#36: Lights out

Fullbright, then. If you’re not caught up on it all, Polygon has the details.

This one stings, I must admit. I loved Gone Home. I’ve always liked Steve Gaynor. Moreover, Fullbright isn’t just an indie developer; it’s an indie poster child, an uncommonly diverse group making high-quality, innovative, progressively minded games. Fullbright is — was? — different, in other words, which means that finding out they are the same as all the others stings all the more.

Well, not quite the same. This is a different story to the ones that have emerged from the likes of Ubisoft or Activision Blizzard. It is not a tale of institutionalized, or even necessarily intentional abuse. But when the end result is so similar — women feeling they have no alternative but to quit either their job or, worse, the game industry entirely — the specifics and semantics of what went on don’t really matter.

These latest miserable developments broaden the scope of an issue that, it is now clear, affects the entire game industry. It is not restricted to the global juggernauts; it is everywhere, and even those companies who consider themselves above or otherwise safe from it must now acknowledge, if they do not already, that they are at least at risk of falling victim to it. To borrow a phrase, we are none of us safe until all of us are. The industry must find a way to work together to put things right.

The news of late has been overwhelmingly bad. But I do continue to search for crumbs of comfort in it all. It can be terribly wearying reading all these stories, wondering how we got here, and whether we will ever find a way out. The Fullbright news may feel like a huge step back on our collective path towards the welcoming, healthy, safe game industry we want to see. But the fact we are reading these stories at all is a sort of progress, however painful it may be. The whisper networks on which women in games have historically had to rely are increasingly availing themselves of a megaphone. It seems safe to assume that there are more stories to come, but failings must be exposed before they can be fixed. There is an awful lot of difficult work to do. We are at least gaining a better understanding of the scale of the job ahead.


  • The founder and CEO of gaming payment-services outfit Xsolla fired 150 staff over email, accusing them of not pulling their weight while working remotely based on analysis of their activity in Jira, Confluence, Gmail and the like. Aleksandr Agapitov pledged to help those affected find new roles elsewhere where they can “earn more and work even less”. Wow.
  • Frances Townsend, George W Bush-era torture apologist and these days Activision Blizzard’s chief compliance officer, has stepped down from her role as executive sponsor of the publisher’s Women’s Network. Since the lawsuit was filed, Townsend has issued a terrible statement, denying all allegations of misconduct, that she has since admitted was written by legal counsel; approvingly tweeted an article that decried whistleblowing; blocked Activision Blizzard employees who took issue with said tweet; then deleted her Twitter account entirely. Just a terrific run of form.
  • Recently unsealed filings in the Epic vs Google case reveal that the latter discussed a buyout of the Fortnite maker, in an apparent bid to shut down Epic’s attempts to swerve Google Play’s hefty cut of microtransaction revenue.
  • Meanwhile, Apple’s latest response to its own legal battle with Epic claims that the land-grab phase of the Epic Game Store has cost $500 million, and Epic does not expect the endeavour to be profitable until 2027. I expect both of those claims are true, and that Epic is fine with both of them.
  • Some $60 billion was wiped off Tencent’s valuation last week after Chinese state media described gaming as “spiritual opium”. While an excellent name for a prog-rock band, the phrase prompted fears of a legislative crackdown on the nation’s game industry. In response Tencent promised to implement new policies aimed at limiting children’s ability to play, and spend money in, games such as Honor Of Kings. Troubling.
  • Oh look, more consolidation. This time it’s Focus Home snapping up Dotemu, publisher of my beloved Streets Of Rage 4. Meanwhile, Embracer Group’s absurd acquisition spree continued last week with another eight buyouts. Perhaps they’d like to invest in a newsletter.
  • A sealed copy of Super Mario Bros has sold at auction for $2 million, shattering the record $1.54 million paid for a sealed Super Mario 64 just a few weeks ago. I continue to suspect shenanigans, but I suppose I’d rather this than more shite about NFTs.

That’s it for today. I had a lovely holiday, thank you for asking! I played barely any videogames and did very little work, though I have started putting the wheels in motion for the introduction of exclusive paid-subscriber #content. If you’d like to get in on the ground floor, do the thing with the button below. And as always, if you’ve enjoyed today’s edition, please give it a share. Hit Points is closing in on a major milestone in subscriber numbers, and anything you can do to help would be tremendously appreciated. I love you all. See you Wednesday!