the ongoing competition between Xbox and PlayStation, which has spanned several decades. I mentioned how Microsoft’s more relaxed approach to releasing games on various platforms, including rival consoles, could potentially signal an end to this rivalry. Recently, Sony announced that it will be laying off 900 employees across its studios worldwide. This decision is surprising given the success of their latest console, the PlayStation 5, which has outsold its main competitor by a significant margin of three to one. However, it seems that the shift in the gaming industry landscape has made this move necessary, rather than a voluntary decision. The traditional methods of the industry are no longer applicable in the current environment.

The recent announcement that PlayStation would be downsizing its workforce by approximately 8% was made through a company-wide email from Jim Ryan, the outgoing boss. Just a few days prior to this news, Ryan was pictured celebrating his successful career at London Studios with former colleagues who are now among the job cuts. In addition to the closure of London Studios, there will also be reductions at Firesprite, and other departments across the company in the UK. Major game developers such as Guerilla Games, Naughty Dog, and Insomniac are also facing cutbacks. As of now, employees at Sony’s US studios are still uncertain of their fate. The email closes with a plea for kindness towards one another, adding a touch of irony.

Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Hermen Hulst, who leads PlayStation Studios, discussed the reasoning behind their recent decision in a post on the PlayStation blog. He addressed the ever-changing landscape of the gaming industry, which has impacted the way games are both created and played. As PlayStation Studios is known for delivering gripping, story-driven experiences at a high standard, they have had to reassess their operations. Additionally, the demand for social and online gaming experiences requires a different approach and resources. To meet these challenges, PlayStation Studios underwent growth. However, simply growing in size was not the main goal. The team thoroughly examined their studios and existing projects, ultimately concluding that not all of them would move forward.

By reading between the lines, it becomes evident that the video game industry experienced an influx of investment during the prosperous years of 2020-21 due to the pandemic and readily available funds. However, this led many studios and publishers to stretch themselves too thin, leaving them vulnerable when investment opportunities declined. Despite the industry’s overall profitability, there have been numerous layoffs and cost-cutting measures in the gaming world during 2023 and 2024, with frequent studio closures. Just before Sony’s announcement of layoffs, Danish studio Die Gute Fabrik, known for Mutazione and Saltsea Chronicles, also declared the winding up of their operations.

Despite being a successful indie studio, Die Gute Fabrik struggled to secure funding. Despite being the top player in the home console market, Sony seems incapable of financing large-scale game development in the current climate. It is concerning that AAA game budgets have grown immensely and companies are pushing for ongoing revenue through “live service” games. However, even with impressive sales and successful titles like Marvel Spider-Man 2, studios such as Insomniac still face job cuts. This raises concerns about the long-term viability of the console industry, as even high levels of success do not seem to protect game developers.

This passage highlights a disappointing reality of the current gaming industry: success is only achieved by producing large-scale games. With the cost of blockbuster games reaching $200 million, anything less than tremendous success is considered a failure. Even if a company has two highly successful games, one failure can be enough to heavily impact their finances. In the past, popular PlayStation games would fund smaller, less expensive ones, such as God of War and Puppeteer or Shadow of the Colossus. Occasionally, a mid-sized game would become a major hit, like LittleBigPlanet. However, it seems that there is no longer space for these mid-sized games in the industry.

Indie studio Die Gute Fabrik, makers of Saltsea Chronicles, is closing.View image in fullscreen

Katsuhiro Harada, the director of Tekken, a popular fighting game series, recently shared his thoughts on the 19th anniversary of Tekken 5’s release on the PlayStation 2. He reflected on how the team approached development, stating that they would simply include every idea they had onto a disk without a set plan in place. He also noted that back then, porting and development were done much faster and with lower costs compared to the present day where things have become much more expensive and time-consuming. Harada also expressed frustration with individuals in the gaming industry who lack experience in actually creating games, stating that their lack of understanding of the development process can be hindering. He believes that his experience in creative thinking has contributed to the success of the series, but some people in the industry may not grasp that concept without prior development experience.

