Sponsored By

Workers at ZA/UM allege management is mishandling the Disco Elysium studio and mistreating its veteran staff.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

February 15, 2024

2 Min Read
Kim and Harry in key art for 2019's Disco Elysium.
Image via ZA/UM.

At a Glance

  • ZA/UM has allegedly been shelving or canceling several projects in secret for years, with only two left in production.

Update (02/19/24): ZA/UM has confirmed it's making an undisclosed number of layoffs in a statement sent to Insider Gaming.

"As with all studios, we adapt the size of our team to the work underway, growing when we start a new project and shrinking if one is cancelled," said the studio. "It is always hard to lose talented colleagues, and we thank those leaving for their many contributions to ZA/UM."

Original story: According to a new report from Video Games on Sports Illustrated (VGSI), Disco Elysium developer ZA/UM is laying off a quarter of its staff.

Twenty-four employees are said to be affected overall, and follow the recent cancellation of a project codenamed X7. Cuts will mainly affect that team, along with separate teams and projects.

VGSI claims X7 was an expansion for Disco Elysium, which was said to be "one to two years away from completion." It also alleges this was the third "big" project to be iced or fully killed at ZA/UM.

Other alleged projects include a Disco Elysium sequel (codenamed Y12) that was cut in 2022, and a wholly new sci-fi property (P1) that was shelved last year.

At the time of writing, two projects are in development at ZA/UM.

A history of ZA/UM's worker-heavy strife

ZA/UM's tumultuous saga began in late 2022 when a trio of Disco Elysium staffers were abruptly ousted.

Lead designer Robert Kurvitz and art director Aleksander Rostov later said their exits were not voluntary. They claimed ZA/UM actively forced them and writer Helen Hindpere out.

In the immediate aftermath, Kurvitz filed a lawsuit against ZA/UM. The studio, after a separate lawsuit against it by ex-EP Kaur Kender was dropped, said it would "address a series of baseless allegations from former employees."

Sources told VGSI that ZA/UM's current woes stem from mismanagement. One source claims they've "turned ZA/UM into the very thing that Disco Elysium was against."

A separate source said higher-ups failed to value current talent and frequently brought on new staff. Similar to Don't Nod's recent allegations, there are claims of active hostility against staff.

"[They] always [act] like there's an enemy," a second source said, "be it the old Disco team, the press, or even people working there."

Speaking to ZA/UM's current state, the first source lamented its issues. "Brilliant people work there and I want only the best for them," they said. "But I hope [the best] is somewhere else."

VGSI's full report on ZA/UM can be read here. Game Developer has reached out to the developer for comment.

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.

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like