It seems like every other week a game studio is massively laying off employees; sometimes after years of development. What I’m reading is that it’s a quick way to lower expenses and pad the investors’ pockets, flooding the market with developers and reducing their value, to then hire them back a few months later at lower salaries.

So, what’s holding back gamedevs from banding together to either unionize or start their own companies with better conditions that the purely money-driven studios? Why aren’t they trying to be better? Nobody willing to invest in them? Does starting a company together mean they will now be the bosses who have to answer to the investors, ensure returns, and fire employees? Is the world just an entire shit-cake?

  • @[email protected]
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    341 month ago

    They do. There are plenty of indie Devs.

    The reason why everyone doesn’t do it is because it requires significant capital to be able to support a dev team through production for a number of years.

    Not to mention they will still have to deal with publishers potentially fucking them over, as shown with the Helldivers 2 PSN fiasco.

    • @[email protected]
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      21 month ago

      They do. There are plenty of indie Devs.

      Exactly. In fact, there are so many indie Devs that it’s nigh-impossible to break through the massive numbers of them. Occasionally there are breakthroughs like Stardew Valley, Hades, Vampires, etc.

      On the other hand, you partner with a company like Microsoft or Sony and you’re basically guaranteed success. They put up all the capital to make sure you make it to release (albeit probably a rushed, half-baked one that you just fix later because why not). Even if your game blows ass and is completely broken, full of DRM, microtransactions and ads, gamers still buy that shit up.

  • @[email protected]
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    341 month ago

    That’s exactly what will happen.

    A lot of new studios will form out of the ashes of these layoffs.

    That’s why you often see “from the former developers of X game” or similar in marketing for new games.

    • Scrubbles
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      161 month ago

      When Google fired all of those staffers last year there was a report that there was a huge bump in startups being formed. That’s where actual innovation happens, not at large companies but the small startups. I see that happening now too. They’ll eventually get bought up, but the cycle will repeat.

  • @[email protected]
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    331 month ago

    Because game devs have to pay their rent.

    If they go off to form their own studio, they probably have to take out a business loan to pay themselves for the time being. Interest rates are high right now, and rent and food are both expensive. It’s a huge gamble to make a game and put it out on the assumption you’ll be able to pay back 6%+ interest on whatever you took out. Games are not a reliable money maker. Especially from new studios.

    Even if you get some sort of deal with a publisher to fund your first endeavor, there will still be strings attached to that, and publishers are pretty tight with the purse strings right now.

    Which means really the only viable option, assuming you’re not already independently wealthy, is that you have to work another job to work on the game in the meantime, which means it will take even longer to come out.

    • @[email protected]
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      81 month ago

      the only viable option, assuming you’re not already independently wealthy, is that you have to work another job to work on the game in the meantime, which means it will take even longer to come out.

      Or be ConcernedApe.

      • Gamma
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        161 month ago

        Which means using up your savings and relying on your partner to support you

        • @[email protected]
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          141 month ago

          So many Indie developers are making the mistake of thinking they’ll be the next [insert currently successful one-man dev here] and banking their careers and life savings on it. 99.999% of them are not.

          • @[email protected]
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            61 month ago

            Survivor Bias - you only see the ones that “survive”, which may lead you to underestimate just how many tried and failed and vanished from attention.

    • @[email protected]
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      31 month ago

      To add to this:

      Ain’t no way a brand new game studio is getting a loan at 6%. If they can even get a business loan at all (good luck!), it would be at a much higher interest rate due to the risk, and/or require assets to be held in collateral (only an option if you’re already wealthy to begin with…)

  • HubertManne
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    331 month ago

    Why does anyone who works not make their own company? It takes capital and a certain skill set as well as a risk tolerance.

  • 🇰 🔵 🇱 🇦 🇳 🇦 🇰 ℹ️
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    1 month ago

    They do, though. Like, all the time. Many Indy companies start this way, and a lot of AA to even AAA studios started after high profile people were let go or otherwise left a bigger company to start their own.

    • @[email protected]
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      31 month ago

      There were a bunch of game company closures in Australia in the 2000s and now there are a bunch of Australian indie devs, as an example. The cycle takes a long time though.

  • @[email protected]
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    171 month ago

    Indie studios do in fact exist. I haven’t bought a game from a major publisher since… uhh… well, I guess I bought Portal for $1 last year, does Valve still count as a major publisher?

  • @[email protected]
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    151 month ago

    As a counterpoint to most of the cynicism here, this is how the company I now work for formed. Caveats include: the founder had a lot of money because he had previously worked for a big name Internet company when it was a startup, and we spend almost all of our time as contractors for other studios rather than developing in-house IP.

