A Week From Hell

Sour news abounded in the form of layoffs and closures, but the industry is poised to turn around, unless of course it doesn't.

This week was one many would like to forget. While many gamers may be excited to lock themselves in for another weekend of Darksiders II or Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the industry surrounding those games is looking grim. This week brought bad news abounding, and served as a reminder that the video game industry, like any other entertainment industry, is a business. Tough decisions are made with serious implications. Jobs are cut. Lives are changed. But the industry presses on, ideally wiser for it.

Nintendo Power is no more come December.

The bad news this week took many forms, the most serious and permanent of which were the closure of Sony Liverpool and the cancellation of Nintendo Power. Sony's Liverpool outfit (formerly known as Psygnosis) was responsible for creating the popular Wipeout series and was nearing its 30th birthday. It was one of the United Kingdom's oldest and most respected studios, and now it is no more. As for Nintendo Power magazine, it was a magazine some of us grew up with and have fond memories of. Who could forget its covers, which ranged from depicting claymation to showing then-shocking decapitation. Publisher Future US said affected staffers will be moved to its other gaming-focused publications like GamesRadar and PC Gamer, but it's hard to imagine some editors won't be out of a job completely after the 24-year ride ends in December. (The magazine was wonderfully eulogized by Gears of War design director Cliff Bleszinski over at Kotaku.)

In addition to closures, bad news this week came in the form of layoffs at three separate studios. PopCap followed up its exciting Monday announcement of Plants vs. Zombies 2 with news on Tuesday of 50 cut positions (potentially including senior game designer and Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan), and a possible closure of the studio's Dublin outfit. Later that day, THQ confirmed cuts to non-development positions at its Agoura Hills, California, headquarters, the latest round layoffs enacted at the company this year. Even later that day, Secret World developer Funcom confirmed it had enacted a round of "temporary layoffs," rumored to total a whopping 50 percent of the firm's workforce. It was a heavy Tuesday.

This week was a perfect storm of tough news during an already brutal year for the industry.

This week was a perfect storm of tough news during an already brutal year for the industry. Monthly sales data from the NPD Group has been abysmal, and analysts do not expect a rebound for some time. Though closures and layoffs were front and center this week, they have been ongoing all year, striking developers like BioWare and Capcom, with 38 Studios and Zipper Interactive closing their doors entirely in the past few months. This week was conceivably the low point of the year, but there is reason to be (at least cautiously) optimistic looking forward.

Next week, Madden NFL 13 hits shelves, and with it comes new hope. The game is typically a barometer for the health of the industry, and if it can perform, then it may set the stage for continued improvement during the ever-important holiday season. Following on Madden's cleats comes a mystery Wii U event in September. It's widely believed the company will reveal the price and release date for the Wii U at this showing in New York City. If these details are provided, expect the industry to begin buzzing all over again.

Beyond that, this holiday season is stuffed with numerous AAA games, including a mighty five-week stretch that includes Medal of Honor: Warfighter (October 23), Assassin's Creed III (October 30), Halo 4 (November 6), Call of Duty: Black Ops II (November 13), and Hitman: Absolution (November 20). Not to mention Pokemon Black and White 2, Far Cry 3, Resident Evil 6, and Borderlands 2, all of which will be released in September or October.

Preorder data from GameStop, the largest specialty retailer in the business, reveals that reservation rates for all major games in Q3 and Q4 are up, and company CEO Paul Raines told us in July that "most of the sales year [is] ahead of us, and there's a lot of positive signs."

Of course, Madden could tank, the news from the Wii U event could be sour (for example, a delay out of 2012 or a $300-plus price point), and the season's blockbusters might not be the breakaway hits needed to lift the business out of its slump. While the turnaround is by no means assured, there is for the first time in months a reasonable hope that the industry has bottomed out and a return to sustained growth is on the horizon.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and is a big UCONN athletics fan.

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Discussion

74 comments
d_kell411
d_kell411

Well...since I'm considering going into the art department of a major developer at the moment...this isn't very reassuring for me at all. 

