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News & Features Discussion  » General: Jennings - 2009: That Horrible Year

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  Stradden

Managing Editor

Joined: 7/08/05
Posts: 6729

 
OP  12/23/09 9:28:04 AM#1

Scott Jennings returns with his column this week to talk about the year that was, in 2009, and the trail of destruction that it left in its wake... at least where MMO development is concerned.

Scott Jennings

Queen Elizabeth once memorably referred to a particular drama-filled year in her life as an “annus horribilis”, which shows that any phrase, even “horrible year”, sounds grave and fraught with meaning if you say it in Latin. And as far as game development in 2009 - well, it may well be time to bring out the dead languages, because last year was decisively an unpleasant year to be an MMO developer.

The Great Recession: When “Developers, Developers, Developers” turned into “Layoffs, Layoffs, Layoffs”

The hardest challenge facing MMO developers in 2009 was, umm, remaining an MMO developer. As the global economy imploded at the end of last year, the gaming industry showed that, contrary to the opinion of some clueless analysts, gaming is very much not immune to a recession. Just ask the folks at SOE. Or Turbine. Or Funcom. Or Mythic (twice). Or NCsoft. Or.. uh... me. Or... anyone at EA, as the gaming behemoth shed 1,500 workers (including the Mythic layoffs listed above).

Read 2009: That Horrible Year.

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

  NoobTech

Novice Member

Joined: 11/13/09
Posts: 35

12/23/09 9:49:45 AM#2

What game companies need to be doing is finding out why people stop subscribing to their games and add content that will either bring back former subscribers or bring in new ones. trying to squeeze extra $$$ out of already paying customers is just plain greedy and needs to stop...and i don't care if it's only 'cosmetic' mt's either.

lets hope 2010 is the year the companies start to listen to their customers instead of lining their pockets.

  Toquio3

Novice Member

Joined: 7/02/09
Posts: 1105

"Excellent breeze... Great day for cards."

12/23/09 9:57:24 AM#3

Good article, i liked it. Just goes to show that corporations are greedy. There is no other word for them.


If you stand VERY still, and close your eyes, after a minute you can actually FEEL the universe revolving around PvP.

  kingtommyboy

Novice Member

Joined: 3/19/06
Posts: 556

12/23/09 10:00:44 AM#4

2009 was indeed a terrible year.. but we're lucky it's almost 2010 ^^

-------------------------------------------------------------------
waiting for ... nothing..

  duggie

Novice Member

Joined: 11/06/08
Posts: 9

12/23/09 10:02:45 AM#5

hey scott...you really oughta remove turbine from that list of devs forced to layoff due to the recession.

the reason being that those folks let go last year around the release of MoM were all long term temps hired specifically for the duration of the Mines of Moria expansion and for the most part were all QA related jobs.

so i for one would not categorize folks let go at the end of their contract as recession forced layoffs.

 

 

  LumTheMad

Novice Member

Joined: 11/04/09
Posts: 29

12/23/09 10:11:36 AM#6
Originally posted by duggie

hey scott...you really oughta remove turbine from that list of devs forced to layoff due to the recession.

the reason being that those folks let go last year around the release of MoM were all long term temps hired specifically for the duration of the Mines of Moria expansion and for the most part were all QA related jobs.

so i for one would not categorize folks let go at the end of their contract as recession forced layoffs.


This isn't true. Turbine had opened a satellite studio in California which was believed to have been focused on console development. I had heard that the entire CA studio was shut down as part of those layoffs (although it looks like they've been staffing it back up a bit based on job postings, but more for associated LOTRO development then console work.)

In any event, uh, laying off QA still counts. Especially, you know, if you're in QA.

  Redemp

Novice Member

Joined: 7/30/05
Posts: 1055

If I didn't respond to you, chances are you're a idiot.

12/23/09 10:18:22 AM#7

 I honestly get tired of the " Its the Recession" waggle.... I stil have a hard time believing MMO gaming was hit at all. The only company I can really see people pointing to, to solidify the claim is EA/Mythic and I honestly think that was not a recession based layoff...  that was EA cutting the fat from an Mmo they predicted would go nowhere ( much to my chagrin ).

