I'm sure by now most of you have read Matt's journal wherein he basically just published an internal memo that was sent within Rooster Teeth that talks about letting 50 people go, and also about how they've done a bunch of great stuff so far this year. The public response seems to fall into one of a few general categories:
- Companies gonna company. Layoffs are part of the life cycle of a business, and it was only a matter of time until it happened at Rooster Teeth.
- This is just more evidence that Rooster Teeth have abandoned their community values and become just another corporate cog in the machine.
- Letting go of [this person] is bullshit, I'm never watching you again and I hope you fail.
- All of this backlash is just evidence of the bad karma you have coming to you from [some thing RT did in the past that the user doesn't like]. I hope you fail.
I've been gathering my thoughts about this announcement for a while. I think they're hopefully a little more nuanced than the rough groupings I've identified above. Before I begin, a friendly reminder that I'm not an RT employee, I don't speak for them, and everything in this journal are my own views and opinions that do not represent Rooster Teeth. I'm speaking for myself here.
First of all, I think it was a mistake to publish the memo in full. It reads strikingly similarly to Activision talking about how they made record sales last year, and by the way they're laying off 800 people because they didn't make enough profit. That ...didn't go well for them. I think if Matt had instead only posted excerpts from the first and last paragraphs, to say "Hey, we love everyone who works for us, so it sucks that we've had to let a bunch of them go. We're doing what we can to help them find work elsewhere," then the reception would have been better overall. That kind of "look how great we're doing but also we're firing people" phrasing doesn't sit well with a lot of people, from what I've seen.
What I really want to talk about in this journal, though, is why people get laid off en masse in general, and then I hope to bring that back around to Matt's journal and Rooster Teeth at the end. This will be kind of lengthy, but I want to be thorough. So, here we go.
When you get right down to it, all businesses are in exactly the same business: making money. My company does it by making websites, American Apparel does it by making clothing, and Rooster Teeth does it by producing digital content and selling merchandise based on it. If you're not profitable, then you're failing as a business. One way to not be profitable is to have more employees than you can afford to pay.
This means that from time to time, layoffs happen. This occurs when the company can, in vulgar terms, eliminate people without affecting productivity, thus saving money and raising profit margins. There are actually lots of cases where this may apply, such as a project finishing up and the people who were working on it no longer being required, or a merger meaning there are two people doing the same work when only one person is required.
If I may be allowed to speculate, in Rooster Teeth's case, both of these things may currently apply: their game Vicious Circle recently released, meaning the people who worked on it may not be necessary any more, and they have recently fallen under the umbrella of Time Warner, or AT&T, or whoever - it's difficult to keep track - who undoubtedly already have mechanisms in place for some of the positions that RT had people filling. It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that this is where most of the layoffs came from.
In general terms, since projects finish all the time, and since companies buy other companies and merge with other companies all the time, that means people get laid off all the time. It sucks, but really it's just part of the corporate life cycle.
Now, there are some people who believe that this "clearly corporate move" is just further evidence that RT is drifting away from their community and towards being just another heartless company. What those people need to keep in mind is that RT is, after all, a company. If they're not making money, then they're failing. And if RT fails, then the community ceases to exist in its current form.
In a very real way, this community only exists because the people running Rooster Teeth want it to exist. They could just as easily scrub the community portion, and just become the next Netflix, where you come here only to watch content and not interact with anything or anybody else. But they won't do that, because they do value their community. And it is because they value it, and because they want the community to continue existing, that they have to make business moves that allow it to do so. And sometimes, that means laying off 50 people so that they can keep making enough money to keep the community going.
What you need to remember is that Rooster Teeth will always do what they believe is in their own best interest, and that includes what they believe is in the community's best interest. You may disagree with a specific choice they make, but that's one move in a vacuum; Rooster Teeth is looking at the bigger picture - a picture that the rest of us can't even see. Letting go of 50 people really sucks for those 50 people, but if that move is what allows RT to keep making content for the next 5 years, then that round of layoffs is better for the community than keeping those people employed would have been.
The other thing to keep in mind is that RT isn't just a bunch of friends recording lines in Burnie's closet any more. The things they did 16 years ago worked for them at that time, but now they're a massive media company. They have dozens of weekly shows, two video games, three movies that have seen a theatrical release, and hundreds of pieces of merchandise they've gone through. They literally can't afford to do things the same way they used to, because if they did, they'd cease to exist.
Rooster Teeth has evolved dramatically over the last 16 years, and it is foolish to expect that they would still be doing things the same way they used to. They're not that company any more, because of course they're not. You may not agree with some of their decisions, and that's okay. But I think it is incorrect to accuse them of bowing to corporate overlords, or of abandoning the community, or of similarly dramatic accusations, because they made a move that is good for their company. Without making hard decisions like this when they need to be made, there wouldn't be a company for you to disagree with at all.
(Also, to head off a certain subset of comments before they happen, I'm talking only about their layoffs here. Things like excessive crunch time are a different conversation, and I think we can all agree that that's a terrible situation and that RT should be doing more to remedy it. I agree with you on that, but that's not what this journal is about.)
As for how to move forward after this, I recommend doing pretty much what you've been doing all along: watch the shows you enjoy, don't watch the shows you don't enjoy, and try not to take things so personally when they happen to someone else. Matt showed a tremendous amount of transparency with that journal, but it shouldn't be the thing that defines your experience here. You come to this website to watch content you enjoy and to have a good time. I think you should keep doing that. Choose happy.