It is difficult to not experience feelings of nostalgia for this time period in game development, both as a player and as someone who has been involved in the industry professionally for many years. Having seen the direct impact that these “business decisions” have on developers, it is hard not to feel a sense of longing. Recently, Andrew Fray, a lead programmer at UK studio Roll7, which is responsible for creating games such as OlliOlli World and Rollerdrome, shared what he referred to as the PS2 manifesto on social media. This manifesto stated a focus on creating games with 7-13 hours of gameplay and incorporating a few old ideas in new ways or one major new idea. It also emphasized avoiding complicated character upgrade systems, limited online features, and minimal post-launch support. This approach, which involved a team of 30 game developers over a period of 2 years, aimed to quickly move onto the next project after earning money from the game. This mindset resulted in the creation of many unconventional and unique games 20 years ago, such as Ico and Gitaroo Man, which are now considered classics. While these games were not wildly successful in terms of sales, their impact and success was not solely measured by their financial performance.

Is it necessary to follow the traditional development process for creating video games, or is the pressure of capitalism forcing studios to conform to a growth-focused model that leads to frequent layoffs and prioritization of live-service games? This trend is evident in the case of Rocksteady, who was unable to produce a game similar to Batman: Arkham Asylum due to executive decisions to focus on live-service multiplayer games, resulting in the production of a game like Suicide Squad which was met with negative reception.

In his declaration, Hulst expresses: “Our approach has consistently been to foster innovation and creativity … PlayStation Studios remains committed to being guided by our talented creators, advancing our beloved series, and delivering top-notch gaming experiences for our fans.” PlayStation holds a dominant market position and has extensive industry experience, consistently acknowledging the creators responsible for its success and highlighting its appreciation for its own legacy. One would expect a better treatment of its employees.

What to play

Balatro.View image in fullscreen

You know what, discussing popular games can be overwhelming, so I’d like to suggest two card games for this week. They are digital card games, but nonetheless, enjoyable. The first one is Balatro, a poker game with elements of a roguelike game. It completely consumed my weekend. It’s similar to poker but has a unique and bizarre twist. You play against yourself and are encouraged to cheat recklessly without the risk of losing any real money.

The second option is Regency Solitaire 2, with a calmer atmosphere and the follow-up to a game I really liked a couple of years back. Navigate the cards at a leisurely pace in England during Jane Austen’s time, experiencing some mild drama of high society. Try one of these games out and lose a few hours. Alternatively, as a Guardian reader suggested on my article about Balatro, “Try playing Bridge. It’s a proper challenging game, and you won’t need any gimmicky multipliers or bonus cards.”

Available on: PC

Approximate duration: anywhere from 30 minutes to a full weekend.

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What to read

US actress and singer Lady Gaga poses on the red carpet upon arrival at the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, in London.

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  • According to Neil Long from mobilegamer.biz, some developers are expressing concern about Apple Arcade. The game subscription service, which offers high-quality games for iPad and iPhone users and eliminates the need to deal with free-to-play app store offerings, has seen a decrease in payouts and a decrease in the number of games being commissioned. Additionally, there seems to be less emphasis on diversity in game options, which has previously been a key strength of the service.

  • A new Pokémon game has been announced: Legends Z-A. The trailer is set inside a Tron-like cyberspace, except it’s also Paris. Moreover, we got a look at Pokémon Trading Card Game Pocket, which brings the ever-popular card game to smartphones and looks invitingly beautiful.

  • It has been some time since I have come across an interview with Hidetaka Miyazaki, the creative genius behind Dark Souls and current president of FromSoftware. IGN recently had the opportunity to talk to him about the upcoming expansion for Elden Ring and his decision to take a step back from directing future Souls games for the company.

  • Reworded: The famous Lady Gaga will be appearing in Fortnite. To clarify, I am repeating: Lady Gaga will be making an appearance in Fortnite. It has been five years since her well-known tweet asking about “fortnight,” and now she is the main act for season two of the game’s Festival mode.

What to click

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  • In an unhealthy virtual realm, Warframe serves as a sanctuary for both my child and countless others.

Question Block

Today’s edition is packed with content, so we won’t be including a Question Block. However, we always welcome your questions and you can send them to [email protected]. I will do my best to answer them, or I will reach out to someone who can provide an answer.

I will possibly create a special Q&A edition of Pushing Buttons in a few weeks if I receive a sufficient amount of questions. So if you have been holding onto a question, now is your chance to ask.

Source: theguardian.com