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I Still Want Nice Things

Even if Embracer Group says we can't have them

A screenshot from "Deus Ex: Mankind Divided:" character Adam Jensen, wearing a black bodysuit, before a row of TV screens
Eidos Montreal

A pre-production Deus Ex game has been cancelled and 97 employees have been laid off, Bloomberg reported Monday. It will not surprise you that Embracer Group had a hand in this, as its purchasing of and then destroying the video game industry continues apace.

Embracer purchased Eidos Montreal, Square Enix Montreal, and Crystal Dynamics in 2022, giving it ownership of popular series like Tomb Raider and Deus Ex. As a long-time Deus Ex fan, I was hopeful this could lead to more Deus Ex. Bloomberg wrote today that “Eidos, the Montreal, Canada-based studio behind the game, will instead focus on an original franchise,” so I guess there’s my answer. 

In a statement on Twitter, Eidos Montreal wrote, “The global economic context, the challenges of our industry and the comprehensive restructuring announced by Embracer have finally impacted our studio. The difficult decision has been made to let go 97 people from development teams, administration, and support services.”

If I were an executive who employed a ton of people who made good, popular games, and those people could make more good, popular games that I could then sell for money when the games were good and popular, I would probably do that instead of laying those people off. But that’s me! I am not the business geniuses at Embracer, who gobbled up everything in sight and are now frantically trying to offload it through layoffs, studio shutdowns, and potential sales. More people are losing their jobs in an already terrible year for video game industry layoffs, and we’re not even done with January yet.

I am a vociferous fan of Deus Ex, even though 2016’s Mankind Divided was a mixed bag of weird politics and unbalanced, though not unlikeable, gameplay. I do, however, positively love 2011’s Human Revolution, which I bought for $8 on a Steam sale in exchange for 125 hours of sneaky, hacky fun. Human Revolution was my introduction to immersive sims, one of my favorite genres that game studios keep not making more games in. I get that they’re a niche pleasure–as good as Prey and Dishonored are, their thinky stealth can’t compete with more exciting, arguably less onerous genres like shooters or action games. That’s fine, though! Even if every game can’t be a getting-stuck-in-vents simulator, many indie games have arisen to scratch my itch, and one of the pleasures of immersive sims is how replayable they are. I could squeeze a lifetime’s worth of play out of the Deus Ex games I already own, even with so much time in them already.

But it’s still bummer news. First and most obviously, because people are losing their jobs. The old refrain of “this is why we can’t have nice things” extends beyond just new entries in a beloved series to play, but to things like “job security” and “money to pay rent.” Embracer CEO Lars Wingefors told The LA Times in 2022 that it’s “the people, the industry, the business that gets me excited.” You wouldn’t know about the “people” part from the layoffs he’s overseen in 2023 and now 2024, but you could certainly say he’s excited about the business–i.e., moving money around in spreadsheets that leads to lots of people losing their jobs.

I feel uncomfortable feeling bummed that this news means I probably won’t get new Deus Ex, which feels like some “gamer who only cares about their games” stuff. But when Embracer bought the studios, when it took over responsibility for keeping all those people employed, it also bought the games and–God help me for using this word–“the IP” they came from. It bought the art people made and that other people cared about, which maybe individuals at Embracer liked, but which were ultimately numbers on another spreadsheet. 

Embracer is a company and is thus incapable of having emotions, so it’s no big revelation to say that it doesn’t care about the games it’s buying and destroying. But for me, it feels like one more loss in an era when the corporate owners of movies and tv shows are banishing the work in their care to the nether realm for tax writeoffs, when the owners of everything from art to journalism outlets seem to have no clue about the actual thing they own. Those of us who don’t work for these companies might not lose our jobs, but we lose out on the games, films, tv shows, news, and more that made those places relevant in the first place.

Despite the bad news, it’s good to hear from Bloomberg that remaining Eidos devs will be working on something new; in this era of sequels and–no, there it is again!--IP, we could always use more games that aren’t based on existing stuff. Plus, I’ve got a half-finished no kill/no detection run of Human Revolution waiting to be finished, so I still technically have more Deus Ex left, even if I’ve seen the insides of all these vents before.

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