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  • Writer's pictureCalcas

The Mana Regen: The Microsoft Layoffs

World of Warcraft Dragonflight
Caelcas, flying into a dark storm.

This week in The Mana Regen, I'm taking a break from updating you all on M+ and Amirdrassil, the Dream's Hope.

I see this blog post progressing through the following:

  1. Microsoft is a symptom of the corporate Hellscape that is the United States

  2. Mike Ybarra's heel turn

  3. How to support games we love and the people who make them in a toxic industry

Microsoft is a Symptom of the Corporate Hellscape that is the United States

There is a lot of data out there on how all publicly-traded companies are beholden to their shareholders' profits and nothing else in this era of late-stage capitalism.

This take isn't hot. In fact, it's cold by about 10 years. ProPublica covered it in 2012. The Atlantic in 2013.

The general consensus, then, and my steadfast belief living in a world that is more and more governed by shareholders or their equivalence (I work in higher ed - a Board of Trustees is our equivalent in this profession) is that all of this comes back to the people who want to make money without creating anything.

Shareholders, in all of their forms, are people who invest money with the expectation that they will make money on their investment. They generally don't care about (and many don't even know) what companies they have invested in, the employees, the communities they serve, etc. It's in many ways the rich person's lottery, but the odds are a helluva lot better than a handful of scratch-offs.

Shareholders care about one thing: maximizing short-term profits to increase their financial portfolios. Businesses are much more complicated than short-term profit. Or at least they should be.

But here we are in even later late-stage capitalism in 2024. Businesses are so obsessed with their shareholders that they, too, have begun to focus only on the short-term.

Ask anyone you know who works for a publicly-traded company, especially at the retail level. Most decisions that are made even at the store level have nothing to do with what would be best for the employees, customers, or business model for that individual location. Everything is in service of the almighty stock price to keep the shareholders happy.

That leads to decisions like the one Microsoft made to cut 1,900 employees after its acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

Will this decision in any way, shape, or form help Microsoft (or to my specific interests, its Blizzard division) make better games? Of course not.

Microsoft reports its second quarter earnings today, 30 January 2024. As you can see on the chart below, its stock prices have been trending upward after these cuts were announced.

Are there other factors for this stock price increase? I'm sure, but stock generally seems to increase when companies announce layoffs.

Weird, huh? Take away the livelihoods of the people making products/running companies in order to further enrich the wealthiest people in the country.

Obviously there are people who are not wealthy, strictly speaking, who own and trade stock. But CNBC reporting from 2021 suggests, "The wealthiest 10% of Americans now own 89% of all U.S. stocks held by households, a record high that highlights the stock market’s role in increasing wealth inequality."

I'm sure the wealth created by cutting the jobs for 1,900 folks was worth it for Microsoft. That's ultimately who this whole economic system is for - by the rich for the rich.

My heart goes out to all of the good folks affected by these cuts. I am sorry we live in this world, and I'm sorry the gaming industry is especially heinous in this regard.

And on a much, much lesser level, I'm bummed we'll never see what Odyssey was all about.

Mike Ybarra's Heel Turn

Ybarra Linked In
Mike Ybarra's Linked In Post

Really, this section should be "Mike Ybarra's Leaning Into a Heel Turn" given everything that went down with the co-leader roles at Blizzard in 2021 with Jen Oneal.

I suppose this post is the equivalent of thoughts and prayers.

The people who were laid off are likely not "taking time out for a bit to spend time with family and travel the world."

They're also not millionaires already who probably received a sizeable severance package for "choosing to leave" the company.

To Ybarra's credit, he has been reposting the LinkedIn posts of his former employees, now looking for jobs after these cuts.

Excuse me if I don't nominate him for person of the year.

How to Support the Games We Love and the People Who Make Them in a Toxic Industry

I don't know that I have any specific ideas here that haven't been voiced by others.

Clearly, the answer can't be all independent gaming companies because, in time, they will either be bought out or shutter due to lack of resources when in competition with the Microsoft's and Sony's of the world.

We should continue to try to support such companies and the folks doing innovative, good work at them - don't get me wrong - but that cannot be the sole approach.

There are good people working in the gaming division at Microsoft. They're innovating. They're producing good products.

Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't especially care. Their general indifference to players and players' wants/experiences is pretty universally known, but it's clear even in the layoffs.

Eric Law of Game Rant reports, "The recent layoffs across the various Microsoft studios include the vast majority of the customer service team at Blizzard. This means the multiple live service games run by Blizzard are currently operating with next to no moderators, game masters, and customer service representatives."

Log in to World of Warcraft and sit in trade chat for a few minutes. No, this isn't a scientific study, but I think it's already apparent that GMs are gone and there are some AI responses being used for reporting.

Until the system changes here in the US (and around the world in its approximations), I don't know that there is much that we can do.

Unless of course you all want to buy up all of the MSFT stock and become the new shareholders to whom the whole company is beholden?

Sigh. I'm OOM.

Thanks for reading.

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