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Larian publishing director slams game studios laying off employees: “None of these companies are at risk of going bankrupt”

A hot potato: There has been an unprecedented number of layoffs from within the video game industry recently, with CEOs often claiming the streamlining is necessary to survive in a competitive market. Larian director of publishing Michael Douse says the statements are bull, noting that “none of these companies are at risk of going bankrupt.”

There have been around 9,000 layoffs across the video game industry in 2024 so far. From massive companies such as EA, which let go of 670 people, to smaller organizations like Deck Nine Games. It continues a trend that has been ongoing for about two years.

Speaking to Game File (via PC Gamer), Larian’s Douse said the layoffs “are an avoidable f*ck-up.”

“That’s all they really are. That’s why you see one after the other. Because companies are going: ‘Well, finally. Now we can, too. We’ve wanted to do it for ages. Everyone else is. So why don’t we?’ That’s really kind of sick,” he added.

We often hear CEOs talk about job cuts being essential to help firms remain competitive or even to ensure their survival, but Douse noted that “none of these companies are at risk of going bankrupt.”

“They’re just at risk of pissing off the shareholders. And that’s fine. That’s how they work. The function of a public company is to create growth for its shareholders […] It’s not to make a happy climate for the employees.”

Douse also talked about the prospect of Larian going public. It’s something that’s unlikely to happen even if it would add a lot of money to the company’s coffers, given how the incredible success of Baldur’s Gate 3 was partly due to Larian not having to answer to shareholders.

“Creating the games that we wanted to make, going public might give us more money, but it would be antithetical to the quality part of what we’re trying to do,” Douse said. “So it wouldn’t make our games better. It would just make us rushed.”

Douse said big publishers aren’t nimble enough to react to new demands and changes in the market, stating that better planning and leadership could have prevented some of the worst job cuts. He also expressed his annoyance at something that has aggrieved many people: hosts of big game award shows failing to mention the huge number of job losses in the industry.

Douse isn’t the only person from Larian to criticize the layoffs. CEO Swen Vincke recently blamed the firings on the greed of companies trying to continually double their quarterly profits. He also pointed a finger at the constant cycle of firing developers only to rehire them when studios realize they need more people to make their games.

It’s not just Larian that’s angry at the situation. Tarn Adams, creator of Dwarf Fortress, made his feelings clear at GDC last month when he said all the executives responsible for laying off workers, canceling games, and generally shrinking the industry could “eat shit.” He added that they were horrible, bad people who are driven by greed.

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