Routine layoffs counterproductive, says Schafer

Routine layoffs counterproductive, says Schafer
Seth Tipps

By Seth Tipps

October 23rd 2012 at 8:20AM

Continually rebuilding teams means loss of wisdom and experience

The cycle of firing excess developers as a project is completed needs to stop, says Double Fine's Tim Schafer.

Lionhead, Funcom, and Bioware have all fallen afoul of this corporate strategy that hires new developers as development escalates, then cuts staff as soon as a project is completed.

But while this may make a certain kind of business sense, it is far from the best practice for creating a smoothly running game studio.

"One of the most frustrating things about the games industry is that teams of people come together to make a game, and maybe they struggle and make mistakes along the way, but by the end of the game they’ve learned a lot — and this is usually when they are disbanded,” Schafer told Wired.

“Instead of being allowed to apply all those lessons to a better, more efficiently produced second game, they are scattered to the winds and all that wisdom is lost."

In the end, this means the cycle of hiring and firing is a costly process that means studios don't get the most out of their employees.

Schafer had to make this call after the completion of Double Fine's first game, Psychonauts.

“After Psychonauts, we could have laid off half our team so that we’d have more money and time to sign Brütal Legend,” he said.

“But doing so would have meant breaking up a team that had just learned how to work well together. And what message would that have sent to our employees? It would say that we’re not loyal to them, and that we don’t care.”

“Which would make them wonder,” Schafer continued. “’Why should we be loyal to this company?’ If you’re not loyal to your team you can get by for a while, but eventually you will need to rely on their loyalty to you and it just won’t be there.”