Larian Studios CEO Swen Vincke has taken to Twitter today and—in a thread celebrating both Baldur’s Gate 3’s numerous awards and runaway success—mentions the recent layoffs occurring at Dungeons & Dragons. He reveals that, “of the people who were in the original meeting room, there’s almost nobody left.”
(Image credit: @LarAtLarian on Twitter/X.)
For context, earlier this week Hasbro (owner of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering) announced that it would be laying off 1,100 employees as a way to “modernize our organization and get even leaner”. Not soon after, it was revealed that an avalanche of employees from both D&D and MTG had been laid off.
Among many others, this includes art director Breeanna Heiss and head of publishing and licensing Liz Schuh, the latter of which has worked at the company for over 28 years. Since then even more layoffs have been announced, including senior data scientist Michael Rexford and director of universes beyond creative and production for Magic: The Gathering Megan Galbraith Donahue.
In an investor meeting in October this year, Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks specifically mentions Baldur’s Gate 3 as a contributing factor for a 40% increase in digital gaming revenue, alongside Monopoly Go! and Magic: The Gathering.
In terms of the game’s indirect impact on D&D, the popular livestream Critical Role is often credited for a D&D renaissance of sorts after its meteoric rise to popularity in the mid-to-late 2010s. I can only imagine the massive success of Baldur’s Gate 3 will be paying dividends for its tabletop roots for years to come. It’s some of the best advertising you could possibly ask for.
Typically, when layoffs like this happen, you can try to get at the callous core of the issue, the money behind the decisions made. I think it’s important to do this from a scientific viewpoint. It can help us understand the mechanics behind it all, and why one of the best years for games in recent memory has also been stage to a historic number of layoffs, not just in the gaming industry but in the tech industry at-large.
At the moment, though, I’m stumped. I have no idea what Hasbro is doing. Yes, there are financial elements at play here. The company itself has had a difficult year. But the sheer severity of these layoffs and the senior roles they are targeting is beyond the pale.
I assume that somebody, somewhere, has done the detached corporate penny-pinching to make this all make sense on paper. But this is a disastrous move from a consumer goodwill standpoint. If you have the CEO of a studio which handed you a major commercial success publicly mourning the depth and scope of your layoffs, something’s gone wrong.
Not to mention, D&D itself has its upcoming revised ruleset (with changes comparable to a new edition of the game) in the pipeline. It’s really, really important that it does well. From where I’m sitting, this sudden plunge of key staff has a genuine risk of jeopardising the whole endeavour.