Portal's Month in Games - January 2024


February 8, 2024

min read

Welcome to another Month in Games from your friends at Portal. Hopefully, you’ve shaken off the excesses of the Christmas period, and you’re now firmly into your 2024 groove.

Of course, the games industry never rests, and January has given us plenty to sink our teeth into, so grab a coffee and get reading.

13-year-old boy “completes” Tetris

Let’s get 2024 off to the best possible start with a heartwarming story. 13-year-old Willis Gibson has become the first person in the world to “complete” Tetris

Of course, there’s no “game over” screen as such for Tetris.  What we mean is that Willis reached the block-dropping game’s “kill screen” - he played it for so long that the game gave up and went for a lie-down.

Tetris  turns 40 this year, and reaching the kill screen has long been considered impossible, so it’s an incredible feat. Do yourself a favour and watch the full run below.

Palworld sells millions  

Who saw this coming? Palworld  - or "Pokémon with guns" as it’s also known - launched via Early Access on 19 January and promptly set the gaming world ablaze, selling eight million copies in less than six days on Steam. Actual player numbers were even higher than that when you consider that it’s also available on Xbox’s Game Pass.

At one point, there were more than two million concurrent players on Steam - only the second game in history to achieve this feat - placing it second in the all-time chart behind PUBG.

A stunning success, but Pocket Pair’s game is not without controversy. The creatures in Palworld  - “pals” - bear more than a passing resemblance to Pokémon. But does that make Palworld  a cynical cash-in or clever satire? There are also rumours that the devs have used AI to generate the game’s artwork.

Whatever your stance, Palworld  is undoubtedly a very different game to Pokémon.  In terms of gameplay, comparisons to ARK: Survival Evolved  and Rust  are much more appropriate. And, of course, The Pokémon Company’s monster collector doesn’t feature shotguns and rocket launchers.

GAME halts trade-ins

It’s the end of an era in the UK, as GAME announced it would be phasing out trade-ins and the sale of pre-owned games. Allegedly, the change has come about because many GAME stores are now located within branches of Sports Direct, and the two companies use different till software. 

Dropping the requirement to track a massive number of games and their respective trade-in prices should simplify their systems and make staff training less time-consuming. 

It’s a shame to see the policy change; many of us in the UK will fondly remember trading in our old games and bagging a second-hand bargain. It was perhaps inevitable, given the decline in boxed game sales and the rapid rise of digital distribution.

Yet more industry redundancies 

We’re sad to report that following record redundancies in 2023, January saw further widespread layoffs for the games industry. 

Three months after finalising the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft revealed that it would be saying goodbye to 1,900 of its gaming employees. Most of the losses are said to have hit Activision Blizzard, but there were also cuts for the ZeniMax and Xbox teams.

Riot Games - League of Legends  and Valorant  creators - announced that 530 employees, 11 per cent of its staff, would be let go. The company, owned by Tencent, cited investments that “aren’t paying off the way we expected them to.”

In mid-January, Thunderful Group, the Swedish publisher and Portal partner, announced that they were to cut 20 per cent of their workforce, around 100 people. The company admitted that recent acquisitions were to blame, describing them as “over-investments” and “unsustainable in the current industry climate.”

On the 8th, Unity announced that 1,800 employees - 25 per cent of its workforce - would be let go by the end of March. It’s the engine maker’s largest single layoff and its fourth round of redundancies in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, Amazon revealed that 500 Twitch workers would be losing their jobs. That number amounts to a massive 35 per cent of the streaming platform’s workforce. The news comes amid rumours that Twitch has been unprofitable since Amazon bought the live-streaming service in 2014. 

Discord, the messaging platform that has become one of the go-to services for building gaming communities, announced that it would let go of 17 per cent of its workforce, 170 people. 

In addition to the above, January also saw redundancies at Lost Boys Interactive, Netspeak Games, Behaviour Interactive, CI Games, Pixelberry Studios, Pole to Win, Double Loop Games, 31st Union, Bossa Studios, OPM, Reikon Games, Black Forest Games, People Can Fly, Playtika and Eidos Montreal.

