Riot Games have announced that they will shortly lay off “about 530” people, or 11 per cent of their global workforce, so as to “create focus and move us towards a more sustainable future”, in the words of CEO Dylan Jadeja. The “biggest impact” will be felt outside of core development, though the reductions will affect at least one major internal team – the developers of Legends Of Runeterra. Riot are also binning off the Riot Forge publishing label, under which third-party developers create smaller-scale games based on Riot’s own intellectual properties.
In a blog post, Jadeja went into the reasoning behind the layoffs, which he represented as fallout from “a number of big bets across the company” since 2019. The post doesn’t specify which particular big bets have failed, but Riot’s grander strategic ventures over the past three-four years include plans for Riot-brand TV, movies and music, several studio acquisitions, and some publicly disastrous crypto partnerships.
“We jumped headfirst into creating new experiences and broadening our portfolio, and grew quickly as we became a multi-game, multi-experience company – expanding our global footprint, changing our operating model, bringing in new talent to match our ambitions, and ultimately doubling the size of Riot in just a few years,” Jadeja wrote.
“Today, we’re a company without a sharp enough focus, and simply put, we have too many things underway,” the post continues. “Some of the significant investments we’ve made aren’t paying off the way we expected them to. Our costs have grown to the point where they’re unsustainable, and we’ve left ourselves with no room for experimentation or failure – which is vital to a creative company like ours. All of this puts the core of our business at risk.”
Riot have attempted to “alter our trajectory” in various ways over the past months, slowing or freezing hiring programmes, and asking team leaders to make “trade-offs”, but it hasn’t been enough. Jadeja insisted that the layoffs don’t reflect pressure from investors, and aren’t simply designed to boost the company’s numbers ahead of the next financial earnings call. “We’re not doing this to appease shareholders or to hit some quarterly earnings number,” he wrote. “We’ve made this decision because it’s a necessity.”
Laid-off staff will receive a minimum of six months salary as severance pay, including a notice period, with staff who have been employed for longer receiving more. Where Riot provide healthcare benefits, they’ll continue to the last day of employment, after which Riot will offer additional pay to cover health benefits equal to the length of severance pay or rounded up to the whole month. The full post outlines a range of other support measures for laid-off employees, including job placement services, visa support and on-going access to Riot’s counselling services.
The rest of it is aimed at investors, covering changes to Riot’s project portfolio. “While it’s the normal course of business for us to spin projects up and down, we also need to make hard choices when our bets aren’t performing as well as we hoped,” Jadeja went on. “We’re making adjustments to some of our R&D efforts across games, esports, and entertainment. We’re also re-thinking the level of support we demand from our enterprise teams. And we’ve made two decisions about our current games portfolio that we want to share with you now.”
These two decisions are layoffs within the Legends Of Runeterra team specifically, so as to “move the game toward sustainability”, and the closure of the Riot Forge label following the release of League Of Legends spin-off Bandle Tale (which Katharine saw recently and says is rather good).
Regarding Legends Of Runeterra, Jadeja commented that despite a “passionate community”, the game “hasn’t performed as well as we need it to”. “We’ve been subsidizing the cost of development on LoR through our other games, but at this point, that’s just not a viable option,” he went on. “So, we’re reducing the size of the team and shifting our focus to the ‘Path of Champions’ PvE game mode.”
As for the Riot Forge label, Jadeja wrote that “while we’re proud of what we’ve created in this space, and we’re grateful for the Forge team and for our external partners who made these games happen, we don’t view this as core to our strategy moving forward. We aren’t closing the door entirely on single-player experiences or working with other developers if the right project comes along, but we would want it to look pretty different in the future.”
This is the seventh mass layoff story we’ve published in 2024 – the other companies in question are Unity, Twitch, Lost Boys Interactive, Thunderful, Bossa, Behaviour Interactive and CI Games – and it’s not even the end of January. I’m not aware that any of the executives responsible for those decisions have lost their jobs in the process. Best of luck to all affected.