News of GameStop’s ruination has been slowly filtering out from news outlets since 2015, reporting on declining sales numbers and negative earnings reports that show a consistent downward trend. This unfortunate pattern seems to have come to a head this week, with news of almost 50% of Game Informer’s staff being laid off as part of GameStop’s business restructuring.
To some this may come as shocking, to others you may have predicted this happening sooner than it did. GameStop, Game Informer’s parent company, has begun downsizing across several different corporate jobs as well as other departments in the company as part of their “GameStop Reboot Initiative.”
We heard about this initiative a month ago, when a leaked internal memo from GameStop (posted on Reddit) noted more than 50 regional sales managers were being let go as a result of this initiative. While the details of what jobs were going to be affected by GameStop’s restructuring were never released prior, the company has provided an official statement to several media outlets regarding how many employees were being affected by their workforce reduction:
As part of the previously announced GameStop Reboot initiative to transform our business for the future and improve our financial performance, we can confirm a workforce reduction was implemented impacting more than 120 corporate staff positions, representing approximately 14% of our total associate base at our company headquarters as well as at some other offices.
While these changes are difficult, they were necessary to reduce costs and better align the organization with our efforts to optimize the business to meet our future objectives and success factors. We recognize that this is a difficult day for our company and particularly for those associates impacted. We appreciate their dedication and service to GameStop and are committed to supporting them during this time of transition.”
As a result, Game Informer has been forced to let go almost half of its entire editorial staff, seemingly without warning. This is a huge blow to a publication like Game Informer, one of the very few media outlets that still prints digital and a physical magazine once a month, along with the usual online content creation daily. Several senior editors as well as the managing editor for Game Informer were included in the layoffs, reducing their total editor staff down to 12. Andy McNamara, editor-in-chief of the publication, also posted an announcement on Game Informer in regards to the layoffs:
I’m saddened by yesterday’s news; the Game Informer team means the world to me. You, our readers who have supported us over the years – mean the world to us. I can’t thank them or you enough.”
I appreciate all the love. I see it. I feel it. I am trying to get things right with my people. I love Game Informer, its people and its readers more than any corporation could, and I will address all the issues when I can, but for now I need to focus on my GI family.
— Andy McNamara (@TheRealAndyMc) August 20, 2019
GameStop’s been in a constant state of profit drain with the changing of the industry’s production to digitally-focused distribution and consumption. More and more people have been purchasing their video games online (both digitally and physically, even) from several other successful storefronts. Every effort to adapt to the changing industry has resulted in failed attempts and wasted spending in areas such as digital distribution, where several other successful storefronts (See: Steam, Epic Games Store, PSN, Xbox Marketplace) have dominated the market segment.
It makes sense, too. The majority of GameStop’s revenue would come from trading and selling used physical games. Prior to the current console generation, GameStop’s business model was still successful due to a number of factors, so the new console generation’s drastic shift in consumer purchasing has understandably caught them off guard.
Purchasing and downloading games digitally simply wasn’t as popular during the early Xbox 360-PS3 days as it is now for a few reasons. For one thing, high speed internet wasn’t as widely available as it is now, so people weren’t willing to wait hours for a game to download and install on their hard drive just to play it.
Speaking of hard drive, the slightly more prevalent issue that resulted in more physical purchases, was that people were running out of storage on their consoles much faster than they are today. The original Xbox 360 shipped with a detachable hard drive that started at 20 GB (!), not including the Xbox’s operating system. To put it into perspective, GTA V, a game that originally released on the Xbox 360, now has a total install size of over 70 GB.
That being said, GameStop has had the entirety of the PS4-Xbox One console generation to determine how to change course for the company in an ever-changing industry, but hasn’t had any luck so far. It’s just unfortunate that an iconic publication such as Game Informer has to suffer for GameStop’s folly.
As an aside: Game Informer’s layoffs have hit me particularly hard emotionally. While I don’t personally know any of the writing staff or anyone in the company, Game Informer has had a huge impact on my life.
As I became a young adult in high school thinking about where I wanted to go in my life, I was inspired by every Game Informer issue I received in the mail with my PowerUp Rewards Subscription. I’d spend hours rifling through and reading the articles in each month’s newest issue, enamored by a whole new perspective of video games I had never even considered before. I still remember the first edition I ever received was for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (Issue 218, from June 2011), which at the time was my favorite franchise.
Game Informer is the main reason why I’m even writing this article right now, and the reason why you’re reading it. Without my GI subscription each month, I wouldn’t have gone to college for journalism. I wouldn’t have mustered the courage to apply to write for The Outerhaven. Every word and letter on this page was driven by them, so it pains me to see them now in such a dire place. Despite this, I know for sure the folks who have been let go will have no issue fitting in elsewhere where they can succeed and thrive, whether that’s still in video game journalism or a completely new venture.
Best of luck and godspeed to all of the Game Informer staff affected by these layoffs, I’m sure they’ll have no trouble hitting the ground running and continue their valued work wherever they end up.