There’s some stunning news coming out for Toys for Bob, but we need to dispel some misinformation that’s spread alongside it, because it may not be as bad as fans fear.
What we know, thanks to reporting from Insider Gaming, is that a state filing has revealed that the studio has closed their headquarters office, in Novato, California. Toys for Bob was one of several studios affected by Microsoft’s plans to lay off 2,000 workers in their video game studios earlier this year. 162 of those employees are from the Bay Area, but it isn’t clear how many are from Toys for Bob or other studios.
So there are no new layoffs from when Microsoft announced layoffs this January. Microsoft’s plans have led to Toys for Bob to close their physical headquarters.
Now this has led to speculation that Toys for Bob itself has shut down, but we can confirm this is not the case. Jez Corden has revealed on Twitter, among others, that they can confirm that the studio is still very much in operation.
What seems to have happened is that the studio has transitioned completely to a fully offsite, telecommuting operation. Many of the workers are now working from home, but some can also be renting out their own office space or shared work spaces for that purpose.
It can be hard to interpret this news as it’s easy to jump to conclusions. But it seems what we are supposed to take from this is that Toys for Bob had a bad January, because they had some layoffs, but February is actually starting off on the right foot.
Work from home is an ideal situation for some businesses, if not all of them, and Toys for Bob adopting a majority work from home arrangement is ultimately better for the workers. We have seen so much reporting of game developers spending extended hours at work, and taking a lot of overtime. In many cases in the past, we even learned of cases of crunch, forcing developers to overwork, creating a stressful, toxic work environment.
The big complaint those workers had is that they had lost precious time they would have wanted to spend with their families and loved ones. The pandemic showed us that many businesses did not have to operate this way, in particular to keep them away from family. And so it seems, Toys for Bob has taken a step forward that other game studios, and the industry, may realize is better for them too.
We are not disregarding the possibility for abuse in this system. Of course, if there are no physical and especially time boundaries, workers in a work from home arrangement can still be overworked or exploited. But the stress associated with long commutes, or staying away from home, is a social ill that some companies can choose to eliminate for their workplaces. Hopefully this turns out to be a positive step forward for the industry after all.