Sony has laid off close to 90 employees across merchandise and marketing teams in North America this week. In a new report from Axios, company leadership says the job cuts are part of its “global transformation” in the shifting focus from retail to digital.
The cuts come during a time of PlayStation success and brand fanfare. Sony just announced its equivalent to Microsoft’s Game Pass service last week, and its acquisition of Haven Studios in March joins other recent pick-ups from 2021 like Valkyrie Entertainment and Bluepoint.
Those lost roles included Sony’s entire U.S. merchandising team for PlayStation and some in other marketing positions. Platform holders like Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft use these merchandise sales positions to liaise with brick and mortar locations, relying upon them to educate and enforce marketing guidelines agreed upon by retailers.
Speaking to Axios, one employee affected by the cuts “felt Sony could have done more to find people alternate roles” and that the notice provided wasn’t soon enough.
The accelerated pivot to digital makes sense in an era of pandemic-related sales boosts and increasing hardware demands; those layoffs, however, do not and add to an ugly climate of games industry labor concerns. Sony’s successes and digital shift are all fine and well. It’s the lack of worker protections or a shred of soulless corporate goodwill that linger as the most troubling trends.
There’s value in those 90-something roles cut from Sony. There’s value in finding, at minimum, horizontal shifts within a company for employees facing disbanding teams or consolidating functions. Sony’s failure to find alternative positions doesn’t see the value of goodwill, transferable skills, company knowledge, and relationships relevant to the business—when you’re worth billions, you don’t have to.
While workers within the industry fight to unionize, there’s little in place for U.S. employee protections at a federal or state level that helps. A cooperation’s social responsibility and ethical good are left to a system of self-regulation. You could certainly be miserable and callous by shrugging your shoulders at “just 90 job losses,” but that frame of mind on the scale of harm needs some adjustment.
This is the same Sony that just tried to dismiss a harassment lawsuit filed by a woman last November and now faces additional allegations from eight more women. It’s one of the world’s most valuable companies; worth over $130.1 billion, and PlayStation is not an insignificant portion of its revenue. Let’s flip the hostile fan, brand defense force mindset for a moment and be angrier that a company with this much money couldn’t find a way to salvage 90 roles.