 

This does seem to be a major implication that gamers in general are fed up with DLC. What we are seeing is a fall in console gaming, not necessarily all types of gaming. To those who have mentioned CD Projekt: You're absolutely correct, CD Projekt Red is an outspoken developer that absolutely detests DLC. But even they wouldn't have the resources to fight a buyout by...say...Activision or Electronic Arts. And when there's only two conglomerates competing with each other in a market, and tiny developers are either bought if deemed useful or destroyed if deemed threatening, there will be no room for any innovation whatsoever. CD Projekt Red is awesome, and I truly love what they've done for the Witcher series, but they need to be careful when talking big to people like Bobby Kotick and John Riccitiello.

torres_unix
torres_unix

I hate to be the one to break it, but the gamers are speaking out with their dollars.  DLC madness must end and complete products must be released.  If the industry is further inclined to continue on the DLC path, they must reduce the price-point.  Gamers are among the most intelligent consumers out there and we catch idiotic corporate decisions before everyone else does, we also know how to appreciate smaller studios that are making an effort to stand up and challenge the currently flaccid status quo.

Baelath
Baelath

If game studios are going under, is not indicative they are not making good games? CD Projeckt is doing just fine over there. Maybe the video game industry is realizing that having smaller studios that don't attempt to pump out a half-polished game every 18 months is the way to approach the industry. 

thereal-15-cent
thereal-15-cent

$60 for a game plus $20-50 for DLC is the problem. That, and they're watering games down for the mindless mainstream players. Developers are afraid to innovate, that's why all we see is shooters. They're also afraid to innovate because innovative games rarely sell well.

jasonredemption
jasonredemption

@gamespot correction: far cry 3 releases in december, not sept/oct.

translucent17
translucent17

as long as people enjoy playing games then there will allways be a market for them, IMO things are going exactly how they should be, I mean the consoles are showing their age right, thats been the topic of conversations for weeks in gaming news,  the studios are in a slump it seems, making sequel after sequel after sequel here and there we get a new title like dragons dogma for example and those of us who liked it will sit and wait till the next one comes out.  Then you have AAA titles like COD who are on their 7th release now if im right? and assasins creed who is about to release their 5th but this is nothing new I mean how many mario games are there? how man FF games are there,  I think what it comes down to is the trend, every year or two we expect certain titles to deliver a blockbuster and we hope for a few good games in between but most of us are getting sick of that trend and that fact will hopefully change the direction of things, and we will see a higher quality in games  because if it.  Honestly im really surprised that we dont see more great games, with all the review sites and the constant news coverage the studios must know we are watching....

DeanBetamberine
DeanBetamberine

I think that people have finally adopted my mindset. I will not play a broken game. If a game needs a day one patch, then it isn't finished. People don't want unfinished games, don't rush a game to market just because you know you can patch it later.

 

Then there comes people being excited about patches ''oh patch 1.2 is coming next month, it should fix these issues'' the issues shouldn't be there in the first place!

 

A lot of games these days are rehashes of older games or just blatant ripoffs of games released the year before. Also there is the need to be online in order to play some PC games. Then there's games which require you to be connected to the internet just to play single player mode (Diablo 3).

 

And the last thing, on-disc DLC!

 

Although that was just a list of complaints, I do want to see the industry survive like all of us do but it's hit the fan, people know what they want and they aren't getting it! I speak for others as I barely play modern games and collect old games but I still care for the future of gaming.

 

 

Yes there are certain economic issues surrounding the downfall of gaming this year and thus, the companies which create the games but I'm not going to think about or even consider writing it. So although what I wrote is not 100% of the problem, it is only the gaming side of things.

 

Times are tough and even as a great developer you may need to layoff staff, regardless of the quality of your games (see Sierra layoff, 1999)

 

Anyway hate/flame away if you want to.

Gjinckxs85
Gjinckxs85

Let the video games industry slump! Let it stink and fester until they all understand, that we gamer's want good games! Not this half made crap that forces me to buy more to continue the story. I paid for it, that should be it! I don't want to buy a game that I will later have to spend another $60 to finish. Let them rot for all I care! I'll wait six years for a good game to come out! But don't try and tease me with your petty bull**** offerings like HD remakes, and don't give me hardware with no software (AKA Vita). If your going to give me something, make sure it's BIG, it's FULL, it takes as long as Half Life 1 and Doom 1 took to finish, and don't make me pay more to keep playing it! Oh and BTW, you can take your Anti Used Games DRM, and cram it up your ***!....... "End Rant"

fadersdream
fadersdream

Quit releasing every game during the some 30 day period and maybe you'll see better sales.

Otherwise the majority of those games won't sell until they hit the $30 mark.

TimeFrame
TimeFrame

I buy one gaming magazine and that's Edge. Rest of them seem to be too adolescent and too "WOOOW POOOOWW BIG EXPLOSIONS IN THIS GAME, LOOK AT THIS AXE HERE!!! WAAAUUVV PUUUIIISSSCCCHHH!!!" I hope you catch my drift. xD

TimeFrame
TimeFrame

Madden a barometer? What are we europeans? Chopped liver? We don't really play madden much!!!

