Esports layoffs tracker 2024

esports layoffs
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The so-called “esports winter” has been one of the main industry topics for the better part of 2023, and the start of 2024. With the esports industry struggling to get back on the right track after a major correction following the boom during the pandemic, a large number of employees from both esports and gaming industries have been laid off, with some organisations closing their doors and others trying to focus on their core business.

Companies have largely blamed the layoffs on ‘focus’ — esports and gaming companies pursued ventures outside of their core business, which are no longer sustainable. However, it is also apparent that a large number of esports companies struggle with profitability and large overhead costs and burn rates, which are, in turn, the result of large investment rounds and cash injections the companies received in the years prior to the esports winter. 

For example, esports organisation 100 Thieves recently sold its Juvee energy drink business and spun off its game development studio, following layoffs in 2023. This example illustrates the state of the industry quite well — an esports organisation started branched out during a period of growth, and has now had to downsize and “do less, better” to remain financially stable.

Meanwhile, companies such as Amazon-owned Twitch experienced layoffs that it says are related to rapid growth. At Microsoft, however, the layoffs were part of a restructuring that resulted from the company’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard in 2023. 

Layoffs have not just affected just esports companies. A large number of gaming businesses were also affected, with Eidos Montreal laying off almost 100 people and cancelling the upcoming Deus Ex Game, mobile developer Playtika laying off around 350 people and game engine company Unity laying off more than 1800 employees in early January. Over 8000 people have been laid off in the games industry in 2024 so far, according to one layoff tracker.

In this article, we’ll aim to track all major esports industry layoffs during 2024, as well as some notable rounds from 2023.

ESI London 2024


Although the term “esports winter” really came into the spotlight in the latter part of 2023, the year also had some notable high-profile layoff rounds that hinted at the state of things to come. 

Riot Games laid off almost 50 people in the early days of 2023 due to “strategic shifts”. The layoffs included staff from the HR, recruitment, support and esports divisions. In March, GAMURS Group, the owners of Dot Esports, also announced layoffs across the board, with more than 50 people in different positions laid off. GAMURS mentioned the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and cost-cutting measures as reasons for the moves.

In the days before FaZe Clan was acquired by GameSquare, the company saw several rounds of layoffs, notably affecting around 20% of its employees in February 2023. FaZe cited a lack of capital and a difficult economic climate as reasons for the cuts, which ultimately led to it being acquired later the same year. 

In June, UK-based esports and gaming company Gfinity announced the closure of its esports division, due to the company not seeing profitable growth opportunities in the sector. It is also notable to mention that Gfinity’s CEO John Clarke left the company in February. 

After laying off several employees from its content team in 2022, American esports organisation 100 Thieves laid off around 30 employees in early 2023, including its former Chief Revenue Officer Matty Lee. 

Fortnite creator Epic Games laid off more than 800 people in September 2023, which made up around 16% of the company’s workforce.
Amazon Games and Twitch also underwent substantial layoff rounds in 2023. Amazon laid off around 100 people from its gaming divisions in April, and then 180 more in November of the same year, while Twitch, also owned by Amazon, saw another two rounds of layoffs. In March, the company announced around 400 layoffs, and followed it by a smaller round of around 30 people in November.

Esports Winter
(ESI Illustration) Images via Shutterstock

January 2024

Communications service Discord, most known for being used by gamers and esports organisations to communicate, announced that it was laying off 17% of its workforce, or around 170 people, in January 2024.

The company, valued at more than $15bn, shared in an internal memo that a rapid growth of workforce had led to inefficiency and that Discord, a company that grew five times since 2020, needed to focus more on its core business.

The major layoffs follow a similar round that happened in August 2023, when Discord laid off around four percent of its workforce.

Twitch lays off more than 500 workers

Another giant of both gaming and esports, Twitch, has been going through a rough period in early 2024. The company announced that more than 500 workers have been laid off in a memo on January 10, sharing that “the organisation is larger than it needs to be given the size of its business.” In other words, Twitch’s growth strategy during the pandemic proved to be a costly strategy that led to the company now being forced to cut its workforce “based on conservative predictions on growth.” 
In addition, Twitch has said it will shut down operations in South Korea in February 2024, due to the rising costs of operation in the country and relations with the local telecommunications companies and the country’s authorities. This also led to downsizing of its team in the country, but was much smaller than the large-scale layoffs mentioned above.

