Video game developers union membership in UK increases as layoffs continue across the industry

Union membership numbers in the UK have risen significantly, following a tumultuous period in the video game industry (which still continues today).

The Game Workers branch of the IWGB union – which aims to “end the institutionalised practice of excessive/unpaid overtime” among other goals – told The Observer it saw its membership numbers increase by almost 50 percent between December 2022 and the end of last year. In October 2023 specifically, the union saw membership rise by 12 percent. This was soon after Fortnite developer Epic announced a wave of job cuts.

“It’s felt like a deluge of redundancies in the past five or six months. It just keeps coming and coming,” said Austin Kelmore, chair of the IWGB Game Workers branch. “And with this wave, I’ve seen people saying ‘we need to join unions’. Our membership went through the roof. We had the largest growth of new members in any month in our five-year history at the end of last year.”

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UK video games industry body Ukie, meanwhile, suggests one in 30 of all UK gaming industry employees have lost their jobs.

“It has been difficult to hear of the job losses in the video games sector over the recent few months,” said its co-CEO Daniel Wood. The exec said Ukie’s own analysis suggests these layoffs are a result of “rebalancing following successive years of significant growth” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We continue to work hard to ensure the UK remains a great place to start and scale up games businesses,” Wood continued, “and we urge the government to use the budget to create the conditions needed for games businesses to grow.”

Last week, GDC published its 2024 State of the Game Industry report. Here, it said 35 percent of game developers had been impacted by layoffs in the last 12 months. Additionally, half of those surveyed said they are concerned more job cuts are on the way.

This year has already seen multiple companies announce layoffs, with League of Legends developer Riot Games the latest. Last night, the company revealed it was laying off 530 employees, equating to roughly 11 percent of its total global workforce.

Others affected this year include Unity, Behaviour Interactive and Lords of the Fallen publisher CI Games. Yesterday meanwhile, Embracer-owned studio Piranha Bytes acknowledged it’s in “a difficult situation” as it faces potential closure.

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