"A f***ing gut stab": Arkane Lyon director, other devs react to Microsoft shuttering Xbox studios in yet another layoff wave

 In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.
In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.

Like 2023 before it, 2024 has been a year full of disastrous cuts in the gaming industry — and the problem only continues to get worse. This morning, it was revealed that Microsoft is closing three developers under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella, including Arkane Austin (Dishonored, Prey, Redfall), Tango Gameworks (The Evil Within, Ghostwire: Tokyo, Hi-Fi Rush), and Alpha Dog Games (best known for Mighty DOOM), while also folding Roundhouse Studios into ZeniMax Online Studios (the team behind The Elder Scrolls: Online). To put it lightly, this news is devastating, and also completely beyond the pale for a company that's ripping past earnings expectations with a $21.9 billion net income and the highest market cap in the world.

To absolutely nobody's surprise, pretty much everyone is (rightfully) pissed off about this, especially since Microsoft just finished a $69 billion Activision Blizzard King acquisition in October and already cut roughly 2,000 gaming jobs earlier this year (a "reprioritization of titles and resources" was necessary, apparently, but take a look at those stats in the first paragraph again). As my colleague Zachary Body writes, Xbox likes to position itself as "a safe place for developers to take risks and explore creative games," but apparently even something as successful and acclaimed as Hi-Fi Rush isn't good enough to save you from layoffs if your games aren't optimized for maximum long-term shareholder value.

Amidst all the devastated reactions to this terrible decision are comments from various game developers themselves, which I'm driven to amplify here given that they're the talented hard-working folks bringing us the games we love despite the tumultuous state of this industry. A thread that struck me as particularly important to read is this one from Dinga Bakaba, studio director at Arkane Austin's sister studio Arkane Lyon. You'll find it in the embed and text below:

"This is absolutely terrible. Permission to be human: to any executive reading this, friendly reminder that video games are an entertainment/cultural industry, and your business as a corporation is to take care of your artists/entertainers and help them create value for you.

Don't throw us into gold fever gambits, don't use us as strawmen for miscalculations/blind spots, don't make our work environments darwinist jungles. You say we make you proud when we make a good game. Make us proud when times are tough. We know you can, we seen it before.

For now, great teams are sunsetting before our eyes again, and it's a f***ing gut stab. Lyon is safe, but please be tactful and discerning about all this, and respect affected folks' voice and leave it room to be heard, it's their story to tell, their feelings to express.

Inside baseball, but if I read 'immersive sim curse' from the community, especially from a fellow dev, I swear to God... Please, let's talk about the *real* challenges instead of rehashing irrational anxieties of the past.

Even more inside baseball, but with a very, very wide range, as a wise and sorely missed man said: 'Please Stop.'"

Screenshot of Ghostwire: Tokyo running on Xbox Series X.
Screenshot of Ghostwire: Tokyo running on Xbox Series X.

Similar sentiments have been echoed across social media by other developers, with all shocked, saddened, and in many cases angry at the news. "So this is how it ends… Unfortunately I don’t quite have the words," wrote Tango Gameworks' creative director John Johanas. "But at least thank you to everyone who supported us."

"What a good partner Microsoft has been," said Crytek senior level designer and former Arkane dev Julien Eveillé sarcastically, before continuing: "Gutted for all the lovely people working in these studios. F*** this."

Kelsey Gamble, another ex-Arkane developer at Crytek, voiced what I've been thinking all morning: "Ok I’m gonna just gonna come out with it. F*** Microsoft. F*** big corporates. I don’t even give a sh** about palatability online anymore you have ruined the lives of my friends and ex colleagues and the people I love. When is it guillotine time seriously[?]"

"Arkane Austin saved my life during the pandemic," wrote William Pham, Arkane Austin's quality assurance lead. "It wasn’t just a legendary studio, it was the people: kind, talented, giving; and the culture we fostered. That’s what we lost today."

"I don't understand the closure of [Tango Gameworks]," remarked a confused Johan Pilestedt, the CEO of Helldivers 2 developer Arrowhead Game Studios. "I mean... Why close instead of divest? Surely the team would easily have been able to find a new home."

Here's Cyan Inc.'s lead game designer Harrison Pink: "Bro I'm so tired. I'm so so tired of this. What's the point of working your ass off, succeeding at creating a game that everyone loves and is financially successful, only to get fucking vaporized to juice some stocks. Like why even bother man?"


Indeed, the direction the industry is going in is harrowing; as Larian Studios' publishing director Michael Douse says, "nobody is interested in potential and everybody is interested in risk aversion and short term gains," and that has everyone worried about what the future looks like for developers hoping to pour their hearts and souls into creative new experiences for players. I'm also extremely concerned about the road ahead for Hellblade 2 developer Ninja Theory, as well as the folks over at Obsidian Entertainment working on Avowed and other titles. Frankly, I'm nervous for the entirety of Xbox Game Studios — is anyone safe?

If you're a game developer reading this and you've been affected by these cuts or any others, my heart — and the hearts of everyone at Windows Central — go out to you. Also, note that Remedy's Alan Wake 2 game director Kyle Rowley, Redfall co-director Harvey Smith, Epic Games' senior UX designer Stéfanie Grandchamp-Dubé, and BioShock creator Ken Levine are all offering to help with positions and outreach, so be sure to get in touch with them.