Perhaps the most surprising layoff round of the year comes courtesy of Riot Games, viewed by the general public as one of the more stable esports companies. The company, the developer of blockbuster esports games VALORANT and League of Legends has, however, suffered a similar fate to a lot of other esports and gaming companies in early 2024.

In a memo shared with Riot’s employees, the company’s leadership announced that around 530 roles globally would be cut. This largely affected its game development teams, however, it was later revealed that a large number of esports staff had also been laid off, including some notable esports personnel such as Jianhua Chen (PR for Riot EMEA) and Ashley Washington, the Product Lead at Game changers EMEA. 

Riot shared that the reason behind the layoffs was to “regain focus.” The company started a large number of projects in the last three years, including growing from one game to almost 10 projects that are either running or in development. This “lack of focus” took a toll on costs, and Riot was therefore forced to downsize to continue focusing on esports, according to the company.

Software giant Microsoft announced a large round of layoffs in late January, which included personnel from its newly-acquired Activision Blizzard subsidiary and its own Xbox gaming department. This amounts to 1900 employees, around 8.6% of the company’s total gaming workforce, but has had a dramatic impact on its gaming and esports efforts, with some outlets reporting that only a handful of employees remain in its esports department.

The reason for the layoffs is different to other major layoff rounds this year, with Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer noting that the company “identified areas of overlap” and decided to further optimise its business. Sadly for employees of Activision Blizzard, a company that Microsoft acquired in late 2023 after a long legal process, this meant that they were made redundant due to multiple people doing similar jobs. 

This leaves Microsoft in a strange position. The company is reportedly doubling down on gaming, with news of a potential new Xbox console on the way and more games included in its Game Pass, but at the same time it is reducing its esports staff and capabilities. The Overwatch League, Activision’s large esports project, is now operated by ESL FACEIT Group, and the Call of Duty League is under scrutiny after being sued by Hector Rodriguez, the founder of OpTic Gaming.

British esports organisation Vexed Gaming was also one of the victims of the initial wave of layoffs and shutdowns in the industry. The company’s founders shared that  “mistakes were made” in the company’s organisation before the industry recession, and that Vexed had struggled to stay afloat for almost a year before finally conceding defeat. It is unclear how many employees Vexed had before it shut down.

Vexed was notably acquired by Cooldown Ventures in 2019, and the company’s Chief Gaming Officer Dan O’Hare and Marketing Director Stephen James also added that “promises were not kept”, possibly hinting at worsened relations to the Vexed owners. This is emphasised by the duo announcing they would like to “take back true control” of the organisation in the future and relaunch Vexed.

keys layoffs
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February 2024

In a surprising announcement in late February, ESL FACEIT Group, one of the world’s largest esports companies, announced a sizable round of layoffs across all departments and all seniority levels. The total number of employees that were laid off was not shared, but estimates range from 100 to 300 people affected globally.

The company’s Co-CEOs Craig Levine and Nic Maisto announced the layoffs via a letter on the company’s website, in which they say that sustainable growth and reorganisation were the main reasons for the layoffs. The move comes as a bit of a shock due to the fact that EFG made several big announcements in 2023 alone, including the launch of a streaming platform called FACEIT Watch. The company was acquired by deep-pocketed Savvy Games Group in January 2022.

March 2024

UK-based esports organisation MNM Gaming has also entered a troublesome period in early 2024. The organisation, most known for its Rainbow Six: Siege roster, entered administration in February 2024 and is probably going to shut down by the end of the year. The company has no team rosters active, and its social media profiles are also inactive. 

The company reportedly owed a significant amount of money to its players and staff, resulting in them leaving to pursue other ventures late last year.

German esports organisation Sprout Esports has announced that it has shut down via social media in late March. The organisation, founded in 2017, was notable in Germany and the DACH region, and had success in several games. The company shared that the “current business model is no longer viable to ensure required sustainable and healthy growth”, and that the best course of action is to shut down. Interestingly, the organisation’s simulation racing roster will remain active, and Sprout will “support it in another way.”

Ivan Šimić
Ivan comes from Croatia, loves weird simulator games, and is terrible at playing anything else. Spent 5 years writing about tech and esports in Croatia, and is now doing it here.