Steve Jackson Games Announces Layoffs


You should really read the entire announcement at the SJGames website, but for the sake of drawing commentary, I'll post the more informative bits here. They're not going out of business - rather just cutting back based on "incomplete financial statements".

You should really read the entire announcement at the SJGames website, but for the sake of drawing commentary, I'll post the more informative bits here:

1. Steve Jackson Games is not going out of business. Layoffs are not necessarily a sign of impending doom (except, of course, for those who got laid off); in fact, in this case the layoffs are a way for the company to keep from going out of business, by saving money in the most immediate way possible. The downside of layoffs: fewer people to work on products, which can mean missed release dates.

2. The most immediate reason for the layoffs is what's being called "incomplete financial statements." According to Mr. Jackson, the numbers would seem to indicate that the company should be making money -- sales are up, and people are paying their bills on time -- but they're not. Possible areas for the "cash deficit" include overstaffing and projects that aren't making enough money, instead turning into a cash sink.

3. Their Chief Financial Officer left the company a few weeks ago. The only thing this has a direct effect on is the fact that financial reports are now even more of a mess than they were before; already, they're a year out of date, making it impossible to track profit or loss for that entire time. Mr. Jackson himself has been "writing personal checks" to keep money in the bank. End result: company is losing money, even if it shouldn't be.

4. Products under development will still ship, because basically it'd be stupid not to ship them; they're a source of additional funding, which is sorely needed at this point. Products forthcoming include "Frag, Munchkin, Chez Dork" and Car Wars, which ships in October.

I personally think that this is more than just financial troubles at one company. It's pretty clear from the stunning failure of TSR (prior to Wizards of the Coast gobbling them up) that there's a problem in the RPG industry. Perhaps it's oversaturation; everyone already owns a game, and there are too many new games and game companies out there. Perhaps it's that darned computer game industry, which is sucking people's time and money away from pen-and-paper games. Or perhaps it's just that the RPG companies aren't changing with the times; for the most part, RPGs are still designed, marketed and played just like they were in the early 1980s, whereas computer games have come a long way since the Atari 2600 and Intellivision.

Maybe it's time for a change.

I think a lot of it is related to computers in general, not just computer gaming. Myself, I'm in front of a computer for a good part of my waking hours. Most of the time, I'm doing work or quickly reading the latest news. When I want to game, I look back at how much work I have to do, or how much email there is to answer, or that all my friends seem to be online right now and I can IM them with ease.

Hell, I can IM and answer email at the same time, I can IM and do work at the same time too. Why can't I game and work at the same time?

I wouldn't put this down as a sign of the end times or anything -- just a case of cooked books. Citing TSR's bankruptcy as a symptom of industry-wide illness is also flawed. TSR's problems stemmed from a lot of different things but the largest was good old fashioned bad management -- not a sudden drop in the number of people buying or playing the games but perhaps a drop in the number of people buying every single book with the TSR logo on it's spine.

But it's all ultimately moot. Since none of the major players in this industry are publicly owned we will never know for sure exactly what brings about any of their demises.

Oh no, not the end times again! Or was that last week?

SJG are doing what a number of gaming companies have done when the money gets tight - heck, doing what a number of any kind of companies are doing. Financial mis-management is nothing new in RPG companies - and TSR were a good example. Or to paraphrase everyone's favourite pulp archaeologist...

Why does it always have to be accountants?

Interesting that you've noticed that sales are going down - yes you can blame those naughty MMORPGs (is anyone else possesed with the urge to call them Mighty MOrphin' Role-Playing Games or is it just me?)

SJG have turned geek-crucifixion into an artform and do make money on it but how interesting to note that one of it's new products is Car Wars! Reprint by all means but new product? Hmmmm. Could it be gamers see CRPGs as at least being different from tabletop RPGs where the same stuff isn't continuously rehashed, the product is seriously flawed or based on a movie or TV franchise? Take note. Originality sells.