Xbox again fiddling with layoffs at 343, Bethesda Game Studios and The Coalition

OAs the year began, things improved slightly for Xbox. No, she didn’t complete her acquisition of Activision-Blizzard and didn’t show anything major or noteworthy at The Game Awards (let alone the previous weeks). But there were rumors of a Direct-like storefront that was officially confirmed as the very first Developer_Direct. The 40-minute event, which will air on January 25, will feature games such as Forza Motorsport, Redfall and Minecraft Legends.

More importantly, the Official Xbox Germany Blog states that we will have release dates for all of these titles. Starfield will not be at the show, but will have a separate showcase later. Given the complete lack of known exclusives for over a year, having quality games to look forward to in the coming months seems welcome, especially with Xbox aiming to release those titles by June 31, 2023.

While Developer_Direct is still a bright spot for Xbox, it can’t hide the dark and bleak shadow the company continues to cast with its gaming efforts. In recent news, Microsoft laid off 10,000 employees due to “macro economic conditions and shifting customer priorities.” . Jason Schreier of Bloomberg reported that Bethesda Game Studios and 343 Industries were affected, while Kotaku added The Coalition to the list.

For those who follow the tech industry, such layoffs are probably not surprising, as Amazon and Meta employees have also experienced the same. After all, recession warnings have been around for months.

However, it seems like another stumbling block for a company that has struggled for years to find its place in gaming, the campaign team has been hit hard. Creative director Joseph Staten, arguably the biggest driving force behind pushing Infinite to the finish line after so many issues, also left and joined the Xbox publishing arm.

343 Industries has faced backlash since the initial reveal of Infinite’s gameplay. The worst happened last year with content and feature delays and the cancellation of features like split-screen co-op. Things seemed to be heading in the right direction after the release of Forge, with the team still sticking to their roadmap for 2023.

Many of the issues at 343 weren’t necessarily the studio’s fault – a lot has been said about Microsoft’s contractor policy. They could only be hired for 18 months, after which a mandatory six-month break was required. Instead of keeping said contractors as employees, they will be replaced with new ones, causing serious problems for Infinite’s development plans and content.

Former senior multiplayer designer Patrick Wren criticized the “incompetent management at the top” of 343 staff. In recent tweets, he said, “Layoffs at 343 shouldn’t have happened and Halo Infinite should be in better condition. The reason for both of these things is the incompetent leadership at the top during the development of Halo Infinite, causing tremendous stress to those who work hard to make Halo the best it can be. He noted, “The people I worked with every day were passionate about Halo and wanted to do something amazing for the fans. They helped improve Halo and got fired for it. The developers are still hard at work on this dream.

The departure of Bethesda Game Studios also comes at a troubling time. Yes, Starfield is getting a showcase and will still launch in the first half of 2023. But let’s not forget the earlier staff reports that informed Schreier of the game’s problematic state when its original launch date was revealed. It has reportedly received positive reviews from game testers, but time will tell.

When Xbox announced the acquisition of several studios such as Ninja Theory, Compulsion Games, Playground Games, and Undead Labs in June 2018, it was seen as a positive first step to the company’s lackluster support. The addition of companies such as inXile Entertainment and Double Fine, not to mention the creation of World’s Edge and The Initiative, was also received positively. Of course, it continued to grow with the acquisition of ZeniMax Media and its studios including Bethesda, Arkane and many more.

But despite Game Pass’s explosive growth, which saw a significant reduction in subscriber growth last year, it still struggled with its own offerings. Projects like State of Decay 3, Compulsion Games’ next game, Fable, Perfect Black, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 and Forever Wild continue to languish without updates.

There were also reports of problems in development, whether it was Ever Savage seemingly lacking a clear vision or multiple deviations from the Initiative. Allegations of sexism and a toxic work environment have been reported at Undead Labs, developer of State of Decay 3, with Microsoft apparently not responding quickly enough to employee concerns.

Of course, last year the company acquired Activision-Blizzard for $68.7 billion. What seemed like a serious game quickly turned into a controversy, with Xbox and PlayStation falling out over future Call of Duty-related deals. The deal was tentatively expected to close by the middle of this year, but the deal is now the subject of an investigation by the UK Competition and Markets Authority and an antitrust suit by the US Federal Trade Commission.

Suffice it to say that if Microsoft sues, the outage could take even longer. But there’s something particularly odd about laying off tens of thousands of employees and trying to release games when he unsuccessfully pursues a tens of billions of dollars acquisition.

star field

Despite the scale of the disaster and the gloom, the Xbox is not in the worst shape. It’s had hits like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, and released games like As Dusk Falls last year. Game Pass is still hugely popular with tens of millions of gamers and serves as a platform to promote indie games. Starfield is still a highly anticipated game and could very well be one of the biggest releases of the year in terms of sales.

However, when it comes to Xbox game plans, it still seems like the company is trying to get off the ground. Much of the hype and promise comes from rhetoric without addressing the underlying fundamental problems underlying the lack of releases or the well-being of its employees. Meanwhile, Sony is gearing up to launch PlayStation VR2 in February with a handful of exclusives, not to mention high-profile titles coming to PlayStation 5 later this year like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and more.

We may see a significant shift in Xbox Developer_Direct with firmer commitments to current releases. Perhaps there will be fewer “world premieres” and more announcements with real gameplay and tangible release windows. Xbox has been catching up with its gaming offerings for some time now – if it should ever arrive, for both its fans and its employees, it’s 2023.

Note. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fun Academy as an organization and should not be attributed to it.

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