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Game dev in 2023: The rollercoaster of doom ramps up speed

The year 2023 has seen the release of many critically acclaimed games like Baldur’s Gate III, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Hi-Fi Rush, and others.
Some of my personal favorites this year include Moss: Book II, Viewfinder and of course, Metroid Prime Remastered.

But when it comes to the game development industry, 2023 has been a terrible year: Massive layoffs, big companies throwing rocks at other companies, and companies self-destructing in ridiculous ways. And recent developments seem to be giving signs that the worst has yet to come.

Layoffs and shutdowns galore

Spurred by the tech bubble burst which many still claim that it hasn’t burst, many game studios all around the world have gone through massive layoffs. By far one of the most affected industries has been in Northern Europe, when Embracer Group made a corporate restructuring that resulted in 5% of their workforce being laid off. Even Riot Games, one of my most beloved studios by work ambience and ethics, has been affected by this.

But other larger companies in the United States have been very heavy on layoffs as well, including the larger Xbox Games Studios, Blizzard (even though it has been fully purchased by Microsoft this year) and Telltale Games.

Many studios have also closed down, like Kiloo Games and Campfire Cabal, both from Denmark, and surprisingly, Puny Human, who co-developed The Callisto Protocol with Striking Distance.

The Japanese industry hasn’t been affected as much, but one noteworthy studio, CyberConnect2, has closed down its studio in Montreal, and I might probably be skimming a few more studios that have been affected.

As usual, some studios would inevitably fail soon after the release of a game due to not having enough sales. But there was nothing like FNTASTIC GAMES, a studio that exploded spectacularly 4 days after the release of their latest game after failing to meet everyone’s expectations.

This is just a brief summary of what’s been going on with jobs, but these two articles relate to this nightmare in depth.

The Internet as we know it nearly didn’t disappear

In February, the US Supreme Court heard a case about revising the Communications Decency Act (CDA) Section 230, that states that companies are immune to liabilities caused by third-party or user-generated content in their platforms.

If this were to be repealed, not only it would mean that companies would need to be way more cautious on moderating the content made by their users, but also would put in doubt of whose responsibility would be for things hosted by third-parties as a whole.

In layman’s terms, it would mean that, for example, every developer who implements the Steam Workshop in their games could be made responsible for any damages caused by people being influenced by something created by someone else in that game. This would definitely strangle games that heavily rely on user-generated content like Garry’s Mod or Dreams.

The Supreme Court Could Destroy the Internet! (22:46)

LegalEagle covers this topic in detail.

However, in May, the US Supreme Court ruled that they wouldn’t do anything about it, which was a huge relief to both content creators, content platforms, and by extension, game developers as well. A nicely dodged bullet.

Game engine makers throwing rocks at everyone

Epic Games and Unity have also been heavily affected by layoffs, but have been noticeably drawing out the guns this year.

It started off with Unity announcing a new pricing model that pretty much angered everyone. Thankfully, the backlash was so high that it was eventually called off, but the image of Unity as a game development platform has not been cleaned up as a result. Many developers have taken the choice of moving away from Unity. Most of them migrated to Godot, an open source engine that has gained quite a lot of traction over this year and the previous one.

Epic Games has been in a legal battle with Google and Apple for several years, angered because of revenue cuts that they and other developers receive over in-app purchases in Play Store. They eventually lost to Apple, very recently news broke about how Epic Games had won over Google on a lawsuit, where the jury deemed Google doing a lot of anti-competitive, monopolizing policies, although not necessarily because of the revenue cuts.

Epic Games wins antitrust lawsuit against Google (3:43)

Reasons include 'bribing' game developers to distribute their app on the Play Store and doing deals with certain manufactures to encourage them to have them use Play Store by default.

Of course, Google will appeal to this.

But it’s pretty funny because Google had considered cooperating with Tencent (the second largest shareholder of Epic Games) to buy Epic Games completely to ward off this issue. They’ve tried a lot of things.

Tencent can’t just stop showing its paws wherever it sees the opportunity to increase its influence, can it?


You might think that this could be good news to mobile game developers, but it’s hard to see indie developers being able to take the spotlight with the already extremely competitive, nearly oligopoly that is the mobile market.

And to wrap it up: The Game Awards

Logo fo The Game Awards

I generally disregard with disdain The Game Awards because of how commercial it is and how little it seems to care about what they are deliberating about, let alone the people who make them. I don’t want to end this with a toxic tone, but this year has been by far the worst in this regard, and I feel the need to speak out.

In response to the seemingly obnoxious speech times by the winners of past years, it seems like TGA has given a much stricter time limit to those who won awards this year. Some very noteworthy examples include speakers getting a “Please wrap it up” prompt when talking about deceased people or helping fight against sexual assaults, and even Baldur’s Gate 3 when they received the Game of the Year award.

And that’s only for those who even got the chance to be on stage. Some had their awards given 30 minutes prior to the actual show, and others were given out in a rapid fire section, which was disrespectful to even content creators and e-sports players.

Many press media have picked up on this, and other developers have spoken out as well.

There are far more honest to developers gaming award galas out there! I’ve always loved the BAFTA Games Awards, and this year’s will be held in March-April 2024. But if you want something more decent in the same fashion as The Game Awards, the Golden Stick Awards is an interesting option.

For more indie-like games, the Independent Games Festival has always been a notable event.

Too bad that E3, which is essentially The Game Awards without the awards, ended up being discontinued due to big developers doing their own shows nowadays.


So what about 2024?

2024 is (probably) bound to be wild for the industry.

On the good side, some good games might seem to be coming, and while there are constant rumors of Nintendo releasing a new console next year, I don’t think it will happen until Q2-Q3 2025 at earliest.

But it’s mostly bad omens to me. With how quickly the legislation seems to be regarding game distribution platforms and game engines, as well as potentially streaming services like Twitch maybe wrecking havoc due to it being closed down in South Korea, I predict there may be more lawsuits and companies throwing rocks at each other.

And with the rise of “AI” solutions, the fear of these technologies replacing human game developers is slowly but steadily gaining traction, as well. Layoffs should be expected to continue and possibly corporation mergers as well. If the CDA Section 230 were to be repealed, it would’ve added even more fuel to the AI fire, as well as possible succeeding cases debating about how game store platforms and their user-generated content should be responsible for damages and such, so we’d better thank that this didn’t happen.

So strap your belts tight, everyone. We’re in for a ride.