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Adam Boyes: "You can't hide from the realities of what's happening in the industry"

With the current economic recession and the layoffs, Iron Galaxy Studios co-CEO Adam Boyes tells that it’s a daunting time right now.

“Any time we see headlines like we’re seeing regularly, I think it’s scary for everyone in the games industry. It’s got to be scary obviously for people that work at studios because the future isn’t clear,” says Boyes.

“I think COVID taught us a lot of resiliency as an industry. We drove so many eyeballs to people playing games. Now, this is sort of an overcorrection negatively impacting so many people.”

However, Boyes notes that the business still has to move on for Iron Galaxy despite the current market conditions. He owes this to Dave Lang, who founded the games firm 15 years ago. After experiencing four prior studio closures, Lang established the studio to maintain stability within the industry.

“The key is we work on so many different franchises and products with different partners that creates more of a spider web sort of support system,” said Boyes. “At Iron Galaxy, we try to have a myriad of partners and projects to create a bit more stability.”

Boyes uses the studio itself — which both develops original games and offers co-development services — as an example of what happens when a project falls through. He took note of when Rumbleverse was shutdown back in 2023.

“We still have a lot of different partners. Even when Epic Games announced that it would no longer support Rumbleverse, we took that offline. A lot of developers were obviously working on that [title].

“How do we work with partners to redeploy those people? The good news is that people still want play games. Because we [provide] support with original IP development and with porting work, we build a ton of different content for a ton of different people.”

The executive finds that the challenges game makers currently case could also be further exacerbated by the industry itself; fewer game releases, less financial funding and redundancies will have long-term ramifications.

“That’s the part where I get stuck being an ex-big company executive and now being an independent studio. Part of independent studio leadership is you go ‘Well, gamers [are] going to game, and they’re going to spend. If we slow down the machine, aren’t we just creating that [downturn]?” he said.

“[However] what’s going to happen is that it’s going to fire back up again because the demand is going to be high. Shareholders of video game companies are going to demand content and revenue. But the content is going to be less because we see the impact of all these cancellations.

“Demand will come back roaring but the hardest part about it is that if there’s less money being spread around to find new cool games and concepts and fund this stuff, then aren’t we just creating a dryness in the industry for a couple of years?”

Boyes further explains that the current economy still presents conditions that could further slow down the market.

“Let’s say games right now are canceled in pre-production and that [development] team can’t ship it. Maybe they find a home in two years [but] that pushes out the release for two or three years,” says Boyes. “So, what’s going to happen? In the meantime, gamers are still going to game. The people that are self-sufficient can just rub two sticks together to make a fire will potentially persevere.”

“I think as a company Iron Galaxy is just to be there to fulfill the needs of our partners; small, medium and large, to hopefully help their games come to fruition and then also just provide for our people so they feel safe and stable.”

Boyes explains Iron Galaxy’s position in the market and how it works to remain sustainable is regularly discussed with staffers. These employee check-ins with co-CEO Chelsea Blasko, Lang and himself are meant to gauge concerns and provide transparency.

“We have a town hall where people submit questions, and we give detailed answers. And then, we have a Q and A with our founder, Dave, every month. So there’s a lot of opportunities for people to ask questions,” says the executive.

“You can’t hide from the realities of what’s happening in the industry. If you’re not talking about it, you’ve got your head in the sand, and if you’re doing that, what are you? What kind of a leader are you?”

Boyes notes that these talks help staff stay motivated. Meanwhile, to meet its business goals, decisions are made daily, weekly, and monthly as spending is down across the industry.

“If [layoffs] ever occur at Iron Galaxy, it’s not because it came out of the blue,” he says. “You’re going to see all of the decisions that we made along the way and we’re going share with [employees]. So if heaven forbid that ever does occur, then at least [staffers] saw the process.”

Boyes says it’s difficult to answer what’s often left out of stories about the layoffs and how games studios are responding to the market turbulence.

“I want to go back to why we are in this situation, on each individual basis, when I see companies making [these] decisions. But the reality is the conversation is never going to come to the forefront. It’s unfortunately a byproduct of capitalistic society,” Boyes says.

“I never want to stop hearing about people’s hardships and how they’ve been impacted. I could tell you for a million hours what goes into each decision we make regarding a financial change. But what matters more is that workers are impacted at the end of the line.”

He admits that executives providing more context and speaking to the press about business decisions such as layoffs is also a double-edged sword.

“I think it may be perceived to some readers that you’re almost trying not to build excuses, but the bottom line is that numbers aren’t working, and people got laid off. One of these things is a fictional problem, and the other is a real fucking problem. You can give as much context as you can to a column, but I see a lot of CEOs getting bashed. I understand people are allowed to be mad,” Boyes says.

Regarding Iron Galaxy’s business model of ports and coding, Boyes explains that the current market also determines the needs of its partners.

“It ebbs and flows throughout the years, and if it were with Rumbleverse, it would probably be 40% original IP and 60% code and ports,” he says. “Now, because of the industry and the way we need to respond, a majority of it is going to be code of ports and work for hire. This is again because we’re built like this, and it’s very hard for other people outside of the company’s walls to understand this.”

The executive notes that navigating the industry now as a business means operating for survivability first and foremost.

“We’ve all played those survival games. If we don’t have enough food in our storage before the winter comes, then it’s going be a really tough winter,” he says. “I go back to giving Dave credit the design in the bones of the organization to be able to pivot, I think, is our best gift.”

Still, Boyes understands why the state of the economy, spending being down, and layoffs resulting from the downturn are points of contention.

“Right now, because the economy is down, I think it’s easy for people to just blame the leadership. ‘I can’t believe they didn’t put more money in the bank.’ But it would be an absolute tragedy if [laid-off people] didn’t come back and help us reclaim the phoenix from the ashes because the players aren’t going anywhere. The [player] spending may have taken a little dip, but it isn’t going anywhere.”

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