On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that it would lay off approximately 10,000 employees, or 5% of its global workforce—which includes its massive game operations at Xbox and its vast studio system. While The Esports Advocate does not know the exact number of people affected by layoffs across Microsoft’s various game studios under the Xbox Games Studios division, we have learned that a number of high-profile 343 Industries developers were let go on Wednesday—one directly tied to Halo Esports.
The Xbox Games Studios houses a number of high-profile game development studios including 343 Industries, id Software, ZeniMax Online, The Coalition, Bethesda Game Studios, Playground Games, Turn10 Studios, Undead Labs, Obsidian, inXile Entertainment, Rare, Tango Gameworks, Ninja Theory, World’s Edge, Mojang Studios, Double Fine, The Initiative, Alpha Dog Games, Arkane Studios, Machinegames, Roundhouse Studios, Compulsion Games, and Xbox Game Studios Publishing.
While there are likely a lot more, around 15 people (that TEA found) from Halo series developer 343 Industries announced publicly on social media that they had been affected by layoffs, many of whom worked on art or visual effects, software engineering, and QA/game testing. People announcing being laid Wednesday included Adam Grayson (a technical environment artist for more than seven years at 343), Joshua Hnosko (live broadcast producer for three years at 343), Christopher Blohm (design lead on Halo Infinite, who worked at 343 for more than 11 years and more than 12 years at Microsoft Game Studios – Publishing), Ben Rudolph (nearly 15 years at Microsoft in various senior marketing & communications roles), Stuart Cunningham (who spent nearly four years as a technical environment artist at 343), Austin Conway (who spent nine months at 343 as a dialogue designer), Tom Gariti (a contracted environment artist for eight months at 343), Jesse Stipek (a video producer/video editor working with the Halo franchise for nine years), Jon Graham (FX supervisor/lead working on Halo for more than two years), Nina Petchprapa (who served for nearly three years as technical environment artist at 343), Bob Zasio (who served as principal software engineering manager for more than 10 years), Kaleb Morris (who spent more than eight months as an intern at both Microsoft/343 before going full time as a gameplay engineer for two years), Juan Carlos Larrea (who spent nearly 11 years as lead animator on gameplay at 343), and Ilya Kulshin (who spent more than five years as a senior software engineer at 343).
One person who is not out at Microsoft but is leaving 343 Industries behind is Joseph Staten, who will move from his role as Halo Infinite creative director to join the Xbox publishing division.
The most notable layoff at 343 Industries—as it relates to esports—is Matt Kline, who spent the last three years at the studio as Halo Esports program manager. In that role, Kline was in charge of everything related to Halo Esports broadcasts, including leading the video content team, working with co-streamers on Twitch (and other things related to the platform such as “drops”), securing broadcast partnerships, event content strategy, and much more.
Kline has been in the esports industry for quite some time; he began his esports journey in 2009 when he joined Major League Gaming as an intern, producing segments such as the “Old Spice Report,” and would work there for more than two years under contract as a technical director of live events. In 2012, he would move on to S2 Games, where he’d spend the next year creating esports content as broadcast director. In 2013, he would land at ESL, where he would spend nearly three years as creative producer and director of ESL Pro League CS:GO, lead producer of ESL One and ESL Pro League; and a producer on live broadcasts for IEM (StarCraft, CS:GO, League of Legends), ESL One (CS:GO, Dota 2), ESL Pro League EU (CS:GO), WCS (StarCraft), WGL (World of Tanks), LCS (League of Legends), and CWL (Call of Duty).
After ESL, he spent nearly two-years at Mashable as a senior producer creating video game and esports-related content, then finding his way to Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment and Dignitas in 2019. He would stay at the company in his role as director of media – esports for around a year, before finally landing at Microsoft/343 Industries in February of 2020.
Editor’s note: These public announcements don’t reflect the totality of layoffs at 343 or other game studios under the Microsoft banner (the company did not release specific numbers of cuts that will happen in its gaming division), but a serve as small snapshot of what’s happening at the company this week.