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2023’s Biggest Disasters In Gaming

Top down view of colorful illuminated gaming accessories laying on table. Professional computer game playing, esport business and online world concept.

If you are remotely involved in the video game space then you may have heard this phrase all year long: “This is a great year for games / gamers’ or some adage similar to that. But is that undeniably true?

Well, it has been an impressive year full of Triple-A game releases and there is something for everyone. Records were broken for sales and even for specific franchises. But not everyone prospered, it’s a cut-throat business where opportunity costs comes at purchasing one game over another, and when that affects the bottom line horrible choices get made. Here are the biggest gaming disasters/controversies of 2023.

The Game Awards

What was meant to be an evening celebrating the developers behind 2023’s most impressive games was everything else, and barely that. This year’s The Game Awards seemed less focused on developers than it ever has before. While many great game announcements were made, it did feel like this year’s show lost some luster and prestige.

Geoff wasting time with Muppets.

Many of the award winners won off-stage and the few who actually got to speak were promptly played off with music after a mere 30 seconds to speak. In one instance a developer was even lamenting the death of a colleague during development when the “wrap it up” music began to play overhead. It was pretty tacky. Hopefully next year’s show strikes a better balance.

The Day Before

Originally announced back in 2021, developer Fntastic promised that The Day Before would be unlike anything else in the survival MMO genre. The Day Before was a multiplayer survival horror extraction shooter and upon being announced became one of Steam’s most wish-listed games. 

The game was originally slated for June 2022 but a month before it was supposed to release it got delayed to March 2023. Then things really got bad. It was soon revealed that the game was also being worked on by volunteers. Full time volunteers were being paid, but part time volunteers were rewarded with game codes and some kind of certificates. That’s pretty shady and the first red flag. At the beginning of 2023 the game’s Steam page was pulled as there was some trademark infringement surrounding the game’s title. Many began calling the studio and the game a scam. 

The game came out to extremely negative reviews.

Eventually the game was released on Steam early access on December 7th 2023. Reviews absolutely destroyed the game with IGN giving it a 1/10. Four days later the studio announced their closure and removed the game from the market. They also scrubbed and got rid of their social media accounts and began to issue refunds. The whole debacle serves as a lesson about the dangers of over-promising and how difficult game development is.

The Last Of Us Online, Canceled

Fans had long been anticipating the successor to The Last Of Us’ Factions mode, which was supposed to be a standalone multiplayer game set in the same universe as the main series. Reports had long been rumored that the game was going through some development pains and had supposedly been reworked and rebuilt at least once halfway through development as the project grew larger and larger.

During Summer Games Fest 2022, Neil Druckmann confirmed that the mode wouldn’t be simply an add-on to The Last Of Us Part 2 but it’s own entirely separate game with it’s own identity and setting. The concept art he showed suggested that the game, or at least part of it, would be set in San Francisco. After months of no word fans finally got something concrete, something to point to.

*sigh* We’ll always wonder about what could have been.

Then nothing came up about the game again until earlier this fall when it came out that Bungie gave the game a look-over on behalf of Sony, and the game was put on ice according to Kotaku. Finally on December 14th Naughty Dog just came out and straight up said the game was canceled because they didn’t want to devote so many resources into becoming a “live service” studio and would rather focus on single-player games. 

Sure, that makes sense. But why couldn’t they have just made that decision a long time ago rather than after eyes of work and resources were poured into this? Either way, the cancellation news was a bummer for fans and the studio itself. Several Naughty Dog employees were laid off around this time unfortunately.

Over 6,500 Developer Layoffs

2023 has been incredibly cruel to the average game developer. Across 100 studios in this year alone the layoffs have amounted to a little over 6,500 game developers laid off. Some of these happening right before the holiday season in December, which is extra salt in the wound. Some of the studios that let employees go this year include: Niantic, Epic Games, Bungie, EA, Unity, and Embracer Group to name a few.

Image from VentureBeat.

This isn’t unique to the gaming industry though, the tech sector as a whole is supposedly experiencing a “course correction” after the hiring spree that was experienced during the height of the pandemic. That said, these are not just numbers on a spreadsheet, lives are in play!

In the pursuit of ever increasing profits and appeasing shareholders, the big wigs have forgotten that ultimately it is their employees that make their games, and mass layoffs are bad for morale. Bad morale ultimately leads to a less than stellar product. Our thoughts and well wishes go out to all those affected.

Leaks and Hacks

It’s not just you that has to be worried about getting your accounts hacked by strangers, several developers and publishers have had that problem this year. Rockstar Games and Insomniac being the two most prolific ones this year. Rockstar experienced a massive breach back in 2022 but also experienced one earlier this month when the trailer for GTA 6 dropped a day early, despite the big marketing event Rockstar had planned they rolled with the punch and put the official trailer out themselves.

Both teams got hit hard this season.

More recently  Insomniac got hit with a rather nasty breach of data by some hacker group called Rhysida attempting to blackmail them for $2,000,000. Insomniac refused to pony up, so over a terabyte in data was dumped onto the internet. Screenshots from upcoming games, a timeline of game releases (including unannounced games), development budgets and more was shown.

What makes it so heinous is that private employee data was included in the data dump. ID numbers, addresses, finances, contracts, etc. of the average Insomniac employee is now on the internet. In a year where developers were already getting kicked down, this takes the cake!

Closing Thoughts

This has been a really tough year for the average tech worker. Making games is often a thankless job that demands a lot of hours for not much pay (assuming you’re not an upper executive or director). To all those working in the industry and the recently laid off, we here at Geek News Now wish you a better 2024!

For more geeky coverage be sure to follow us on Facebook here, and make sure you are subscribed to our site as well! As always stay geeky out there everyone.

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