Scott works in the industry, I simply feed that industry so I will bow to those who should know better.... but I am still skeptical.

  Scrogdog

Novice Member

Joined: 8/05/03
Posts: 383

12/23/09 10:18:24 AM#8
Originally posted by kingtommyboy

2009 was indeed a terrible year.. but we're lucky it's almost 2010 ^^


 

I wouldn't be too sure about that.

If this holiday season fails in terms of game sales, we could see much more carnage in 2010.

  LumTheMad

Novice Member

Joined: 11/04/09
Posts: 29

12/23/09 10:20:06 AM#9
Originally posted by Redemp

 I honestly get tired of the " Its the Recession" waggle.... I stil have a hard time believing MMO gaming was hit at all. The only company I can really see people pointing to, to solidify the claim is EA/Mythic and I honestly think that was not a recession based layoff.

I have many out-of-work friends, acquaintances, and former co-workers who were laid off from companies not named EA or Mythic who would beg to disagree.

  Redemp

Novice Member

Joined: 7/30/05
Posts: 1055

If I didn't respond to you, chances are you're a idiot.

12/23/09 10:25:58 AM#10
Originally posted by LumTheMad
Originally posted by Redemp

 I honestly get tired of the " Its the Recession" waggle.... I stil have a hard time believing MMO gaming was hit at all. The only company I can really see people pointing to, to solidify the claim is EA/Mythic and I honestly think that was not a recession based layoff.

I have many out-of-work friends, acquaintances, and former co-workers who were laid off from companies not named EA or Mythic who would beg to disagree.


 

 It was a bad gaming season all around, not just in the Mmo field. Which I still think had nothing to do with the recession. Its been a year full of flops, and very few sucesses on every platform. Are the layoffs a direct result of the recession,  which would imply consumers are not buying games like they did prior to...  or is it that combined with a bad year of games being unleashed, bad press.. and then that the looming " Theres a Recession " scared the companies into cutting their numbers?

I'd like to see data on game sales across the platforms to support a  " The Recession caused gaming developers to cut employes" if you understand what I mean.

 http://news.cnet.com/8301-10797_3-10241545-235.html

Interesting read  in regards to game sales in April

http://news.cnet.com/8301-10797_3-10309560-235.html

Another read in August.

Generally people are questioning whether its a recession proof industry, the article lists a few key reasons why sales are down that don't begin with R and end with the dust bowl .

 I see the " Its the Recession" as a clever scapegoat... alot of business's and people find it very easy to just jump on the wagon... but demonstrating with data the corelation they won't do. For the gaming industry it seems pretty open and shut :

1. Few large sucesses

2. Reduced prices on all systems, games, and accessories ( Remember the prices were all higher last year, so you may be selling the same amount.. but the sales figures will show a stark drop)

3. Few guaranteed hits being released. ( Madden and MW:2 being the exceptions )

Combine all that with a climate ( The Recession ) and it seems easy enough to see why people were laid off. Did the Recession directly cause the layoffs, or did they simply force the hands of the companies?

I'd go on .. but I am in danger of blaming the waggle of "Its a Recession" on everything... Panic does horrid things... if the media states we are in a Recession, get ready.. because if we arn't .. we will be soon.

 

  Daffid011

Old School

Joined: 1/03/04
Posts: 7652

12/23/09 10:34:19 AM#11
Originally posted by kingtommyboy

2009 was indeed a terrible year.. but we're lucky it's almost 2010 ^^

Same thing was said in 2008, 2007, 2006....

 

I don't have high hopes for 2010 to be honest.

  Gyrus

Hard Core Member

Joined: 11/20/07
Posts: 2322

12/23/09 10:36:59 AM#12
Originally posted by Redemp
...

