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Pokémon Go developer Niantic accused of sexual bias in lawsuit

A former developer alleges Niantic consistently underpaid her for years and worked to quash female staff from raising concerns about sexism within the company.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

July 10, 2023

2 Min Read
Screenshot of Niantic's Pokémon Go.

An ex-developer at Niantic has leveled a lawsuit at the AR developer, alleging the studio has been underpaying its female employees. First spotted by The Verge, the former staffer claims the Pokémon Go developer has spent years denying equal pay to staff who were women or women of color. 

Known as "Jane Doe" in the complaint and described as an Asian woman, she was among the 230 staff laid off by Niantic at the end of June. She first worked there in 2020 and discovered after her promotion the following year that a male employee was paid more than her, despite her having a higher title and more responsibilities than him. 

Up to and before the studio's staff cuts, this unnamed employee was paid more than her despite her title being higher than his. In 2022, he was paid $127,000 per year compared to her $105,000/yr. She later discovered through a Niantic listing for her job that was being paid $10,000 less than the bottom end of its listed pay range. 

The complaint notes that upon bringing up her concerns to Niantic HR, "they and male upper management were hostile to her complaints or voiced concerns about sexism or sexual bias in the workplace." It also alleges that said management told her that her low pay was specifically because she brought up the issue to other women on staff.

Doe's complaints were further backed up by Niantic's employee resource group for women, Wolfpack. A survey conducted by the group found that "many female employees viewed Niantic as a sexist work culture that disadvantages female employees...and expressed concerns about equal pay."

In response to this, Niantic's CFO Mike Quigley allegedly ordered Wolfpack to remove any references to the company being a "boys club" and comments about sexism from presentations to Wolfpack members regarding the survey. Upper management also reportedly now must give approval on staff surveys. 

Niantic's alleged workplace issues are all too common

The allegations at Niantic mirror similar complaints made at triple-A studios such as Rockstar and Activision Blizzard . 

Following complaints of crunch and sexist behavior in 2018, the Grand Theft Auto studio has reportedly taken serious efforts to improve its workplace. Last year, it was noted that the developer has gone from a "boys club" to a "real company."

Activision Blizzard was accused of having a "frat house" culture in mid-2021 by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The agency sued the Diablo IV developer for the allegations made by (current and former) female staff at the company, which was later followed by a second lawsuit in late 2022. 

Game Developer has reached out to Niantic for comment and will update when a response is given.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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