Video Game Developers Union Rises In Members As Waves of Layoffs Drown Industry

Video game dev union soars as industry drowns in layoffs, and we've got the details here!
Spyro Looking Down With Wings At Night
Image: Activision

The video game industry, once riding high on a pandemic-fueled surge, is now facing harsh times. There have been mass layoffs, and a wave of worker insecurity has come from it. This has fueled a significant rise in membership for the Game Workers branch of the IWGB union in the UK.

According to what organizers have told The Observer, between December 2022 and December 2023, the union saw its membership jump by nearly 50%, with October 2023 alone witnessing a 12% surge. This coincides with a period of major job cuts across the industry, impacting studios behind renowned titles like Fifa, Skyrim, and The Witcher. A recent poll found that 35% of developers reported being personally affected by the layoffs, either themselves or a colleague.

If you have been paying attention at all to the gaming industry, you’ll recall many recent layoffs, and it seems like they’re not ending. I feel like I see at least two or three mass layoffs a month. Even working for giants like Electronic Arts, Bethesda, Activision Blizzard, and CD Projekt RED don’t make you safe. According to The Guardian, around 900 of the estimated 11,100 job losses occurred in the UK, representing over 3% of the sector’s workforce.

The UK, home to Europe’s largest video game workforce, contributes £5 billion annually to the economy. Yet, studios and publishers grapple with underwhelming post-pandemic growth, worsened by the global economic downturn and inflation. This has led to significant cutbacks, with at least 10,500 developers losing their jobs worldwide last year. The true number is likely higher, considering many companies haven’t disclosed the full extent of their job cuts.

“It’s felt like a deluge of redundancies in the past five or six months. It just keeps coming and coming. And with this wave, I’ve seen people saying ‘we need to join unions’. Our membership went through the roof. We had the largest growth of new members in any month in our five-year history at the end of last year.”

Austin Kelmore Chair of the IWGB Game Workers branch

We’re hoping that, eventually, things settle down, but I just reported on a mass layoff today at Riot Games. People are normally the first cut when trying to save money at companies, and it seems like that’s only helping the union. We’ll see what ramifications this has in the future, but if this continues, we may see a guild similar to SAG or WGA for game developers.

Jorge A. Aguilar

Jorge A. Aguilar

Jorge A. Aguilar, also known as Aggy, is the current Assigning Editor.

He started his career as an esports, influencer, and streaming writer for Sportskeeda. He then moved to GFinity Esports to cover streaming, games, guides, and news before moving to the Social team where he ended his time as the Lead of Social Content.

He also worked a writer and editor for both Pro Game Guides and Dot Esports, and as a writer for PC Invasion, Attack of the Fanboy, and Android Police. Aggy is the former Managing Editor and Operations Overseer of N4G Unlocked and a former Gaming editor for WePC.

Throughout his time in the industry, he's trained over 100 writers, written thousands of articles on multiple sites, written more reviews than he cares to count, and edited tens of thousands of articles. He has also written some games published by Tales, some books, and a comic sold to Telus International.

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