Fusebox Games, the developer behind Love Island: The Game, has been accused of maintaining a toxic work environment as well as ignoring staff concerns with sexist content.
The ongoing dispute between staff and management has contributed to the delay of the upcoming season of the game. Additionally, dozens of staff at Fusebox were told that they faced losing their jobs after raising concerns about the treatment of LGBT+ characters in the game.
That’s according to The Independent, who report that staff are expressing concern with regards to how their complaints about game content were handled. The dispute came to a head with Matchmaker: Puzzles and Stories, another Fusebox game.
In Matchmaker, a third-party company wrote a storyline in which a man approaches the main character, takes their drink without their consent and refuses to return it unless the player character kisses him – with no option to refuse the kiss. Additionally, the exchange is accused of fetishising bisexual experiences of the player character.
Fusebox employees, many of whom belong to the LGBT+ community, expressed distress with this storyline. Staff were told that the storyline would be removed, only for it to be available in international versions of the game.
An open letter, signed by 31 members of Fusebox staff, was sent on May 24th and warned of “problematic content” in the game. Three weeks later, a number of workers were told that their jobs were at risk as the company was suffering financial problems.
Reports of layoffs at the company surfaced last month, seemingly as part of a shift to a co-development approach. During this time, The Independent reports that the game was “indefinitely delayed,” despite the television series being about to begin, something that would undoubtedly lead to a sharp rise in revenue.
Fusebox’s website notes its principle of “writing inclusive stories that reflect the diversity of our players,” a statement staff have described as “performative.”
In a statement to The Independent, Fusebox said that they are “saddened by the personal impact our restructure had on team members affected,” however maintained that it was “the right decision for the long term success of the business.”
Additionally, in a statement issued to GamesIndustry.biz, Fusebox defended its decision to use a third party company to write storylines for its games, including the one that upset its staff. Fusebox states that the appearance of the offending story is only included for testing purposes as part of a soft launch in certain markets.
“We took the hard decision recently to re-evaluate how we build our games,” reads the statement. “We felt that using external partners for development, alongside our core internal expertise for concept creation, product management, marketing, and business intelligence, was the most scalable model for the future. This was of course a tough decision, as we understand the impact on team members affected. We wholeheartedly thank them for their hard work and support during their time with us.
“The content concerns raised were addressed, and appeared in a soft launch version of the game, while we were testing broader KPIs with a limited audience, which is standard practice in mobile games. It was collectively agreed that this content would be updated ahead of a future release.
“We’re very proud of the culture we have built inside our business. We have always encouraged an inclusive and collaborative approach to the creation of our games, that focuses on the player rather than individual perspectives or preferences. It’s this focus, balanced by data, that has led to our successes and is the cornerstone of our growth.
“Season 4 of Love Island The Game is currently in development to ensure it meets the high standards of the previous seasons. The release date of Season 4 was not tied to the airing of the TV show and we anticipate releasing the new season towards the end of the year.”