Microsoft layoffs hit 343 Industries, The Coalition, and Bethesda the hardest but studio confirms Halo and Master Chief are here to stay
Microsoft's recent move to lay off 10,000 staff amid looming economic uncertainties came as a shock to many employees — veterans and others alike. The mass layoffs also extended to the company's Xbox division, particularly to studios working on Halo (343 Industries), Gears of War (The Coalition), and Starfield (Bethesda Game Studios).
Although a 10,000 staff cut represents only about 5% of Microsoft's workforce globally, people with knowledge of the matter suggest that 343 Industries was among those badly affected aside from key departures prior to these layoffs.
This has implications for the Halo Infinite campaign team with Creative Head Joseph Staten leaving the studios to join Xbox Publishing. Staten joined 343 Industries in late 2020 to guide Halo Infinite towards a proper launch.
Former employee Che Chou wrote on Mastodon that over 60 people from 343 Industries have been laid off including those who have put in decades of work. Former Halo Multiplayer Designer Patrick Wren who's now at Respawn said felt that Microsoft's moves have "set Halo up for failure". He tweeted,
The layoffs at 343 shouldn't have happened and Halo Infinite should be in a better state. The reason for both of those things is incompetent leadership up top during Halo Infinite development causing massive stress on those working hard to make Halo the best it can be."
Many feel that Microsoft's contractor policy and its relationship with them is the reason for Halo Infinite's troubles. A former Halo developer who goes by the name Nick | Sir Iron Wolf on Twitter replied to Wren's post,
Don't forget the heavy reliance on contractors/vendors and that messed up system (though I know that's more MS). I would have loved to stay on the team if I could of and worked my way up. Still one of my favorite jobs I have been at."
Another former 343 developer Zara affirmed,
Having been wrung through that contractor cycle for nearly 6 years, it always felt like being gaslit to hear how much leadership cared about us & our opinions but seldom invited it where it felt like it would do the most good to make a difference & we'd get conciliatory inaction."
Naturally, this has Halo fans concerned about the future of their beloved franchise. 343's Studio Head Pierre Hintze however confirmed,
Halo and Master Chief are here to stay.
343 Industries will continue to develop Halo and in the future, including epic stories, multiplayer, and more of what makes Halo great."
While this may assuage concerns a bit, many still feel that the layoffs seem unwarranted at this point given that there's no shortage of cash at the company. Microsoft made US$198 billion in revenue and US$83 billion in operating revenue in 2022.
The Redmond-giant acquired Bethesda's parent company ZeniMax Media for US$7.5 billion in 2021 and is looking to work out the US$68.7 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard Inc. with the US FTC and other regulators. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella earned US$54.9 million as compensation in 2022.
Therefore, while layoffs aren't new to Microsoft, their timing with particular regard to global events and Microsoft's own increasing revenue does raise a few eyebrows.
It's not just Microsoft, though. Major tech companies like Google parent Alphabet (12,000), Facebook parent Meta (11,000), Salesforce (8,000), Cisco (4,000), Twitter (3,700), Seagate Technology Holdings (3,000), and Intel (expected to be in thousands) among others have all decided to cull their workforce.
The tech industry saw an increased hiring spree during the pandemic due to a meteoric rise in remote working and collaboration. But with the situation starting to normalize across the world coupled with a slumping PC market, rising inflation, and the energy shocked ensued by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, these companies now want to deboard the excess staffing done during the past few years in order to prepare themselves for economic uncertainties.
Meanwhile, Bethesda is hard at work on its ambitious Starfield project while The Coalition is working on the next Gears installment alongside another unannounced title.
Here's hoping 343i's new restructuring bodes well for the benefit of the franchise and fans at large.
January 21, 2023
@Witdarkstar, @Nick_TheBirdMan, and @ZaraVarin on Twitter