Just when you thought the video game industry was riding high on success stories and innovative breakthroughs, the layoff monster rears its ugly head yet again. This time, Naughty Dog, the brainchild behind the iconic franchises Uncharted and The Last of Us, is trimming its roster—firing dozens of contract workers, mostly QA testers.
The Art of Layoffs
Layoffs are never pleasant, but the manner in which Naughty Dog executed these layoffs seems to defy both decency and logic. According to Kotaku, the majority of those canned worked in quality assurance testing, with others spanning across various departments, from art to production. And let's not overlook the most significant slap in the face: these employees are expected to work until the end of October with no severance packages offered. Classy.
The Multiplayer Mirage
Remember the multiplayer mode you loved so much in the original Last of Us game? Naughty Dog did too, but they had different ambitions. Instead of giving us an enhanced version of that experience, they aimed to deliver a full-fledged, stand-alone, money-generating multiplayer spin-off based on the original Factions mode. You heard that right. A stand-alone. A Live-Service game, to be precise, which is the videogame equivalent of capturing lightning in a bottle.
And guess what? It’s basically on ice.
The Bungie Conundrum
It's easy to point fingers at Bungie, who recently offered a negative internal review of the Factions multiplayer spin-off. But if you think Bungie simply didn't like it because "it isn't Destiny," you're sorely mistaken. Game studios, contrary to popular belief, are not rivals; they're more like co-sufferers in an industry known for its challenges. Bungie's critique wasn't born out of rivalry but rather out of a likely well-intentioned analysis of a project that had spiraled out of control.
Naughty Dog, a studio known for its single-player experiences, was trying to bite off a huge chunk of the Live-Service pie. This project was initially planned for release THREE YEARS ago. Imagine the escalating costs and spiraling scope changes. Bungie coming in to offer their perspective was probably what Naughty Dog needed—a cold, hard splash of reality.
A Stifling Atmosphere
While Naughty Dog has urged both laid-off and remaining employees to maintain radio silence on the issue, the gaming world deserves to know the truth. These layoffs follow the retirement of co-president Evan Wells and come amidst a broader trend of layoffs across gaming giants such as Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and more. All of this while Sony aims to sell a record-breaking 25 million PS5 consoles in the current fiscal year.
The Bigger Picture
The layoffs at Naughty Dog are just a symptom of the industry’s ongoing turmoil, masking a more massive issue of project mismanagement, over-ambitious ideas, and a lack of support for the people who make these digital worlds come to life.
The industry needs to reevaluate its values and strategies. It's high time that companies start respecting not just the game but also the hands that build it.