Miscellaneous, Music Production

PopCap Layoffs Highlight the Difficulties of Game Audio Careers

May 4, 2017 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook PopCap Layoffs Highlight the Difficulties of Game Audio Careerson Twitter


Recently, PopCap Games announced a wave of layoffs at their Seattle development branch to “refocus on new titles and key projects”. There was no confirmation of how many where laid off or what departments saw the cut in staff, but at least one member of their audio team announced their position had been the victim of the downsizing.

Technical Sound Designer Damian Kastbauer tweeted that he’d been one of the layoffs. While he did not go into detail, his tweets indicate the announcement had been a sudden one.

Fortunately the game audio community showed an outpouring of support for Kastbauer, sending well wishes and spreading the word of his unfortunate situation. As of yet, no other members of the PopCap audio team have made public their layoffs, if there were any. (PopCap’s press room on their website seems to be down; thus there’s some difficulty in getting further details.) Of the flurry of tweets and other social media wishing hope for those affected by the layoffs continued, it did spur some conversation about the game audio industry.

The tweet goes on to discuss the difficulties of having a career in the game audio industry and stresses the importance of being connected within the video game and audio production communities and the establishment of mentoring programs and meetups within the community for the purpose of networking.

Composer and sound designer Marc Straight (of the recent Souls and Blood album release) mentions in the tweet chain his own recent layoff and the difficulty of finding work.

The difficulties of obtaining and maintaining a career in game audio has been an ongoing topic we’ve reported on previously. Certainly, jobs within the video game industry as a whole can be tough to nab, but game music and audio in particular seems to be more fickle than other positions in gaming. Perhaps this has to do with the fickle nature of video game music within games. Some devs put a larger emphasis on the sound production and music compositions for their games than others, making the roles within video game audio less of a stable career field for composers and sound designers. This does mean that networking within the game audio community is an important step in the process, and could very well be a lifeline for cases like Kastbauer’s and others.

There are currently a growing amount of mentoring programs and networking groups for the game music community. Game Audio Mentoring seeks to connect game audio devs with one another to form mutually beneficial networks, while G.A.N.G. (Game Audio Networking Guild) offers membership on the cheap and resources for both new and seasoned audio devs along with a membership network of its own. Local Meetup groups and other opportunities can also be found via social media by searching the #GameAudio hashtag on Twitter.

When these types of situations arise, we like to ask our readers with audio development and music composing experience in the games industry to offer their opinions and insight on the matter. Is a situation like with PopCap a common fear among game sound designers? Are there other resources or methods you use to help keep yourself better connected with job opportunities in the industry? Let us know your thoughts!

We have reached out to Damian Kastbauer for comment on the matter at hand and will update this article with a response and any other details if/when given.

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