Worms Developer Team17 has spoken out about issues of sexual harassment and low pay within the studio after the backlash from the NFT Uturn.
More than a dozen members of Team17 have told Eurogamer that Team17 has been experiencing an increase in staff leaving over the years. This is allegedly due to issues such as a demeaning boss and a disengaged HR team.
Staff claim that the company's HR team did not respond to complaints of sexual harassment by women. They were sent offensive messages and photos by male colleagues. HR “minimized the incidents”, gave the accused “a slap in the face” and told victims that they would sort it out.
Debbie Bestwick, Team17's group chief executive officer was also criticized. One staff member stated that Debbie Bestwick was being criticised for posting so many comments on Twitter about being a female gamer, and yet harassment continues in her company. People are being told it hasn’t.
Bestwick is said to have made staff tearful by calling them out in meetings. Eurogamer heard from one employee that they were so overwhelmed that “things will get missed” and that they were “sat in a meeting asking “Why the hell did this not meet our expectations?”
Bestwick is worth £200 million ($272 million) and staff said she regularly discusses her wealth in the open-plan office and on social media, an issue made worse as some employees are paid “low” and “terrible” salaries starting at around £16,000 ($21,800) per year.
One employee claimed that they worked until 8pm every night to meet a deadline. This was due to Team17 doing too much work. Management was not able to resolve the problem and staff were told that “the wagers you're being paid are okay”.
Eurogamer approached Team17 regarding these claims. They warned staff that an “extensive, negative” article was in the works. This warning was more than that of its NFT project which was cancelled 24 hours later.
Eurogamer received Team17's complete response. Through our engagement survey, direct dialogue with the employees and new-established working groups, we constantly review and revise our internal policies and practices.
This includes compensation, workplace culture, and environment. We are constantly striving to improve the employee experience. We announced in January new ways to pay and reward Teamters. Our Teamster's well-being is our passion. We want them to feel valued, connected, and to have a sense belonging and purpose.
The topic of NFTs has been polarizing in the gaming sector with companies appearing to be hot or cold about this new market.
The industry is experiencing a “gold rush” with Krafton, the creator of PUBG investing millions of dollars in an NFT project. It joins GameStop, which recently announced it was launching an NFT marketplace. Ubisoft, the publisher of Assassin's Creed, has also made a move into NFT. A company executive commented that “gamers don't understand it”.
GSC Game World, a developer of STALKER 2, set up and cancelled its NFT plans in less than an hour. Troy Baker, a voice actor, was also known for his roles in The Last of Us. However, he quickly pulled out after fan backlash. Indie game marketplace Itch.io branded NFTs a fraud.
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer and occasionally remembers to tweet @thelastdinsdale