I'd like to see data on game sales across the platforms to support a  " The Recession caused gaming developers to cut employes" if you understand what I mean.

 http://news.cnet.com/8301-10797_3-10241545-235.html

Interesting read  in regards to game sales.

Yes.  IIRC I read another article about this somewhere that said the slump in games sales started before the depression?
(It's late so I won't be hunting for it now - sorry)

As a consumer, my purchases have declined dramatically over the past decade - not because of the recession - but because I am not satisfied with what is on offer.

Nothing says irony like spelling ideot wrong.

  LumTheMad

Novice Member

Joined: 11/04/09
Posts: 29

12/23/09 10:42:10 AM#13

It's very difficult to argue that the gaming industry suffered record layoffs (and they did - EA's 1,500 alone is a huge, industry-shattering number in an industry of 50,000 people, and estimates are that the total carnage last year is around 8,000) in 2009, not because of economic conditions, but because all the games released in 2008 and 2009 were just really bad.

On the one hand, all the games released *weren't* really bad (EA for example released Dragon Age, which is one of the best CRPGs in recent memory). On the other hand, game releases haven't slowed in terms of sales (see: Modern Warfare 2's record-breaking release). And on the gripping hand, you essentially are arguing that not only were games in the past year so bad that they caused layoffs, but they were uniquely bad as opposed to years prior. Which just doesn't make sense.

  Redemp

Novice Member

Joined: 7/30/05
Posts: 1055

If I didn't respond to you, chances are you're a idiot.

12/23/09 10:42:31 AM#14
Originally posted by Gyrus
Originally posted by Redemp
...

I'd like to see data on game sales across the platforms to support a  " The Recession caused gaming developers to cut employes" if you understand what I mean.

 http://news.cnet.com/8301-10797_3-10241545-235.html

Interesting read  in regards to game sales.

Yes.  IIRC I read another article about this somewhere that said the slump in games sales started before the depression?
(It's late so I won't be hunting for it now - sorry)

As a consumer, my purchases have declined dramatically over the past decade - not because of the recession - but because I am not satisfied with what is on offer.


 

I purchased twice as many games this year than I did in 08. /shrug

  Redemp

Novice Member

Joined: 7/30/05
Posts: 1055

If I didn't respond to you, chances are you're a idiot.

12/23/09 10:43:51 AM#15
Originally posted by LumTheMad

It's very difficult to argue that the gaming industry suffered record layoffs (and they did - EA's 1,500 alone is a huge, industry-shattering number in an industry of 50,000 people, and estimates are that the total carnage last year is around 8,000) in 2009, not because of economic conditions, but because all the games released in 2008 and 2009 were just really bad.

On the one hand, all the games released *weren't* really bad (EA for example released Dragon Age, which is one of the best CRPGs in recent memory). On the other hand, game releases haven't slowed in terms of sales (see: Modern Warfare 2's record-breaking release). And on the gripping hand, you essentially are arguing that not only were games in the past year so bad that they caused layoffs, but they were uniquely bad as opposed to years prior. Which just doesn't make sense.


 

It should if you go back and re-read it.

Was a work in progress... should be easier to ascertain my points now.

Forgive my lack of acceptance of the typical " Its a Recession" excuse. I was laid off at the begining  of the " Its a Recession" blame game. Was I laid off because of the Recession? No.. I was laid off because for the past year the company was hemoraging money due to poor decisions on the corporate level. Myself and several others had been blowing the whistle far prior to the layoff about our spending practices. That atleast is where I am coming from in the debate.

 

  Kryalis

Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/10/06
Posts: 27

12/23/09 10:53:28 AM#16

In my mind, games (MMO's in particular) still offer darn good value for money entertainment wise. While any job loses are regrettable, a lot seem related to the game industries own issues ("hit" driven) rather than the macro economy (although it's not entirely dodged obviously).

EA has been declining for some time and are using it as an excuse to clear shop, Mythic bet the bank on WAR and lost. The way Cryptic are playing about at the minute I don't think they would have survived without the cash injection from the rather sub par Champions Online. A lot of the big name games got pushed from this year to next, which has useful accounting mechanisms - This year sucks because of "the recession" next years is awesome because all the hits you pushed back hit then, hey investors look at our recovery!