Apastron
Apastron

Everyone voting in the Golden Joystick awards should vote Wipeout the best portable game of the year.  Give Psygnosis the send off they deserve.

endor1
endor1

Nintendo Power Nostalgia. I remember growing and seeing the magazine at a Toys r Us for the 1st time. The problem is that you can go Online and visit sites like IGN, GameInformer, and Gamespot. Magazines like Nintendo Power and the old Sega Magazine for the Genesis are no longer needed. Especially, as many readers/fans have pointed out, it was just a Self promotion magazine for Nintendo (or the Genesis). I will miss the cheat codes and hints presentations though.  

hickabickabooya
hickabickabooya

The game industry will either adapt and thrive, or they will slowly (or quickly) create their own doom. It's up to them.

Kerrizma
Kerrizma

All the New AAA games are sequels - no original ideas.  That's whats wrong with video games nowadays.

jayjay444
jayjay444

people dont have the money to buy many games anymore so either bring down the prices of over priced games or i will gladly watch u fall under your own greed. yes im sorry to hear these employees going out of work but most of the time its the company's greed that's the problem here. 

CaptainCecil
CaptainCecil

It's been a bad year for games for sure. Let's hope we see developers other than each and Activision/blizzard alive and well next year.

Fartman7998
Fartman7998

While Nintendo Power was a fun publication, it's purpose is fading.  The Wii U and the 3DS are different animals that appeal to a different audience.  Let's face it.  Kids that used to play Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 NOW play Xbox and PS3.  Mainly Call of Duty. 

It's sad to hear that so many developers are being squashed by this though.  Maybe if they stop smoldering us with DLC and disappointing games....no...that can't be it.  Could it? 

davidsworld3
davidsworld3

Sucks to hear that, but this isn't anything new, if a studio isn't making enough profit it's not gonna stay open.  Frankly I think there are way too many studios that makes mediocre titles.  A lot of them cant compete with the bigger studios that makes triple A titles so whats the point of them other than just grabbing cash?  Gaming needs to improve not keep making the same thing over and over.  There have been multiple studios that have been making the silent hill series which all have sucked since the original team made them, I say shut them down and put a studio that makes amazing games make them.

Szeiden
Szeiden

Well the only reason I bought a PSP was for WipEout Pulse. PS3 for WipEout HD. PSVita for WipEout 2048. Won't be buying another Sony system if WipEout doesn't live on. Yes, I did eventually go on to get other games for these systems, but my initial purchase was always made for the WipEout games.

Richmaester6907
Richmaester6907

Boo frickedy Hoo less games are bought in summer and no games come out during this time its hardly news.

IanNottinghamX
IanNottinghamX

When the title said" A week from Hell" I thought they meant EA's offices....

TrueProphecy22
TrueProphecy22

I was waiting for the WiiU, but this week I decided to hop on the Vita train instead.  I usually put a great distance between purchasing systems, so I'll probably be watching the WiiU's launch from the sidelines. 

Hurvl
Hurvl

"Madden NFL 13...is typically a barometer for the health of the industry" Isn't the Madden series the posterboy for sequels with not much added except a higher number in the game's title? And this is a barometer of how well the industry is going. If both of the above are true, then the state of the industry really IS sad. I'm most looking forward to Dishonored this year and then there's a whole lot of 2013 titles that interest me, but I'm not representative of the average gamer, so  perhaps it's only me that thinks this way.

Setho10
Setho10

Tough stuff. As many execs have said, the console cycle has just gone on too long. People are to entrenched with their favorite series and no one is taking risks and innovating. The result is that people are tired of what is being released, but have little interest in trying something brand new unless it is truly outstanding. And at that level the cost of failure is almost too great for any publisher to take the risk. Publishers have new IPs and ideas in the wings ready. It is merely up to Microsoft and Sony to finally unleash the torrent by announcing new consoles.

 

Of course all that assumes Sony will still be around for another console cycle. They are something like $10 billion in debt. If they can't turn things around then there is a good chance they won't be around at the end of the next console cycle. You know they are hurting when they close three studios in the course of three or four months (Zipper, Liverpool, BigBig).

