Embattled publisher Embracer Group announced back in June that layoffs, cancellations and closures would be required in order to continue operations after apparently vastly overextending. Estimated, then, to employ 17,000 staff across dozens of studios, with ambitions to release some 234 games before March 2026; by September, 900 had been laid off, and that number is expected to rise.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Phil Rogers, interim chief strategy officer and CEO of the operating group that includes Crystal Dynamics and other Western studios, says that the company is making "good progress" in its efforts to right the ship.
Rogers said: "I think these sort of reporting dates are good times to stand up and sort of say, you know, how do we feel we're doing against it? We feel good. We feel like we're on track against the targets that we've set out. So we feel very positive about that."
In terms of the human cost, Rogers tells a different story and says, "There's a lot of it going around the industry at the moment of restructuring, but the downside, obviously, is the impact on people. It's something that Embracer really feels for. It's been an agonising process to see the sort of headcount [reduction], but we know it's a necessary thing for us to hit our new and needed goals. So overall, good progress, and we push on."
Rogers says he was never "a big fan of the 'fewer bigger, better' [approach]. Bigger games aren't always fun. I know how hard it is to make smaller games and to bring those entertainment values to bear from experience at Crystal [Dynamics] when we started working on digital spin-outs of Lara Croft."
We won't pretend to be business experts, but Roger's approach seems to be what got Embracer into trouble in the first place, going for a quantity-over-quality approach. Strategy games have taught us that, in some cases, quantity has a quality all its own, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Take 2023, for example; plenty of excellent games were overshadowed by ever-higher quality releases, leaving no time or space for anything less than excellent.