Hey y’all, Joan here with another spotlight on the games industry and the labor that goes into making games! Most of my actual game time over the last month has been finally finishing Super Mario RPG and gazing longingly at Balatro but not daring to engage out of fear that the rest of my life will suffer. Star-crossed lovers, we are. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the soul-crushing games industry! This month, we have good news coming out of Sega, with a new contract ratified for the AEGIS-CWA union. And to balance that out, we have the sudden news of Possibility Space shutting down, the second studio from Prytania Media to shut down in just two weeks. I wish they didn’t have to balance out.

As other GYGOs have mentioned, a quick reminder to support Palestine and Palestinian people however you can during this ongoing crisis. The team over at People Make Games, one of the only large voices in the games industry openly supporting Palestine, has a great video outlining why we can’t afford to be silent. If you’re in the United States, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights has a great toolkit to help get you involved if you’re not sure where to start.

Sega of America Ratifies Their First Union Contract

Another victory for organizing developers—the Sega of America employees unionized under AEGIS-CWA have ratified their first contract for 150 unionized workers. Employees will now receive benefits including basebuilding raises, layoff protections, and properly crediting workers on all projects and much more. AEGIS-CWA’s contract is a welcome sight following news that union workers were hit by alleged union-busting in February layoffs at Sega. The protections for AEGIS mirror negotiations at Activision Blizzard and Zenimax, both larger studios aiming to use the power of collective bargaining to secure protection from widespread layoffs in the games industry and to create more sustainable working conditions for developers as a whole.

The reporting surrounding AEGIS-CWA commonly refers to this as the “first union contract at a major gaming company in North America,” commonly shortening that to “first video game union contract.” I mention this to point out, as I have with previous GYGOs, that the first game developers with a union contract in the US would be Tender Claws, who ratified their contact at the end of 2023. I think it’s fair to say the phrase “major game company” is intended to highlight Sega as a massive group of developers with more weight in the industry at large, but let’s not dismiss the trailblazers here just because they’re not household names!

Possibility Space Shuts Down, Second Prytania Media Closure in Two Weeks

We have quite a few layoffs and closures over the past month we could be covering, but special attention (derogatory) goes to Prytania Media for closing not one but two entire game studios in the span of two weeks! Crop Circle Games, founded in late 2022, had been working on an unannounced project when faced with sudden layoffs in February, followed by a complete shutdown timed for after the Games Developers Conference (GDC) last month. Both Crop Circle’s closing and the surprise shut down of Possibility Space this past week follow statements from Prytania co-founders Jeff and Annie Strain that a forthcoming Kotaku article from reporter Ethan Gach about an unannounced “Project Vonnegut” and “cancellation of a publishing agreement” led to these sudden developments.

Unsurprisingly, these claims have been refuted by former Crop Circle and Possibility Space staff, with developers from Crop Circle stating that labor rights and severance were to be signed away in exchange for continued healthcare. Prytania, founded by the Strains in 2021, is a “privately held portfolio of curated AAA game development studios,” described on its now archived website. Possibility Space and Crop Circle both had unannounced projects in development before these closures—projects that will likely never see fruition as a result, which is incredibly disheartening. It remains to be seen how the news surrounding Prytania will affect their two remaining subsidiary studios, Fang and Claw and Dawon Entertainment, but we sincerely hope for the best for them and all the former staff affected by these bizarre shutdowns.

In other news…

Kotaku Editor in Chief Jen Glennon has resigned following a new editorial edict moving towards guides over news. Sources at Aftermath suggest that Kotaku staff will be expected to contribute “50 guides a week at the site,” a move that further indicates the increasing mismanagement of G/O Media under CEO Jim Spanfeller.

Roblox studio head Stefano Corazza would have you believe that children working on the platform “isn’t exploitation, it’s a gift,” in an interview with Eurogamer. I would cover this as a larger story, but the amazing team at People Make Games have already done their own deep dive into the child labor problems with Roblox.

In what can only be described as the most disconnected from reality statement in the industry of this past week, former Blizzard president Mike Ybarra thinks that we should have the option to “tip” video game companies at the end of a $70 video game rather than getting microtransactions pushed on them. From the company that invented the modern loot box, this feels extremely out of touch, much like most arguments for tipping instead of giving workers better wages.

A close contender for Most Disconnected From Reality is Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks, who went on the record last month with Gamesbeat (as seen via Dicebreaker) talking about the rich possibilities of AI for properties including Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, among others. This comes off as oblivious not due to the huge backlash Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro received for toying with AI for D&D and MtG in the last few years, but also for the explicit statement from Wizards of the Coast confirming that anyone hired to work on Magic: the Gathering should not use AI in their work. Apparently Chris Cocks doesn’t think that statement applies to Wizards or Hasbro themselves.