Tim Schafer: Lay Offs Once a Game is Complete is Bad for Business

by William D'Angelo, posted on 24 October 2012 / 10,604 Views

Tim Schafer, the Double Fine Productions president, has told Wired that it is bad for creativity when a company lays off employees following the completion of a game. The hire-fire-repeat cycle is not only bad for those employees, but it is also bad for business.

"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," said Schafer. "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."

"After Psychonauts, we could have laid off half our team so that we’d have more money and time to sign Brutal Legend," said Schafer. "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."


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8 Comments

DarkFury (on 24 October 2012)

He is right -the industry and the games suffer because of the hire-and-fire mentality. Good teams have been fired weekly this year.


ganoncrotch (on 24 October 2012)

Yeah agree here 100% if a team fears they are all going to be let go when a game is complete it almost encourages them to cause delays with finishing the project while they try to ensure they have new jobs once the project is finished. Also a team who make the first game would be the perfect people to make the sequel as they might have left after the first game and had ideas on how it could have been done better in areas, if those people are fired as soon as the first game is done those ideas remain nothing but that and we never get to play properly improved sequels of games.


Tridrakious (on 24 October 2012)

I completely agree and I'm glad that Tim stands up and speaks out. We need more of these people.


Pjams (on 24 October 2012)

Tim Schafer, speaker of reason and logic, unclouded by corporate shenanigans


cusman (on 30 October 2012)

While I agree that full fire/hire is bad, they should still try to inject some new talent into the team to bring in some outside perspective and experience.


Ucell (on 25 October 2012)

This guy speaks the truth.


RVDondaPC (on 24 October 2012)

The thing that he missed is that the hire and fire method allows people to work with other people and knowledge is then disseminated through out the industry, rather than just staying in one house. The knowledge is not lost, it is shared. This makes the industry grow and progress at a much faster rate than if everyone stayed in house. Each time new people come together it may take a little bit to get all on the same page, especially from a personality stand point, but everyone is a much better worker and it keeps the industry fluid by doing this. It is also much healthier from a business stand point than if everyone worked for one company. It'd become about as efficient as the Government if that were the case. Also it's not about being loyal, if you hire a guy and the job ends and hire him again, he will keep working hard and do a good job because he wants to be hired again and nurture that relationship, not to mention self pride I'm sure. If he isn't loyal or doesn't work hard, you don't hire him again and you hire someone else that wants to do a good job. That is healthy for an industry. Not everyone staying together in one house doing the same thing over and over again. That's not how you build great game designers for future generations.


JOKA_ (on 25 October 2012)

Thats hell on the employees. Constant stress because they fear losing their job, constant relocation because they are switching locations, and constant worry over where the next paycheck is coming from. Once you become a "senior" level developer, you (probably) have a mortgage and a family to care for. Having to find a new job every 2 years doesn't really work.


  • +1
RVDondaPC (on 25 October 2012)

But it does. I work in the movie industry and have to worry about the same things. Except our cycles are even shorter so we have to worry about finding new jobs even more often. But we all manage to do just fine. We know every job is temporary and will end eventually. Once you accept that and realize you can get employment again because production companies are constantly starting new projects and hiring new people then it is not so bad. The only people it really hurts is people that are lazy and people that just aren't good at their jobs. The next step in the video game industry though is to unionize. That is the natural step of progression for the industry, not total employment wasting money on resources that aren't being used in between video game cycles.


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ECM (on 24 October 2012)

Say hello to the Hollywood model, gleefully accepted by both pubs *and* devs at the dawn of this generation--enjoy your coke parties and scatter-shot employment.