Multiple gaming studios behind major game titles in recent months have come under fire for toxic workplaces and back-breaking work weeks, and it has happened again with a report in Variety today indicating Warner Bros. Interactive studio NetherRealm has come under the microscope for alleged employee mistreatment during the recent creation of fighting game “Mortal Kombat 11”.
Sources for the trade say the studio is now investigating issues with reports of low pay, the crunch of extreme overtime and a long-term poisonous work culture at the studio including “gender discrimination and loud, obnoxious, super toxic co-workers”. Some employees indicate they’ve been working 60-70 hours per week, seven days a week since January, others have indicated 90-100 hour work weeks.
All their sources say they felt the pressure to work long hours due to the threat of being replaced or denied a chance at a more desirable position or better pay. Those who don’t submit to the crunch are allegedly replaced by eager contractors – many of them university students willing to work a nine-month contract for $14 an hour just so they can say they worked on a AAA franchise.
While some of the blame has been put on poor planning, poor communication and mismanagement, a January marketing event dubbed ‘MK Day’ allegedly put the studio behind significantly as multiple employees warned the publishing and marketing teams doing the event would set the game’s development back another month and a half. Every department has since been playing catch-up which is still ongoing as problems with in-game currency and exploits have the studio working on a third patch to fix glitches with two more patches already planned.
NetherRealm Studios responded with a statement: “At NetherRealm Studios, we greatly appreciate and respect all of our employees and prioritize creating a positive work experience. As an equal opportunity employer, we encourage diversity and constantly take steps to reduce crunch time for our employees. We are actively looking into all allegations, as we take these matters very seriously and are always working to improve our company environment. There are confidential ways for employees to raise any concerns or issues.”