If anyone was looking for a post-GDC lull in the news before packing up and heading out for PAX East, they were sorely disappointed by this week. And unfortunately, the week's biggest story was once again a tragic one, with EA announcing its biggest round of layoffs yet as it closed its offices in Japan and Russia and restructured others globally.
In terms of brighter (or at least curiously neutral) news, Apple offered its answer to developers of premium independent games struggling against the freemium market with Apple Arcade. There were also a few major job shuffles, with Sony CEO Kaz Hirai departing the company almost entirely, the Humble Bundle co-founders stepping down, and Senran Kagura creator Kenichiro Takaki opting to find out if Cygames might be a better fit than Marvelous Entertainment for his desire to show a particular kind of sexual content in his games.
Fortunately, this week we get to end on plenty of hopeful notes, most of them from small developers. A number of post-GDC interviews and discussions are starting to roll out. This week, that included talks on diversity at the conference's #1ReasonToBe panel and independent developers reflecting on and celebrating their well-earned triumphs at the GDC and IGF Awards last week, as well as sharing their hopeful visions (onstage and off) for what the industry can be.
QUOTE | "As we look across a changing world around us, it's clear that we must change with it. We're making deliberate moves to better deliver on our commitments, refine our organization and meet the needs of our players." - EA CEO Andrew Wilson announces that the company will be laying off around 350 of its 9,000 total employees, particularly in its marketing, publishing, and operations teams. The company's Japanese and Russian offices will close entirely, with their operations and some employees moving to larger regional offices.
QUOTE | "We are working with some of the most innovative game developers in the world to create over 100 new and exclusive games to play across iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV. Apple Arcade games will be great for families, respect user privacy and will not have ads or require any additional purchases." - Apple senior VP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller describes the new Apple Arcade subscription service, which will focus on mobile games that would otherwise be premium releases and will launch with new games from developers such as Annapurna Interactive, Finji, Konami, Sega, Snowman, utwo games, and more.
QUOTE | "I am confident that everyone at Sony is fully aligned under Yoshida-san's strong leadership, and are ready to build an even brighter future for Sony." - Former Sony CEO Kaz Hirai announces that he will also be retiring from his role as chairman of Sony Corporation, effectively departing the company and remaining only in a senior advisory role as called upon.
QUOTE | "I can imagine a world, hypothetically, in which we didn't involve charities in our promotions. And that company is much smaller and grows less quickly than we have." - Humble Bundle co-founder John Graham reflects on his ten years with the company as he and fellow co-founder Jeffrey Rosen prepare to step down from their respective roles of COO and CEO, respectively.
QUOTE | "The place I work and the nature of my work may change, but I won't and will not change what I want to show." - Kenichiro Takaki is departing Marvelous Entertainment after 13 years for Cygames, saying that after increased restrictions on and criticisms of sexual content in games such as his Senran Kagura series, a "thread snapped" in his mind. His next project will be a fantasy title for consoles.
QUOTE | "We're trying to unseat companies in the space, regardless of who they are. We have to put our name down, and the best way to do that at this point is through these exclusives and to have larger audiences come to us to play those games." - At GamesIndustry.biz's PAX East investment summit, Epic's David Stelzer (along with Sergey Galyonkin) explains why the company's storefront was targeting exclusives, and why Epic is unconcerned about the backlash.
STAT | 29,000 - Approximately the number of attendees of the Game Developers Conference last week in San Francisco, California - a new record for the conference. There were over 550 exhibitors, over 780 lectures, panels, tutorials and roundtables. Next year's conference will be held from March 16 to 20, also at San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center.
QUOTE | "We won an award over God of War! How did that happen?" - Kevin Regamey of the Celeste audio team marvels at the studio's success in the GDC Awards, where the game won for Best Audio. Other GDC and IGF winners discussed the challenges to come and their hope for indies in the industry, especially in light of independent studios taking home eight of the thirteen total GDC Awards.
QUOTE | "Even when I was younger, no one looked at my age, looked at my gender—they looked at my talent." - Khaya Ahmed, lead content developer at Optera Digital, is just one of several speakers from around the globe at GDC's #1ReasonToBe panel who shared inspirational stories of their time in game development in the name of industry inclusivity.
QUOTE | "We think we have a unique approach, and if we do this game right I don't think there'll be much space for anyone doing a Gollum game, because we've already done it." - Daedalic is making The Lord of the Rings: Gollum as the first of multiple Middle-Earth titles from the studio. CEO Carsten Fichtelmann says it's tricky, but Daedalic aims to strike a balance between remaining true to the original novels, avoiding aping portrayals of the character in other media, and telling a new and unique story.
QUOTE | "What I realized was that we were missing a phase prior to pre-production. A true discovery phrase to find the magic, to find the fun; a phase to really prove or disprove concepts." - Vicarious Visions founder and CEO of Velan Studios Karthik Bala says it took 28 years of making games to discover he was "doing it wrong," but believes Velan Studios has "found the magic," and has just signed its first publishing deal with EA Partners.