  • pelletbucket
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    141 month ago

    it takes time for a company to become profitable. the intentionally make sure to pay us so little we never have any run out

  • BoscoBear
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    141 month ago

    Beyond just game studios, why aren’t there more employee owned companies?

    When Starbucks was unionizing I made the comment that if I were the corporation I would just get out and let the employees run it. I got flamed for this attitude. What is so terrible about employee owned companies?

    • @[email protected]
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      1 month ago

      People literally buy into the idea that they wouldn’t know how to do anything if they weren’t being told what to do. They think that value comes from above.

      They think that when a company sells them raspberries, that company invented the raspberry bush. They don’t realize that the raspberries were already there. They certainly don’t realize that they themselves are another kind of bush. Or that the labor bush operates without a company to own it and sell its labor berries.

      • BoscoBear
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        11 month ago

        What can be done to change this?

        I think a lot of people need someone to blame for their own unhappiness, too. I would like to see this change, but I am not sure how it can be done.

        • @[email protected]
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          Grow a bunch of labor bushes and make it incredibly clear that it’s not about them being owned, but about them being labor bushes.

          To me the change from the current system doesn’t come by diving into the current system and trying to ask it nicely. It doesn’t come from asking permission at all. It comes from operating with zero concern or tolerance for capitalist bullshit.

          Go help people who can’t afford to pay you. Make something beautiful and give it to the world in a way that gives them an opportunity to prop you up, but that also lets them enjoy it without having to be rich or emptying their wallet.

          Internalize the idea that wealth is not a virtue, and poverty is not an ill. People who need help are an opportunity to help, and people who have value are in a position to use it to help, but holding onto that value and using it are mutually exclusive.

          It’s not going to come from a politician or some big speaker or a revolution, it’s going to come from individual people in their own lives lives making different choices. Your choices matter.

          • BoscoBear
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            11 month ago

            This is kinda off the subject but do you live this life? Would you like to code something for no money that would help people?

            • P03 Locke
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              21 month ago

              Would you like to code something for no money that would help people?

              That’s open-source software in a nutshell.

            • @[email protected]
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              21 month ago

              I drive a cab and get paid very little to basically drive around and help people. Like, the job is to drive people from point A to point B, but I try to do more than that, and help people who need it along the way. I carry a lot of stuff around that I’m not really paid for and I try to go the extra mile for people.

              If the projects I’m working on pan out and I manage to get to a place where I have more resources, I plan to use that as a way of making other small steps. Setting up a coop instead of chasing money, releasing a game license that allows independent producers to do their own thing. Things like that. Literally just leaving the door open for people instead of slamming it shut.

              I don’t really have any intent to code software outside of games, but I’d like to empower others to be able to make the things they want to make and not just feed some big parasitic company with it.

    • @[email protected]
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      61 month ago

      Probably because the owners want to take all of the profit and employees do not have the capital to make the investment.

      It takes a certain benevolent capitalist to convert their business to employee owned (Bobs Red Mill intensifies). Such businesses only represent 12% of the private sector

      • BoscoBear
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        31 month ago

        That’s a much higher percentage than I expected.

        Benevolent capital is out there, especially in the startup phase. I find it arrogant and ignorant, but available. It does require risk-sharing which I find doesn’t fit the vision of the borrower.

      • BoscoBear
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        11 month ago

        So you are saying employees in employee owned companies are rent seeking social parasites?

        • @[email protected]
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          51 month ago

          No? I said the opposite of that.

          The question I was answering was “why aren’t there more employee owned companies?” And the answer is it’s a lot harder to get seed money for those, because the rent seeking parasites don’t want them to exist.

          • BoscoBear
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            21 month ago

            So what I am now hearing is it is hard for them to get seed money.

    • @[email protected]
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      41 month ago

      The system literally disincentives and makes coops less competitive.

      Opening a coop is harder, more expensive, have less subsidies or tax benefits, less opportunities for investments/loans etc.

      And all of this makes running coops more expensive, thus less competitive, thus the ones that do manage to open either can’t grow or die.

      • BoscoBear
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        11 month ago

        To me the opposite appears true. Beyond economy -of-scale can you give me some examples?

