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February 12, 2024
4 Min Read
Image via Don't Nod/Focus Entertainment.
At a Glance
- A French union claims Don't Nod's upper management have allegedly been negligent with staff and hampered union communication.
A recent letter shared by the French game development union STJV claims Don't Nod staff have faced mismanagement from upper management. The allegations claim employees have faced burnout amid a "grueling" yearlong reorganization, and the Union is concerned that this, combined with other issues surrounding communication and shifting deadlines, warrant “sounding the alarm on the situation of Don’t Nod employees.”
In its report, the French union alleges Don’t Nod endangered the welfare of its workforce through “erratic” communication, understaffed teams, and fraught development pipelines, and further reportedly “refuses any means of direct communication” between STJV and employees. Don’t Nod pushed back against the allegations in a statement given to Game Developer, saying the alleged behavior “[does] not align with our company values and culture” and that these allegations are taken seriously within the company.
“We understand the importance of transparency and accountability,” a company representative said. “We are committed to addressing any issues raised constructively.”
Jusant, Banishers developers reportedly left in the dark
Throughout the STJV report, miscommunication is said to be a big issue at Don't Nod. For example, staff on 2023's Jusant were allegedly blindsided after Don’t Nod shut down production following the game’s release. They were left unsure about their future or work tasks for months, though a Don’t Nod representative claims members of the Jusant team were later reassigned to other projects.
The union suggests similar event occurred with Don’t Nod’s newest game, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. When it was delayed from late 2023 to this week, the team reportedly didn't know until half an hour before the public reveal, something the STJV says comes amid an employment crisis in the game industry and immediately triggered concerns within the team.
“This situation is a danger to the health of the workers, and imposes enormous pressure on teams who are increasingly struggling to meet deadlines,” explains the letter.
Employees also told STJV Don't Nod is understaffed, and often lets go of its contractors. When they're rehired, it's usually during "production emergencies" with "precarious contracts." As a result, teams say they have struggled to meet deadlines, which are already said to change "very frequently,” according to the STJV.
STJV argues Don't Nod higher-ups are potentially causing strife for everyone
Don't Nod sometimes puts out two games per year, which STJV says has often been "erratic”: the above issues mean production on projects are often allegedly started without a clear goal in mind. The union says these patterns are actively contributing to burnout at the studio.
Two-thirds of staff responded to a mid-2023 survey conducted by Don't Nod management. In it, 30 percent said they would dissuade their friends from applying at the developer. 39 percent said the studio has too much on its plate (or not enough staff on hand), and 28 percent feel they aren't properly recognized for their work.
Much of STJV's report specifically calls Don't Nod management the core problem. It claims management is stopping it from talking to staff despite having union representation at the studio. The union called communication with Don't Nod "impossible,” and claims what talks it is allowed with higher-ups are closer to "one-sided rants."
The STJV reaffirmed its commitment to Don't Nod staff and called on management to "respect workers’ representatives and to resume negotiations and social dialogue as soon as possible."
In comments shared with Game Developer, a Don’t Nod representative said the company "[prioritizes] creating a supportive and inclusive work environment where every individual is treated with respect and dignity. We want to emphasize that these allegations are taken seriously internally.”
And going forward, Don't Nod will "maintain our dialogue with employees’ representatives to understand better and gather more information."
STJV's full report can be read here. Game Developer also reached out about the larger accusations of mismanagement and contractor treatment, and will update when a response is given.
About the Author(s)
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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