ManfromRedRiver
ManfromRedRiver

I can understand the feelings of nostalgia and loss surrounding the end of Nintendo Power, (I remember getting my hands on a few copies of it myself as a kid) but let's be honest.  It's a publication where you actually pay Nintendo money to send you ads. It's not a legitimate journalistic publication that talks honestly about the games and hardware featured in its pages.  It just makes everything Nintendo puts out sound like the best thing ever and then ignores the rest of the industry.  Back in the day there wasn't much available available in the way of video game publications, so we gamers took what we could get and enjoyed every page of it, but now that there are other unbiased video game publications that write much more honestly about the latest news and products coming from the entire industry (and not just one company)(such as Game Informer which receives a high amount of promotion through Gamestop)(oh, yeah, and Gamespot which is completely free), it doesn't surprise me at all that the pay-to-view advertising publication from Nintendo is going under.  Throw on top of all that the fact that Nintendo now targets the casual market over the hardcore gamers (the people who would actually care enough about gaming to read a magazine about it) and this news is really no surprise at all.

ACWH
ACWH

I haven't bought a video games magazine in years. Sites like Gamespot make them obsolete, more so when you have tablet PCs that you can download a magazine onto...

OmegaSabre
OmegaSabre

The main problem is that there is so much game released and that most of them are really really bad.

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

It's tough out there and my thoughts are with those affected!

Omni_Paradox
Omni_Paradox

Um... why is one of Halo 4's recently announced Specialization armors the image for this story? It has squat to do with anything written here.

(It's a silly thing to complain about, sure, but I clicked on this story expecting some bad news about Halo 4. Presentation DOES matter, guys!)

breakitapart
breakitapart

I think it is a combination of both a ton of videogame market saturation and the economic Hope and Change Trickle up effect.

ComRaven
ComRaven

 @d_kell411What you - and many others - forget when commending CD Projekt for their dislike of DLCs and many other measures that other companies take is..they are from Poland. Which is not exactly renowned for being a high-salary country. Yes, Witcher 1 and 2 are amazing games, but I can say that as someone working in this biz, I am quite fine with living in a country with an extremely high standard of living- which unfortunately means that the games are a lot more expensive to produce than they might be elsewhere :(

 

chrisangelo2k7
chrisangelo2k7

@torres_unix I always believed that DLCs will be the downfall of the videogames industry, since day one. There's NOTHING creative about this, just yet a new way to f*** the consumers without lube. Whenever I hear DLC I hear scam. Another important issue which should not go unnoticed is "exclusives". That form of releases hurts both the videogames industry and the consumers.

paulsifer42
paulsifer42

 @hickabickabooya Making way for some of the Indie developers who have blown our minds with fewer dollars... maybe what you say isn't such a bad thing...

phatsanta
phatsanta

 @Richmaester6907 oh and the constant stream of layoffs and the closing of numerous developers is not worrying at all or not news worthy? get over yourself man your a joke.

armodillo17
armodillo17

 @Hurvl This is purely a guess, but I would imagine Madden is a barometer because it one of the most popular games bought by a wide variety of people, many of whom don't follow the gaming world/industry. The type of people who frequent this site will always buy games, but the rest of the masses is more fickle. Maybe?

Hurvl
Hurvl

 @Setho10 Sony and Microsoft (and Nintendo as well to some extent) need to open the flood gates. Release the Kraken!

nate1222
nate1222

 @ManfromRedRiver

 You make a damn good point, and one that I just now considered.

 

While my sense of nostalgia is a bit hurt by Nintendo Power's bowing out, in retrospect, it was really just an ad campaign that took advantage of gamers' limited options in gaming media. And Nintendo's new, primarily casual, market couldn't care less about reading a mag full of shameless self promotion.

 

Nintendo did hold on to some core gamers, like myself, with the DS. The 3DS and Wii U (with their 3rd party offerings) may well keep some core gamers around. But, with an increasing number of core gamers going the PC route (like myself), it's probably too little and too late.

augmira
augmira

 @Omni_Paradox Are you talking about the jet-looking thing on the main page link to this story? I believe it's one of the ships from the Wipeout franchise that Psygnosis, the Sony Liverpool studio, *used* to make. They might still make more Wipeout games but the closing of that studio certainly makes future instalments look less likely.

Omni_Paradox
Omni_Paradox

 @augmira 

Hmmm. When I look at GameSpot's main page, the link to this story has a picture of a Spartan, not a jet. How odd.

Daian
Daian

 @augmira  I think he's talking about the game next to the article, it's Halo 4.

Psycold
Psycold

 @DeanBetamberine  @Gjinckxs85 HD remakes don't...and if they do, they are usually free total conversions, yea DRM exists, but PC games are also cheaper.