Staff at Worms developer Team17 have spoken out on issues of sexual harassment, low pay, and poor treatment within the studio in the wake of public backlash following its NFT U-turn.
Increasing numbers of staff have allegedly left Team17 in recent years due to the issues that allegedly include a dismissive HR team, demeaning boss, and a culture of being overworked, more than a dozen team members told Eurogamer.
Staff said the company’s HR team failed to act appropriately when women reported sexual harassment such as being sent degrading messages and suggestive photos by male colleagues. HR “minimized” the incidents, gave the accused “a slap on the wrist” and told victims to sort it themselves.
Team17’s group CEO Debbie Bestwick was also criticized. One staff member said: “Debbie posts so many things about being a woman in the games industry on Twitter, and yet harassment is going on in her company and people are being told, essentially, it hasn’t happened.”
Staff hold “mixed feelings” overall for Bestwick who has allegedly made staff cry by singling them out in meetings. One employee told Eurogamer that they’re so overworked that “things are going to get missed” and “you’re sat in a meeting being asked ‘why the hell did this game 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.
Staff have regularly worked as late as 8pm with one employee saying they did so every night for months to meet a deadline, brought upon by Team17 taking on too much work. The problem was raised to management and ignored, as staff were essentially told “the wagers you are being paid are fine”.
When Eurogamer approached Team17 with these claims staff were warned that an “extensive and negative” article was about to be published, a warning given with “far more notice” than its NFT project that was announced and cancelled within 24 hours.
Team17’s full response to Eurogamer was as follows: “Team17 Digital takes its responsibilities to its staff extremely seriously. We constantly review our internal policies and practices 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.
“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.”
NFTs have been a polarizing topic in the gaming industry with companies appearing hot and cold on the new, untested market.
There is something of a gold rush in the industry with PUBG creator Krafton investing millions of dollars into an NFT project. It joins retailer GameStop who recently announced that it’s launching an NFT marketplace and Assassin’s Creed publisher Ubisoft who has also moved into the NFT space, with a company executive commenting that “gamers don’t get it”.
STALKER 2 developer GSC Game World, on the other hand, set up and cancelled its NFT plans within one hour. Voice actor Troy Baker, known for roles in a number of games including The Last of Us, also recently ventured into NFTs before quickly withdrawing following fan backlash, and Indie game marketplace Itch.io called NFTs a scam.
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally remembers to tweet @thelastdinsdale.