Behind That Viral LA Billboard That Trolled Microsoft and Other Game Companies

Last week, while Summer Game Fest attendees shuffled between game reveals and demos in Los Angeles, an unusual digital billboard captured the attention of millions of people online and off. “Gone but not forgotten,” it read, listing shuttered studios like Arkane Austin, Tango Gameworks, and Volition, “+ everyone laid off, downsized, & ‘made redundant.’ Thank you for great games.” When the sign flashed to its second message to downtown LA, it was equally direct: “We love you. We miss you. We hate money.”

The message was signed “your friends at New Blood,” and as soon as Game File reporter Stephen Totilo posted a video of the billboard to X on Thursday, it went viral, eventually racking up more than 3 million views and making headlines on gaming news sites. New Blood Interactive’s co-founder Dave Oshry, who paid for the viral ad, says that he wanted people in the gaming industry to “see it and go ‘hell yeah, good shout’ and pour one out for those studios and just remember the games they made.” But what he ultimately did was troll an industry that’s squeezing developers right as its big wigs were headed to LA to show off their glitzy new releases.

It’s been a particularly brutal year for developers at studios big and small. Indies continue to close or go on “hiatus,” a more hopeful move that implies they’ll one day return. Big name studios have been laying off developers in the hundreds. Microsoft in particular is responsible for the most recent closures on that billboard list, Arkane Austin and Tango Gameworks.

Originally, Oshry told Totilo, he wanted to post the names of all of the recently-shuttered studios, but there simply wasn’t enough room on the billboard. Still, his action resonated with the developers who have lost their jobs this year alone, and the others who are looking to support them.

Oshry says he’s received many messages from people formerly of those studios, so “mission accomplished.” He declined to provide specifics on how much the billboard cost, simply telling WIRED via X DM that the price was “$xx,xxx.” “It cost a lot but not that much,” he adds.

Whatever the cost, it was likely far less than the money game studios were ponying up to participate in Summer Game Fest, where showing a one-minute trailer can reportedly cost $250,000. Over the Game Fest weekend, companies from Microsoft to Blumhouse got major buzz debuting early looks at games like Doom: The Dark Ages and Sleep Awake, but a lot of the chatter also went to Oshry’s stunt.

Oshry told Game File that the original messages he brainstormed with his New Blood colleagues were much more direct than what they actually posted. “People started suggesting: ‘You should take shots at the execs,” Oshry said. “Put a picture of Phil Spencer up there and be like, ‘Hey man, what the fuck?’”

Spencer, Microsoft Gaming’s CEO, spoke to IGN over the weekend about the company’s decision to close studios like Tango Gameworks—a controversial move considering the developer made the widely acclaimed Hi-Fi Rush. “In the end, I’ve said over and over, I have to run a sustainable business inside the company and grow, and that means sometimes I have to make hard decisions that frankly are not decisions I love, but decisions that somebody needs to go make,” Spencer said.