L.A. billboard tartly criticizes games industry for killing jobs and award-winning studios


Fresh off a campaign to get enthusiasm for a Shenmue 4 sequel trending with a Times Square billboard, indie video game publisher New Blood Interactive took out an advertisement in downtown Los Angeles to memorialize the closure of triple-A studios Arkane Austin, Tango Gameworks, Voltion, Roll7, and the loss of their jobs.

All four studios produced notable works over the past three years. None of them became breakout hits, which meant the beancounters at their parent companies necessarily binned them to appease investors.

It’s been a terrible six months for employment in the video games space, and New Blood Interactive’s advertisement on a billboard on Los Angeles’ Olympic Boulevard — where thousands from the video games industry would have congregated around this time of year for E3 — chastises the industry’s hit-driven corporate parents for shutting these award-winning operations and firing their friends.

Arkane Austin (Redfall) and Tango Gameworks (Ghostwire Tokyo and Hi-Fi Rush) were unceremoniously shuttered last month by Microsoft, the world’s richest company with a market capitalization of $3.16 trilliongreater than the gross domestic product of France. They were closed because neither delivered a game that could produce impressive growth for Xbox Game Pass’s subscription numbers.

Volition, makers of the 18-year-old, platinum-selling Saints Row series, was passed around hot-potato style among Embracer Group’s crazy quilt of subsidiaries and publishing labels after the studio and its IPs were acquired in 2013. Volition was shuttered in August by the bargain-bin Swedish publisher, before it sold Gearbox Software back to Take-Two in March.

This followed a decade in which Embracer’s ambitious leadership chowed down on the fatally overextended original THQ’s IPs and developers at fire-sale prices, then over-bet on licenses from The Lord of the Rings and other big name properties that they later decided weren’t money-makers. The publisher recently spun itself off into three subsidiaries to keep investors happy with its share price(s).

Roll7, owned by Grand Theft Auto and NBA 2K publisher Take-Two Interactive, is reportedly designated for assignment despite delivering well regarded indie hits like the OlliOlli side-scrolling skateboard series for Take-Two’s boutique-marketed Private Division label.

Why video game developers — and fans — are angry at publishers

The point to all of this, which the billboard also makes, is the artists and developers at these closed studios did what was asked of them and still lost their jobs, despite working for some of the richest conglomerates in electronic entertainment. Their executives remain employed and very well compensated.

The next financial quarter ends June 30, with earnings due for a report in mid-July or early August.

We’re sure there’ll be another round of dismissals announced at that time, too.