Alas I don't have the figures to hand, but does the huge rise of iPhone gaming make any headway into the losses of the mainstream industry? Them be gold in them thar mountains for sure...

Shame Zynga ate all the facebook pie, that was looking like a good inroad for a while too.

  erickdefores

Novice Member

Joined: 8/07/07
Posts: 167

12/23/09 10:53:29 AM#17
Originally posted by LumTheMad

It's very difficult to argue that the gaming industry suffered record layoffs (and they did - EA's 1,500 alone is a huge, industry-shattering number in an industry of 50,000 people, and estimates are that the total carnage last year is around 8,000) in 2009, not because of economic conditions, but because all the games released in 2008 and 2009 were just really bad.

On the one hand, all the games released *weren't* really bad (EA for example released Dragon Age, which is one of the best CRPGs in recent memory). On the other hand, game releases haven't slowed in terms of sales (see: Modern Warfare 2's record-breaking release). And on the gripping hand, you essentially are arguing that not only were games in the past year so bad that they caused layoffs, but they were uniquely bad as opposed to years prior. Which just doesn't make sense.


 

Good point  But lets face it, two games does not a castle make.  The truth is more likely both the economy and quality are factors in a slumping industery.  I myself feel the economy has had the harder impact on these companies with many titles being sub par in quality being another hit to stability.

  MMO_Doubter

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/28/09
Posts: 5133

12/23/09 11:02:13 AM#18
Originally posted by Daffid011
Originally posted by kingtommyboy

2009 was indeed a terrible year.. but we're lucky it's almost 2010 ^^

Same thing was said in 2008, 2007, 2006....

 

I don't have high hopes for 2010 to be honest.

Indeed. I think there are still a lot of people working in the industry who simply don't deserve to be - judging by their results.

"" Voice acting isn't an RPG element....it's just a production value." - grumpymel2

  Redemp

Novice Member

Joined: 7/30/05
Posts: 1055

If I didn't respond to you, chances are you're a idiot.

12/23/09 11:07:46 AM#19

 We could really simplify the debate and keep it only to Mmo's and their Dev teams.

Lets look at who saw layoffs : Funcom, Ea/Mythic, Turbine, Soe.

Despite Turbine, who laid off many after MoM was finished...Funcom and Mythyic/Ea  rolled out MMO's who are continually declining in population. Soe is a touch diffrent, they have had several titles on life support for the past few years: Potbs, Vanguard, EQ, SWG. So was it the Recession that caused the lay offs, or was it the Companies decisions?

Seems pretty open and shut.

 

  erictlewis

Hard Core Member

Joined: 11/08/08
Posts: 3058

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

12/23/09 11:09:13 AM#20

Very interesting article. 

However I have to point out these companies could have avoided all this buy making a quility product.  Lately a lot of companies just do so so.  Then you player base leaves and your stuck in the red.

Turbine has not learned this leason yet.  I know they had temp hires for MOM, but they also closed an entire office in ca devoted to a console game.   The players paid the price.  The entire year was the tune of fix this part of the release fix that part of the release, and we still have quality issues.  Instead of getting 4 updates we got 2 updates and a ton of patches.  Still no leason learned.  With the new SOM about 60% of the o content is instanced, using the same fail model that DDO had before going F2P. I will not be giving turbine any more cash after that update.

Really if companies gave the their players quilty games that are fun they would not have this problem of having to lay off folks, it just became way to easy for them to stick it to the player and do the same old thing.

What players want is new and fun,  a lot of games are not fun any more and these dev's and companies need to figure it out.

Part of the problem is a glut of MMO's now on the market both paid and F2P, so they think we will just do an ok job.  I think a lot of things need to happen with a lot of these companies closing shop and getting their act together and comming out with something new and fun.

The only thing I can say is i feel for the guys let go, its not fun being unemployed having got the axe myself this past year.

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