Xbox studios behind Starfield, Halo, and Gears of War have also been hit by layoffs

Xbox logo at E3.
(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Ahead of its Q2 FY23 earnings report, Microsoft announced its intention to lay off 10,000 employees across the company.
  • New information has come to light that multiple Xbox studios have been impacted by the layoffs.
  • Employees are reportedly being laid off at Bethesda Games Studios, The Coalition, and 343 Industries.
  • 343i is especially impacted, with Halo Infinite Head of Creative Joseph Staten reportedly returning to Xbox Publishing.

Changing economic climates and an impending recession have led to thousands of jobs being lost across a multitude of tech and media companies. Microsoft is the latest company to announce mass layoffs, and new information reveals that multiple key Xbox studios are being affected, including Bethesda Game Studios, 343 Industries, and The Coalition.

Earlier on Wednesday, Microsoft confirmed earlier reports by announcing its intention to layoff 10,000 employees across the company, starting today and throughout the end of its Q3 FY23 period ending March 31, 2023. Additional information from sources like Kotaku and industry insiders like Jason Schreier have provided more details on which parts of Microsoft have been negatively impacted by these layoffs.

While only representing less than 5% of Microsoft's massive global workforce, 10,000 employees across a number of divisions and teams are sadly losing their positions at Microsoft. Included are a number of employees at Bethesda Game Studios, the developer behind the upcoming sci-fi RPG Starfield, The Coalition, the developer behind the Gears of War series, and 343 Industries, the developer behind Halo Infinite.

Exact numbers aren't available for the amount of layoffs at each studio, nor is it clear if and how their in-progress projects are affected, but any amount of loss may be concerning. Bethesda Game Studios is in the process of finalizing Starfield, its most ambitious game of all time, while also continuing early work on the next installment in the Elder Scrolls franchise. The Coalition is reportedly working on the next Gears title and an unannounced new IP.

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Of the three studios, however, it seems that 343 Industries may have been affected the most. The developer has reportedly been afflicted with a long-running hiring freeze during an exodus of contractors who worked on Halo Infinite; now, it seems that the studio has been "hit hard" by these layoffs, according to Schreier. Despite a strong foundation, Halo Infinite is considered to have been "mismanaged" at launch with a paltry amount of content and a failure by 343i to address the community's concerns. While the game is in a far better state than it was at release, it's clear that Halo Infinite's reputation among gamers has yet to fully recover, possibly contributing to the announced layoffs at the studio.

Update (10:30 PM ET): Che Chou, who worked at 343i for 5 years, noted on Mastodon that over 60 people from 343i have been cut today.

(Image credit: Mastodon)

One major loss for 343 Industries that has been confirmed, however, is the departure of Head of Creative Joseph Staten, who joined the Halo Infinite team in late 2020 to help right the troubled ship and guide the game toward launch. Staten is reportedly leaving 343i to rejoin Xbox Publishing, ending his tenure on the Halo Infinite team. While not a layoff, Staten's departure is occurring alongside everything else happening at 343i. It's unknown how Microsoft's flagship FPS will be affected by the change in leadership.

The layoffs at the studios behind some of the best Xbox games arrive in the wake of Microsoft's ongoing attempts to acquire games publisher Activision Blizzard in a landmark deal worth nearly $69 billion, which would see a workforce of nearly 10,000 join the company. The deal has drawn seemingly endless controversy across the internet, with multiple organizations and groups either decrying the deal or throwing their support behind it. In recent news, a major European trade organization has backed the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

Windows Central's take

The last few months have been rife with layoff announcements from several companies across multiple industries, with tens of thousands of employees impacted. While the global economic climate is gradually shifting downward and resulting in new challenges for companies to overcome, everyday people are the ones most affected. 10,000 employees across Microsoft are being stripped of their job security and thrown into the job pool populated by the thousands of others affected by recent layoffs at their own companies, and it's both disconcerting and concerning to see.

I understand that companies often need to make difficult decisions in order to protect themselves, sometimes at the expense of the talented individuals that form their backbone, but it seems worth criticizing Microsoft for unceremoniously laying off 10,000 employees after embarking on an aggressive hiring spree through the pandemic; especially at multiple Xbox games studios, when the company is still attempting to acquire Activision Blizzard and more-or-less replace all the jobs being cut.

It'll be months before we're able to observe the impact these layoffs will have on Microsoft and its various projects and teams. Microsoft does seem committed to providing every employee affected by the layoffs (well, based in the USA, at least) with sufficient notice, severance pay, and post-termination benefits, which is a small silver lining in the face of what will undoubtedly be extremely difficult news for a lot of people to receive in the coming months.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.