        • @[email protected]
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          31 month ago

          Like the literal law. In most places it’s a much more involved and expensive process to even open a coop compared to a traditional private company. It takes more paperwork, more fees, more capital funds etc. Also, getting investors in (when they can’t own the coop, as they are not workers) or even loans from private or state banks/institutions is much harder. There are several programs incentivising people to open private companies, giving them tax credits, making the application and approval process easier, giving access to funds and education etc. How many there are for coops? In most places around the world there are 0. In what ways does it appear the opposite to you…? Like this all seems very self-evident to me.

          • BoscoBear
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            21 month ago

            I don’t know where you are located. I am in the US and a co-op is just a corporation so all the things that apply to a private corporation apply to a co-op. When applying for grants there are no differentiators that I can think of. One advantage for a co-op here is that there are no passive investors.

            • @[email protected]
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              21 month ago

              For my city, just for a very specific example, it takes less than one afternoon and 80 bucks total (no fees and almost no capital fund requirements) to open a corporation. It takes weeks if not months to open a coop and it costs 2500 bucks PER member.

              I don’t know the specifics of all cities and states everywhere in the world. But the system is built to benefit private corporations much more, as it’s a capitalist system where owning capital equals power, and workers are a commodity.

    • @[email protected]
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      Employee owned companies are more stable in economic downturns but they also require much more diversification to replace the owner/manager roles where there is actually shit to do. Big item being the book keeping it’s simple enough in theory but in practice even smaller companies can take hours just to understand where you’re starting from.

      • Seraph
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        41 month ago

        I’m not following on why manager roles are different from traditional companies.

        The book keeping? You mean splitting the profit? Why wouldn’t you assume everyone has a % stake?

        • @[email protected]
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          31 month ago

          Not splitting the profits, tracking bills, making sure they’re all paid on time, making sure the company is getting paid on time depending on your business plan, tracking any special taxes you gotta pay, tracking price increases in long term contracts, list goes on

      • BoscoBear
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        31 month ago

        I’m a better bookkeeper than I am a coder. I would join.

        So many roles can be fractionalized that it seems doable.

        Strategic leadership and consensus might be difficult. Design by committee could be the biggest enemy.

  • @[email protected]
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    101 month ago

    Tryin’! I gotta put out a tabletop RPG first. Smaller market, plus I need to finish the rule set to use it in my games!

      • @[email protected]
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        The tabletop system is intended to be modular, with subsystems that can easily be added, removed, or tuned for different genres. The initial playtest I did was in a zombie survival setting, currently we’re doing a campaign that’s got a bit more of a Shadowrunny type feel, mixing technological dystopia and magic. The idea is to put out a core book in those settings as well as a fantasy setting and a space opera setting, so people can mix and match subsystems and do whatever they like with it.

        I applied programming concepts to the design of the mechanics themselves in a way that I hope makes them more intuitive and tries to maintain a steady flow of tension and release without a bunch of pausing to check stuff once you know the system.

        I don’t want to give too much of the details away, but I do plan to release a system resource document along with the actual books. And it’ll be released under an anti-corporate license, so other small creators can make modules for it, but big companies will have to shell out if they want to play ball.

        Once that’s ready to go I have a couple of video games planned using the same system. One of them ties heavily into themes of abuse and autonomy, the other is about time travel. I have some of the early stages of the art and some shaders and stuff done for these, and have set up a few mechanics, but they’re still kind of on the back burner. I’ve been teaching myself music theory and composition so the soundtrack doesn’t become an afterthought, and I feel like there’s still something conceptual I’m missing at the core of the visual design. I’ll get there, though.

        • mynachmadarch
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          21 month ago

          My gaming groups (both tabletop and video) are leaning into experimental phase of trying new stuff. Count me in if I ever come across your release in the wild.

          On the music and visual side. If at all possible I highly recommend finding or hiring someone to at least review what you have and advise, if not doing all the work. There’s so much to both that it takes ages to get right but they can have such a huge impact as you seem to know.

          • @[email protected]
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            I’m going for very specific look of stylized visuals that’ll play well into my animation experience with Flash. I’ve got the shader for it pretty much nailed, I’m just working on my actual like body concept stuff and I’m not fully sold on the actual perspective angle I’ve been playing with. I definitely have a lot of artist and animator friends who have seen it and I’ve gotten good feedback.

            But yeah, on the music side of things, I honestly think I want to try to find some folks to play with some time soon. I’m still shoring up my performance end of things, but playing some bass and/or keyboard and/or guitar with a band would probably help my ear a lot and also give me some folks that I could have a musical understanding with who could help me with the soundtrack.

            I’d honestly love to release a sort of grungy album. Most of what I’ve been composing seems to lean into experimental guitar stuff, but it’s all still pretty raw.

