One more grim notch for the 2023 games industry meat grinder. Australian indie studio League of Geeks is laying off over half its staff and pausing development “indefinitely” on early access starship management game Jumplight Odyssey.
In a statement on Twitter, League of Geeks co-founders Ty Carey, Blake Mizzi, and Trent Kusters attributed the blow to “rapidly rising operation costs, a weakening [Australian dollar], poor early access sales, and the unprecedented withdrawal of funding opportunities across the industry.” A similar story, at least in some respects, to the many, many, many other layoffs that have blighted studios across the industry in 2023.
We’ve got some unfortunate news to share, folks. A thread: pic.twitter.com/hDjlrkKtdVDecember 5, 2023
Although LOG assures players that the layoffs won’t impact the February release of upcoming fantasy strategy game Solium Infernum, and that it won’t disturb ongoing support for Armello, they have affected “the entire Jumplight Odyssey team,” explaining that game’s indefinite suspension. In a longer FAQ over on the Jumplight Odyssey Steam forums, Trent Kusters told fans “this isn’t a case of execs at the top wanting to make an extra bonus, or a call to change ‘strategic direction’ or any of the other things you’ve heard big companies say before—this one really came down to our hands being forced.”
Kuster went on to relist the factors leading to the layoffs, adding that “In a budget’s contingency, you allow for random external factors like this, but all of them increasing at such unprecedented levels was not something we could ever hope to plan for.” In an incredibly dire but believable diagnosis of the current situation facing the videogame industry, Kuster added that “in the last six months almost all funding and investment has evaporated from the videogame industry… and the only projects being backed right now are sure-fire guaranteed hits,” meaning the studio could not secure extra funding to make up its current shortfall.
The entire FAQ is a dire read. Kuster makes clear that the problems are so grand and so structural that they couldn’t be solved by a Kickstarter campaign from sympathetic fans or somebody’s “rich uncle.” He also explains that LOG had two major investment deals fall through in the span of three weeks in November, and that the only reason Jumplight Odyssey is being cut instead of Solium Infernum is because the studio had a choice to either “Pause development on Jumplight Odyssey so we can release Solium Infernum as planned, or cancel both games immediately and shut down LoG for good.”
Grim stuff, and while Kuster writes that LOG’s founders “take full responsibility as the directors of this studio,” it’s hard to see this as anything other than a small studio getting chewed up by something it had zero control over. Unless the statement happens to be eliding a lot of detail that implicates LOG’s management more heavily, it just seems like a studio falling prey to a set of market conditions bred by far larger corporations and economic forces, as well as the particular hyper-febrile moment that capitalism is in right now.
Jumplight Odyssey will remain on-sale going forward, with half the profit of every copy sold going to the LOG team (including staff that are now laid off). Solium Infernum is due for release on February 14.