Team17 employees report poor working conditions and low pay

In the wake of the recent NFT controversy, a number of Team17 employees have spoken to Eurogamer to report poor working conditions at the indie publisher.

According to the report, staff felt blindsided by the company’s announcement that it was moving into the NFT space – a move that the company quickly backtracked on when it faced severe backlash, particularly from its development partners.

Following staff’s frustrations with how Team17 handled the NFT announcement, more than a dozen employees spoke anonymously to Eurogamer to report poor pay, long working hours and mismanagement at the company.  Current and former employees state that the publisher is bleeding talent, as frustrations begin to mount.

As Eurogamer had previously reported, many Team17 employees were not informed of the project until they were announced publicly. Those who were aware had voiced their complaints, but to no avail.

Eurogamer reports that Team17’s U-turn on its MetaWorms project was announced in a town hall meeting, which they described as a “political apology.” However, this meeting failed to address employee’s concerns, as management maintained that the project had been planned in the best way possible.

“If it was the people in the office who swayed them – if it had been the employees – they wouldn’t have done it,” said one employee to Eurogamer. “Instead, they 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. 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.”

Staff also report that they feel the company is signing too many games, leading to rushed releases and an atmosphere of quantity over quality. This has resulted in staff dealing with increased workloads on poor pay – described by QA team members as “low” or “terrible,” with around a £16k base rate, up to around £19k for a senior QA role. Staff who have recently left the company said they were offered an extra £10k for a similar role at another company.

QA staff have requested pay raises, but have not been successful.

“We got various testimonials from people within QA, those who were willing to come forward – some people aren’t as confident talking about their troubles as others – but we got 10 people,” said one staff member. “There were people who would have to skip meals to save money, people who would have to go into the office during the pandemic to reduce their bills, people who couldn’t afford new clothes, people who got an emergency bill and were in their overdraft. We took it to management, and the second time we took it to HR. Nothing came of it. We were essentially told ‘the wages you are being paid are fine’. I can confirm they’re not. People are struggling, badly.”

According to the report, QA team members would skip meals in order to save money, or come into the office mid-pandemic in order to save on their bills. Meanwhile Bestwick, who has a personal wealth of £200m, would reportedly openly discuss her wealth – as well as commenting on other employees and development partners.

The company’s annual bonuses have caused additional frustration. Last year’s bonuses were slashed, sometimes down from £1,000 from what employees were used to, despite the company reporting record profits for H1 2021. Those who questioned this were told it was because of first party titles that had underperformed.

QA staff also report long hours, often working late into the night for weeks or months in order to meet deadline. While QA staff are offered overtime pay at 1.5x rate, non-QA team members report working overtime completely unpaid.

The company’s CEO and co-founder, Debbie Bestwick, is also named in the report. According to Eurogamer’s sources, there are “mixed feelings” towards Bestwick, who is reported to have made £7.56m while many of her employees saw their bonuses cut last year. Additionally, Bestwick reportedly openly discusses other employees while they are not present, and comments on external development partners.

Staff describe Bestwick as being “formidable,” and as someone who does not take criticism well. Several employees stated that they have witnessed Bestwick singling out other team members in meeting, some of whom left in tears.

“Things are going to get missed if you are that overworked,” said one staff member to Eurogamer, “and when they are missed, you’re going to be called up by Debbie.”

“It is humiliating at times, because your hand is forced – you have bugger all budget, you have too many games, and then you’re sat in a meeting being asked ‘why the hell did this game not meet our expectations?’ It can be a very pointed thing. It’s not unheard of for people to go out of those meetings crying, which at a workplace is shameful.”

However, those who are closer to Bestwick seemingly have a much easier relationship with her. Staff noted that Bestwick pays for a house close to the Nottingham studio, and allows visiting or new staff, as well as those in management’s inner circle, to stay there for free.

Some staff have hope that things might improve, however. Former PlayStation executive Michael Pattison was appointed to the company in October last year, promising a renewed focus on quality.

 

About Chris Wallace

Chris is a freelancer writer and was MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer from November 2019 until May 2022. He joined the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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