Welcome to Wednesday! I’ve been dabbling at being a consulting detective in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. It’s a lot of fun, but phew, y’all weren’t joking about how bad that arm wrestling minigame is. It does a great job overall of making me feel briefly smarter than Sherlock Holmes (bro, how did not not immediately conclude that the train wasn’t a real train at all? Trains are super loud!) before revealing that while I may have been right about one thing, I was super, super wrong about the rest—a great feeling for a mystery game.
Anyway, here’s what’s been happening in gaming news!
Vice Shutters Gaming Vertical Waypoint
You might have already heard, but VICE is shutting down Waypoint. The crew will be around until June 2nd to record a few podcasts and stream a few streams and find a few five-star runtimes, but soon, the Waypoint project is over. You were the best audience we could've asked for.
— Waypoint (@waypoint) April 27, 2023
You know you’ve done incredible work when your competitors pen heartfelt tributes inspired by your closure—that’s precisely what happened over the last week when it was announced that Vice, as part of a larger round of layoffs, would be closing Waypoint, their gaming vertical. Waypoint, which was more than a simple rebrand of Vice’s existing gaming coverage, entered the scene in October 2016 with an introduction to their name, which was also a thesis for the site, and which became a not-so-figurative guiding light for other journalists and critics. The site was built on some of the freshest, most interesting, most forward-thinking voices in games, and it was a dream for what this scene could look like.
I started writing about games in 2014 for a shitty SEO blogging gig. I started writing for WWAC’s gaming section in 2015. While there was lots of great writing going on in games before and since, Waypoint was—listen, I’m trying not to be too corny here, but for a crew of new game critics, Waypoint was exactly what they aimed to be: a destination, a hope, an aspiration, a safe place to rest and recharge. When I became editor in chief of the WWAC games section, and later relaunched as Sidequest, the care, direction, and curation that Waypoint put into their launch statement and the breadth of their coverage inspired me. Game criticism could be fun and artistic. It could be moving and essential journalism. It could be a staff of incredible writers and editors at the top of their game, creating work that made this horrible industry feel, for once, like a place a person could thrive rather than a long tunnel with the other side being rapidly bricked over.
Austin Walker, founder and former editor in chief of Waypoint, made no secret of the struggles he and the rest of the team went through to create important work under a corporation like Vice, in a world suffused with bad news and myriad ways to distract ourselves from it. For a long time, they did it anyway. And in the end, the corporate money that made it possible to pay people a fair(er) wage in a notoriously underpaid industry dried up, not because the coverage was bad or useless or unliked, but because the dollars weren’t going up fast enough to satisfy people who didn’t give a shit about the coverage in the first place.
Losing Waypoint is losing a platform for essential voices in the world of games journalism and criticism. The number of outlets folding this year makes finding a well-paying job in this industry look more impossible by the day. It’s also losing a possible future for today’s blossoming critical voices—a door has been shut that will likely never reopen. My thoughts are with everyone who has lost their jobs in this latest display of corporate greed, and also with everybody who saw Waypoint as a light to work toward and as potential a path out of the precarious and click- and ad-driven era of digital media.
Anyway, as the poets say: fuck capitalism, go home.
More Depressing News
Sorry, we’re not done with feeling down about games industry.
Riot Games will pay over 1500 employees settlements ranging from $2,500 to $40,000 as compensation for gender discrimination claims. (The depressing news is not the settlement, but rather that over 1500 people were the victims of gender discrimination at Riot Games in the first place.) Riot’s annual impact report highlighting diversity and inclusion efforts at the company also released last week, and the company stated there were no significant differences in pay between employees of different genders.
Activision Blizzard also released a pay equity report this week, which revealed that the median total compensation at the company for men is 16.4% higher than the women, nonbinary people, and those who self-identified as something else or chose not to identify their gender in the survey. This is roughly a six percent decrease from the previous year, meaning that the gap in media pay is decreasing over time. The number of employees at the company who do not identify as men has also increased from 24% to 26%, and the salary comparison between men and non-men on average is equal.
These increases and decreases are good news, but there’s a few points where we should scrutinize this data (especially in a public-facing report!). One, the median salary being higher for men suggests that more men are in higher-paid positions at the company—even though Bobby Kotick took home over $800,000 in total compensation in 2021, that would affect the average, not the median, so while Kotick is likely an outlier with a high salary, the median being higher suggests that more men are in the highly-paid positions. Two, while 26% of the company identifying in the survey as something other than men is an improvement, that’s still just over a quarter of employees. While the pay gap may be narrowing, that still means that for every person at Activision Blizzard who did not identify themselves as a man on the survey, there were three who did—a sizable majority. While we can be happy that these things are changing, I’m not ready to praise the company for incremental growth just yet, especially given the multiple lawsuits over gender-based discrimination and the company’s “frat boy culture.”
Unity laid off 600 employees last week and will close half of its offices. This is Unity’s third round of layoffs in the last year, and is reportedly to streamline business processes and reduce layers of management.
Plaion, which owns a number of game studios including Deep Silver, is also restructuring. The names of the studios that the publisher has acquired will be dropped and future games will be published under the Plaion name. In a statement to GamesIndustry.biz, Plaion stated that five or six jobs would likely be lost during the restructuring.
Phoenix Labs, the studio behind Dauntless, has also laid off workers. Around 30 employees, about nine percent of the studio’s staff, have been let go as the studio reorganizes to focus on fewer projects.
In other news…
Dungeons & Dragons players set a Guinness World Record for the most players concurrently playing a single game. 1,200 players banded together to defend a castle from Vecna, a powerful lich within the world of the game.
Paizo is remaking and re-releasing four key books in the game’s second edition: Pathfinder Player Core, Pathfinder GM Core, Pathfinder Monster Core, and Pathfinder Player Core 2. The new editions contain rule updates and other new features, and will replace the previous versions of the books.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has leaked, and details of the game’s early content are being posted to social media. Stay safe out there, y’all.
Karl Urban will be joining the Mortal Kombat 2 cast as Johnny Cage. As an avowed Johnny Cage liker (I have bad taste), this is… fine, I guess. I’m sure Urban will do a great job but Johnny Cage sucks so bad and Urban just doesn’t give me “worst man on earth” energy.
Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.