The sad reality of the gaming industry is that many jobs are temporary, revolving around the ebb and flow of game releases. Layoffs at Blizzard this week attest to that reality, and we wish all the best to everyone who lost their jobs there. There's bad news even for game retailers as the UK's GAME struggles to order stock, but we've tried to balance all the gloom with some neat game leaks and one very silly lawsuit.
Big Blizzard Layoffs
We all knew it would happen sooner or later, and Blizzard seems to be acknowledging the slow decline of World of Warcraft's subscriber numbers. The company has laid off 600 workers globally, 90% of whom are not involved in game development. The common assumption is that most of these workers were involved in customer support for World of Warcraft, which has been seeing a slow but steady drop in subscription numbers since the release of its last expansion pack, Cataclysm. The MMORPG still has pretty stratospheric subscription numbers compared to its competitors, but likely doesn't need quite as massive a billing and customer support army as it once did.
At the same time, the company is hiring for a couple dozen positions, both aimed at finishing currently announced games and developing other, secret projects. This shows that the company isn't in trouble, but is most likely readjusting its work force to respond to the reality that no MMORPG can live forever, particularly not with the kind of gigantic subscription numbers World of Warcraft saw in its heyday. Perhaps Blizzard will officially announce the mysterious "Titan" MMORPG soon, so everyone can begin the usual process of waiting for years to see yet another Blizzard game released.
This Week in Leaks
We've learned some interesting details about three different games this week. To start off, rumors that Assassin's Creed III will be set during the American Revolution came to a head when several colonial USA-themed promotional art pieces surfaced around the Web. One is supposedly from Best Buy, and another is claimed to be ripped from the GameStop-owned Game Informer website. Perhaps the most interesting possibility found in these images is that the new assassin will be Native American. Native American heroes are very rare in video gaming, and it'd be nice to see one star in the mega-popular Assassin's Creed series.
Secondly, SimCity 5 may be announced at next week's Game Developers Conference, complete with a talk showing off the game's Glassbox engine. If information translated from a German games magazine is true, SimCity 5 will feature multiplayer support and other goodies like customizable buildings and curvy roads. It's been a while since the last SimCity game, so we'll see how the franchise has moved along without Sid Meier.
This last one isn't really a leak, since the information came from the respected source himself. Legendary comic artist Stan Lee has revealed that he will be a playable character in the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man game. What will a playable Stan Lee do? He's not talking about those details yet, but we hope he has the ability to save the world through the power of imagination.
GAME Going Down?
GAME is basically the United Kingdom's equivalent of GameStop, the brick-and-mortar game store found around every corner. While GameStop prospers, however, GAME has been having some financial difficulties over the past few months. Credit difficulties have meant that some publishers have insisted that the chain buy stock upfront rather than on credit, and this has led to GAME being unable to stock a number of high-profile titles like Mass Effect 3, The Last Story, Mario Party 9, and Ubisoft's entire Vita software lineup.
It's never a good sign when a company has to refund pre-order payments, especially if it only offers to do so with store credit rather than cash returns. GAME believes that its current problems are temporary, but the store's struggles are leading analysts to wonder about the future of retail game stores. GAME is being squeezed on one side by supermarkets offering big discounts on new releases as loss leaders, and on the other side by increasingly irate publishers that object to GAME's pushing of pre-owned games over new games.
The situation isn't too different from GameStop's (over here we have mail-order companies and rental services competing with those guys), and it's possible that we'll see that company facing some tough times over the next few years as game publishers increasingly put the squeeze on used game sales. Thus, even for those of us across the ocean, GAME's situation is worth watching.
Crouching Pop Star, Joustin' Beaver
In the world of goofy gaming news, iOS and Android app Joustin' Beaver takes the cake this week. The parody app stars an oversized rodent who bears a resemblance to a certain hyper-saturated pop star, and is stuffed full of bad puns and strained metaphors for the world of teen idol success. Upon receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Mr. Bieber's attorneys, the app's developer filed a preemptive lawsuit in return. As awful as the game looks, it almost certainly falls under the category of parody, which is protected as part of our free speech rights.
Date: March 2, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*