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100 Bungie layoffs despite enough money from Sony

Also: Gaming M&A to rise in 2024, FromSoftware had initiated large-scale recruitment, Atari acquires Digital Eclipse and Rollerdrome is coming to Xbox

We believe that games are a universal language - Ben Kvalo, Midwest Games

Hey there!

📣 If you only read one piece of news today 📣

Despite Sony's $3.7 billion acquisition of Bungie, including a hefty sum ($1.2 billion ) for staff retention, unexpected layoffs have hit the developer, impacting key team members like veteran composer Michael Salvatori, who had worked on Destiny's musical score since the series' origins. 

Bungie management attributes the layoff of approximately 100 employees (8% of its staff) to poor player retention after the lackluster reception of the Destiny Lightfall expansion, resulting in a 45% revenue shortfall.

🎉 But we have so much more:

Gaming mergers and acquisition expected to rise in 2024.

AI used in voicing almost all the voices in The Finals.

FromSoftware is recruiting for a wide range of roles and Atari is acquiring Digital Eclipse.  

Oh, and PS5 Slim is rumored to be bundled with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Don’t miss The Power-Up Chronicles section at the end of this newsletter. It has stories about

  • UsTwo game transition from Apple Arcade to free to play

  • What the hell is going on with video games?

  • CDPR’s approach to music for Cyberpunk 2077

Welcome to The Power-Up #32

Biz Reel

🕹️ Atari is set to acquire classic video game developer Digital Eclipse for a potential total of $20 million in cash and stock. 

💰 Midwest Games, founded by Netflix veteran Ben Kvalo, secured a $3 million investment led by TitletownTech. The publisher aims to support underserved communities in the gaming industry and promote inclusivity.

💰 Playbite secures $1 million in funding to recreate the arcade experience on mobile platforms with 42 games already available.

💰 Funstop Games, an India-based developer with over 50 million game downloads, has secured $1.5 million in funding from InfoEdge Ventures for game development and ad tech expansion.

🤑 Staffordshire University is investing £2.9M ($3.5M) in its esports facilities, bolstering its pioneering UK esports degree programme.

🤑 Leverage VC has launched a $10M fund and venture studio targeting early-stage startups in gaming, mental health, and eldertech.

📈 Mergers and acquisitions in the gaming industry are expected to rise in 2024, with big companies like Tencent, Sony, and Take-Two leading the activity. The presence of numerous gaming-focused VC funds and reduced valuations make it appealing for investments in potential future unicorns.

Industry Level-Up (or Down)

🔒 As announced in September, Ubisoft London, creators of the successful Hungry Shark franchise, is closing after Ubisoft shifted the game's ongoing development to Ubisoft Barcelona.

🤝 FromSoftware has initiated large-scale recruitment for several new projects in development. The famed developer, known for the Dark Souls series and Elden Ring, is hiring for a wide range of roles.

👋 Ubisoft's chief people officer, Anika Grant, is set to depart after a two-year tenure aimed at transforming the company's HR culture following serious misconduct allegations. Despite Grant's efforts, Ubisoft still grapples with lingering issues from its past, as evident by recent investigations and challenges to its brand image.

🏣 Pole To Win is launching PTW Brazil with a new office in São Paulo in 2024, aiming to employ over 100 people from the local gaming sector.


🎧 Sony's PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds release on December 6th, 2023, and the Pulse Elite headset launches on February 21st, 2024, with preorders for both starting November 9th in multiple countries. 

✂️ Ubisoft is discontinuing online services for 10 "older" titles, including Assassin's Creed 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction, effective 25th January.

🤖 Embark Studios' game The Finals uses generative AI technology for most in-game voice lines, a choice confirmed by their audio engineer Andreas Almström. Amidst concerns over AI replacing human performers, Embark clarified that both human and AI voices were utilized, depending on the context, with AI enabling rapid adaptation to new ideas.

🀄️ A recent Nintendo patent application describes a handheld device with three screens that can split into two separate units.

🎮 Microsoft is implementing a new Xbox Series X/S policy that blocks certain third-party controllers and accessories, causing outrage among players, especially those in the fighting game community.

🎮 Sony's upcoming PlayStation Portal is not intended to compete with Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch, according to SIE executive Eric Lempel.

🏴‍☠️ Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag marks its 10th anniversary with over 34 million players since its 2013 release.

🤥 AviaGames faces allegations of using bots in its Bingo Clash game, making users compete unfairly.

Game Central

🏎️ Gran Turismo 7 is set to receive a significant update introducing seven new cars.

🪓 God of War and Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection are coming to the GOG online store.

🛼 The previously PlayStation and PC exclusive game, Rollerdrome, will be available on Xbox Game Pass at the end of November.

🔫 The PS5 Slim is rumored to release on 10th November 2023 bundled with a free copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for $499.99.

😔 As a result of Bungie layoffs, Destiny 2 expansion, The Final Shape, was delayed from February 2024 to June 2024, while their next game, Marathon was pushed into 2025.

The Power-Up Chronicles

Ustwo Games has transitioned its title, "Assemble with Care", from an Apple Arcade exclusive to a free-to-start game on iOS and Android, targeting a broader audience.

CCO Danny Gray views this as an experiment to increase game accessibility, with the move receiving positive feedback.

I played the game when it launched and thoroughly enjoyed it.

➡️ Read the interview on PocketGamer.biz

CD Projekt Red (CDPR) has released the soundtrack for Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. This follows the recent release of Phantom Liberty.

The score for this game provides a fresh take on the cyberpunk genre, blending influences from the '80s and '90s, with composers P.T. Adamczyk and Jacek Paciorkowski focusing heavily on character relationships, particularly that of Solomon Reed and Somi.

Their approach to music aims to deeply integrate it with the game's narrative and characters. Unlike many other game studios, CDPR employs its composers in-house, which both Adamczyk and Paciorkowski believe fosters better musical integration with the game's overall design and story.

➡️ Read the feature on GameInformer

“What the hell is going on with video games?”

The video games industry is experiencing a paradoxical phase, highlighted by both record-breaking sales of major titles and widespread layoffs and studio closures.

In 2023, while games like Hogwarts Legacy and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom set sales records, the industry faced over 6,000 reported job losses and significant stock market drops for major gaming companies. 2022 saw a reduction in sales, a trend towards big game purchases, and challenges posed by broader economic factors like inflation and geopolitical instability.

While 2023 hints at growth, the market remains inconsistent, with vast investments in prior years causing the current wave of retrenchments.

➡️ An analysis by Christopher Dring on GamesIndustry.biz

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Stay powered-up until next time.

Bobby & Andrei

Did you know?

Bungie was established in May 1991 by Alex Seropian, who later brought in programmer Jason Jones.

The company concentrated on Macintosh games during its early years and created two successful video game franchises called Marathon and Myth.

Microsoft acquired Bungie in 2000, and its project Halo: Combat Evolved was repurposed as a launch title for Microsoft's Xbox console. 

On October 5, 2007, Bungie announced that it had split from Microsoft and became a privately held independent company, Bungie LLC. It signed a ten-year publishing deal with Activision in April 2010.

Their first project was the 2014 first-person shooter, Destiny, which was followed by Destiny 2 in 2017.