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Team17 staff decry poor working conditions and "monumentally stupid" NFT project

Employees spoke of low pay, long hours, and ruthless management.

A number of Team17 staff have lambasted the Worms developer over its decision to pursue an NFT project despite employee concerns, and claim the now-scrapped NFT initiative was simply the latest in a growing number of issues at the UK company.

In a damning report published by Eurogamer, over a dozen anonymous Team17 workers expressed disappointment at the way the NFT announcement was handled, largely because management refused to listen to staff concerns ahead of time.

According to those sources, some employees were kept in the dark with regard to the studio's NFT plan, which was quickly scrapped after a public backlash, while those who were aware of the project had voiced their disapproval to no avail.

Team members were also reportedly warned against publicly expressing their own opinions on NFTs in an internal FAQ, with the document noting that "criticising or embarrassing Team17, its contractual partners, or fellow Teamsters in a public forum could be cause for disciplinary action."

Once the company had back-pedalled, an internal town hall meeting was held to apologize to staff, although those who spoke with Eurogamer suggested the move felt distantly "political."

"[Management] did it, and they left it for a day and a half to simmer and see what would happen. It wasn't even that people might lose their jobs [if developers pulled their games], or that the company was going downhill," said one staff member who attended the meeting.

"It was that the managers were doing something so monumentally stupid without a thought for those who would actually bear the brunt of it. They didn't apologise to staff, even the community managers who were subjected to a barrage of abuse because of it."

There were other concerns, too. Employees spoke of low pay, long hours, and increasing workloads, and indicated the company's publishing division is creaking after signing too many projects.

QA team members shared reports of "low" or "terrible" pay, touting base rates of around £16k per annum and £19k for more senior roles. Crunch was another concern for QA workers, with several staff claiming to have regularly worked into the evening -- and in some cases even on the weekend -- to meet deadlines.

Team17 employees at the company's Nottingham office also raised concerns about HR. According to some team members, women who reportedly received suggestive and degrading messages and photos from male colleagues were brushed off by HR, who either told victims to handle the issue themselves or gave perpetrators a slap on the wrist.

Management seems either unable or unwilling to address those concerns in a meaningful way, and have reportedly slashed bonuses despite wage complaints and rebuffed those who asked for a raise. Team17 CEO Debbie Bestwick, who co-founded the company in 1990, is also reportedly aware of the issues plaguing the company, but is described as a "formidable" figure who is unable to handle criticism.

"There's no way she hasn't seen people complaining about their wages - people who maybe can't afford to turn their heating on, have three meals a day," said one worker. "I've got friends who had, during the pandemic, a leak in their flat - and they had to get a second job. It's the same stories which come out over and over again and -- nothing. Is she truly unaware, is no one telling her? Or does she just not care?"

When asked to comment on the matter by Eurogamer, Team17 said it takes its responsibilities for its employees "extremely seriously."

"We constantly review our internal policies and practises and assess how we support our employees through our engagement survey and through direct dialogue with the team, including newly-established employee-led working groups," it continued. 

"This encompasses compensation, workplace culture and environment, among other key areas, to continually strive to improve our employee experience. In January, as part of this, we announced new improvements to the way we pay and reward our Teamsters. We care passionately about our Teamsters and our aim is to ensure they feel connected, valued and have a sense of belonging and purpose, and that they continue to be proud of Team17 and the products we develop and publish."

You can read the full report on Eurogamer for more on the working conditions at Team17.

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