The scale of the layoffs is staggering. 2023 saw over 10,000 industry redundancies. We’ve already had more than 5,000 in 2024, and it’s only February. 

According to GDC’s State of the Game Industry report, 35 per cent of developers have been impacted by redundancies, and more than half of survey respondents feared their company would see further job losses this year.

If you’re looking for light at the end of this dark tunnel, industry analysts at Newzoo are forecasting 2.8 per cent market growth for 2024. Hopefully, that translates into job market stability later this year and into 2025. 

As always, our thoughts are with those who have lost their jobs and are looking for new roles. We’ve reposted links below to various resources aimed at helping job seekers.

  • The UK games industry Slack has a dedicated jobs channel with vacancies posted daily.
  • Designer Jan David Hassel has a thorough doc with many valuable links for job hunters.
  • Development director Amir Satvat has a shared spreadsheet with hundreds of vacancies broken down by discipline. 
  • You can find two of the best UK games industry job boards on GamesIndustry.biz and Game Jobs Direct. Hitmarker has plenty of vacancies and has more of an international focus.
  • It’s worth checking out some of the UK’s local industry networks, including Game Dev London, Scottish Games Network, Gameopolis (Manchester) and Game Republic (Yorkshire and the North).
  • The union IWGB Game Workers has a deck with advice on redundancy.
  • Mental health non-profits Take This and Safe In Our World have pages offering support when coping with redundancy. 
  • There are some fantastic recruiters in the UK. We’d recommend Amiqus in particular.

Xbox shows off new games

On 18 January, Microsoft delivered a Developer_Direct event, showcasing a selection of upcoming Xbox games. There were new trailers for Obsidian’s RPG AvowedCiv-like strategy game Ara: History Untold  and Ninja Theory’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice  - Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II.

Lots to look forward to there. But most excitement was reserved for the gameplay reveal of Indiana Jones and the Great Circle,  which saw the world’s favourite fedora-wearing nazi botherer headbutting baddies, swinging around on his whip and delivering trademark wisecracks. Take a look below.

GI’s year in numbers

Ok, this isn’t news from this month, but it’s too good not to share. The GamesIndustry.biz team published their annual Year in Numbers infographic in late December.

Covering everything from the best-selling games of 2023 broken down by region to the top 10 games on TikTok - it’s well worth a squiz.

Pitch decks

Shoutout to Simon Carless, founder of GameDiscoverCo, for sharing a collection of pitch decks for various games. 

Whether you’re a dev looking to pitch your game or just interested in how games are shopped around the industry, this is top stuff.

New releases

January isn’t always stellar for new games, but 2024 has bucked that trend somewhat with several high-profile releases from established franchises in addition to the phenomenon that is Palworld

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown  led the way on the 18th, the first major game in the series since 2010’s The Forgotten Sands.  The critical response suggests that this is a real return to form for the series. 

Following the release of Street Fighter 6  last year, fighting game fans had further reason to celebrate with the arrival of Tekken 8  on the 26th. The critics love it, and sales have been impressive, too, with Namco Bandai’s fighter outperforming SF6’s  launch by more than double

The 26th also saw the release of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth,  the latest title in SEGA’s long-running Yakuza  series. I’m a big fan; there’s something charming about the combination of cheerful bonkersness and extreme violence. 

Infinite Wealth  has certainly delivered. It’s now the highest-rated game in the franchise and entered the UK game charts at number two, just behind Tekken 8.

I’m particularly looking forward to playing the Dondoko Island  portion of Infinite Wealth,  a minigame that answers the question, “What if Animal Crossing  starred a baseball bat-wielding mobster?” Check out the brilliant trailer below.

Signing off

That’s your lot for this month. We’ll be back with another Month in Games in early March. In the meantime, you can catch up with us on X, Instagram or LinkedIn. See you there!


February 8, 2024

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