Loading Screen: The Layoffs Continue, Devs Warn on Toxicity and Dog Beats Man

Loading Screen: The Layoffs Continue, Devs Warn on Toxicity and Dog Beats Man

More layoffs across the industry today, while at Colossal Order, devs are warning players that they won't tolerate toxicity aimed at them or at other players. But in better news, there's a cute dog playing video games way better than most of us could.

Conor Caulfield

We're seeing layoffs now hitting in two specific types of companies who are taking losses, while at Colossal Order, devs are warning players that they won't tolerate toxicity towards either themselves or other community members. But in better news, there's a cute dog playing video games way better than most of us could.

Please submit suggestions for the next game you want to see an animal perform a speedrun for in the Member's Lounge.
I want to see Donkey Konga!

Layoff Watch 2024

Lost Boys Interactive

Gearbox Interactive was purchased by Embracer Group in 2021, and then they themselves purchased Lost Boys Interactive in June 2022.
Lost Boys Interactive are a company that provide support for other developers - working on the likes of Diablo 4 and Tiny Tina's Wonderland, and there's always a need for support studios in AAA Games right now. Per Producer Jared Pace (via Game Developer), they have just suffered significant layoffs from their 400 or so staff.

It seems a sizable portion of Lost Boys Interactive was laid off today, including myself. Still trying to understand the scope of it all, but sadly - this is a song and dance we're all familiar with.

This was later confirmed by the studio, citing a need to "restructure our studio to ensure we can succeed in spite of headwinds facing the industry right now."
They're not the first Gearbox subsidiary to face this - Volition was under their umbrella, and even Gearbox themselves are potentially about to be spun out or made independent.
No one is currently safe under Embracer.


In a similar vein, support studio PTW have seen layoffs. Kotaku was told that 45 staff were let go, with these mostly being QA staff based outside the United States.
This is another third party studio (localisation, QA, etc) whose portfolio includes multiple AAA studios like Nintendo - but are now facing layoffs.

“PTW made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce in several countries where we operate, This decision was not made lightly – our company’s core offerings stem from the people who enable us to deliver world-class products and services. We want to thank our departing team members for the time and effort they put into the company.”

In theory - both of these companies should be facing significant upturn. As staff are laid off from AAA companies, there will be a demand for more support and work from outsourced elements. The problem generally is that there are only so many games in development that will be able to support so many outsourced staff - and those companies need to reduce their overheads.


Finally, as reported by Gamesindustry.biz, Steamworld developer/publisher Thunderful have just announced they'll be reducing their headcount by 20%.
After a year with critical successes Planet of Lana, Viewfinder, Steamworld Dig and more.
It's exactly the same as what we're now hearing on a weekly basis - too much expansion and over-investment, now it's time to tighten the purse-strings at the expense of those hired during that period.

To ensure and strengthen the viability of the group, we have found no alternative other than to reduce costs and focus the business on areas with the best future growth and profitability prospects.
It has been difficult to make these decisions, and it saddens me that we will have to say goodbye to many skilled colleagues and partners. Nevertheless, I am convinced that this is a necessary direction for Thunderful and that these changes will make the company a stronger player in the market."

Thunderful are one of several publishers (Devolver, Tinybuild, Team17) that attempted to become publicly traded in the last few years - and like many of those publishers, they launched strong and then never quite retained their success.

These moves are generally taken to help organise the company on the global stage, and to drive investment - but it also means that they're then subject to the whims of whatever shareholders end up in control. If they demand constant growth at short term expense, then we're looking at a situation where layoffs to reduce costs are one of the easiest levers to pull for management.

Cities Skylines Toxicity Warning

Before Christmas, we covered the case of DerangedTeddy - a Cities Skyline modder. He was so unhappy with the way the wider community was treating developers and fan modders following the contentious Cities Skyline 2's release that he would be pulling his mods for the game until things improved, ending with the request to the audience:

Please rethink your behaviour, because modders aren't going to stick around in a community that is this toxic and hostile to developers.

It seems like things haven't improved.
Colossal Order CEO Mariina Hallikainen published the companies weekly update this week. It contained progress with updates and fixes for the game after the holiday break, highlighting that the editor tools would soon be in closed beta in a matter of weeks and a promise of a bug patch shortly.

It also contained a request from Hallikainen to please consider their actions not just in talking to the developers, but in talking to other fans in the community - as toxicity has grown to unprecedented levels despite prior warnings.
In her view, this will ultimately drive away creative individuals (like DerangedTeddy above) in a way that hurts everyone in the game's fanbase.

She was quick to explicitly say that this was not them trying to deflect criticism too. They want feedback! They don't want insults. And they especially don't want those directed at the community of the game on any platform - just for expressing their opinions on the state of the game or the changes being made.

Toxicity and criticism are different things, I'm sure you understand that. Toxicity is threats, attacking people and being outright mean.
It has nothing to do with explaining what the issues with the game you might be facing and what you wish for the devs to fix or improve on first. We don't want praise, we want a community where we can discuss with the players about the game, what is working and what is not without facing abuse.

It's understandable that people are frustrated about Cities Skylines II not living up to their expectations. If you've paid money to get something and it's disappointing, that's going to sting.
But there has to be a line between expressing frustration to the community and taking out that frustration on the community.
The former is how we ultimately can improve things, especially when developers are willing to listen and learn from the feelings of the playerbase. The latter is how developers end up retreating from that playerbase and treating all feedback with a measured distance - because it's not reasonable for a company to expose their staff to abuse.

Speedrunning Dog Doesn't Get World Record - Deserves Treat Regardless

In what will surely be one of the strangest Speedrun attempts at GDQ, Peanut Butter the Shiba Inu has accomplished his 26:24 speedrun of the 1985 NES title Gyromite, despite a few setbacks that were heretofore unknown to man nor beast.
It's not quite at the World Record level that Peanut Butter and human assistant James (JSR_) set in July of 2023 on camera, but considering it was being streamed to an audience of thousands this time around - it's still pretty impressive.

It's worth taking a look at how this was accomplished - with commands effectively being given to have PB use a constructed controller that saw him tapping one or two buttons on the floor to raise and lower the pipes in game.
Fortunately, this was all motivated by many treats - so even though he missed out on his own Personal Best, Peanut Butter was well rewarded for all of this.
Also it raised a fair amount for charity, so everybody wins!