        • ivanafterall
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          21 month ago

          That sounds cool. Are you using any particular tools to organize your ideas/systems? That was one of the reasons I was curious–turning ideas into something real seems daunting.

          • @[email protected]
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            I use Trello a bit, but not consistently. I’ll use it at the beginning of a project to kind of map things out, then come back a few times to kind of check in with where I’m at and see if there’s anything I’m not thinking of. I also have a ton of note files just laying all over my computer, my discord, and my notesnook account. I used to use Google Docs, but I don’t really want them scraping my stuff for their AI before I even get to finish it.

            Honestly I just kind of operate like a blob. I expand in a bunch of different directions on a project a little bit at a time until it starts to come together. Stuff percolates and another piece will fall into place and I’ll get a burst of momentum. Eventually I’ll notice I’m banging my head against something that doesn’t work and I’ll realize I’m looking in the wrong place or I don’t have the right thing yet and I’ll work on some other component.

            A lot of stuff just kind of comes to me at random times and I try to get it out before I forget it. But it also involves a lot of like sort of flow state thinking keeping track of how different pieces of a thing connect with one another.

            But also like, I feel like you kind of have to be comfortable just having a bunch of files full of concepts that don’t necessarily go anywhere immediately? Like, you need to be ready to just throw some shit out there, see how it works, chop massive pieces off of it or throw it away entirely. The moment you let yourself be self-conscious about your work or worry if you’re “really going in the right direction” you’re fucked. I mean, you can have that moment I guess as long as you don’t stay in it, but it’s the drive and the confidence that gets the actual thing finished whether anybody sees it or not.

            You have to do something. You can always do something else later.

            Once it’s done I feel like that’s its own other game entirely. Like, I have some guerilla marketing ideas and some former contacts I can try to get on the radar of, but that’s another phase of things. I can’t worry too much about that while I’m over here in playtesting, tweaking, and adding play-informed mechanics land.

            Like right now we’re just basically playing a game and I’ll stop suddenly in the middle of it and be like oh I need to add something, and I take some notes and then we keep going. A lot of the time at the end of the session I know pretty much what I need to do; whether a mechanic is too complicated or fiddly or not robust enough or needs something else to compensate for it or whatever, it becomes evident when you watch it play out.

            I’m not really sure how I’d ever get anything done if I was too focused on the organization of it, to be honest. I give myself enough hats without trying to also be a hat rack.

  • @[email protected]
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    What I’m reading is that it’s a quick way to lower expenses and pad the investors’ pockets, flooding the market with developers and reducing their value, to then hire them back a few months later at lower salaries.

    That sounds like what I see people comment on Lemmy. Those opinions or impressions are not necessarily true though, or seeing the full picture.

    People are laid off, which makes the news. But many others remain employed, those don’t make the news. Many others founded or found new companies, which don’t make the news.

    Creating your own company, with all its investment, management, and risk involved is much scarier, higher investment and risk, personally and professionally, than being employed. Some people are willing to take that leap, others not.

    I imagine profitably in creating games is very hard. You need to grow a user base or publicity. The market is flooded with games, publishers, and developers. Only the big ones have marketing budgets big enough that the marketing makes a bigger impact on profitability than the quality and discoverability of the product. (Like CoD investing a similar amount into marketing as the product development cost. And marketing is effective - more than a good game or product.)

    Either way, I don’t feel I have an overview of the whole market situation, or statistics on the broader market and development people movement. But I’m sure “why don’t people start their own companies” is a wrong premise. They do. Some do. We just don’t see it.


    The hiring back is unlikely to be the same people too. It’s new people. At the cost of experience, and possibly gain on lower salaries. I’d be skeptical it’s generally good long-term management though. Short-term management is popular. Lay off, you reduced costs, get more people, you increased productivity - and the cycle continues. Managers gotta manage. (/s)

  • @[email protected]
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    81 month ago

    The Venn diagram of game developers, who are also interested in/good at running a business has very little overlap. You need many different kinds of people to run a business, but a game developers is only one of those. In some rare cases it works out though.

  • DebatableRaccoon
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    Short answer: money. It’s no secret devs are usually overworked and underpaid so even a large-ish group of developers from even some of the more popular companies getting murdered simply can’t afford to start a business. Some of them could go the Kickstarter route but few would be successful as is the way for Kickstarter.

  • Rolivers
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    21 month ago

    You see the results of indie devs that are successful but you don’t see the ones that failed.

  • @[email protected]
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    11 month ago

    what’s holding back gamedevs from banding together to either unionize or start their own companies

    Same thing as any other business: money.