Are The Team17 Developers Working In Terrible Conditions?

Share mismanagement, salary problems, overtime, apathy towards sexual harassment allegations…


Eurogamer interviewed twelve current and ex-employees. They worked in Team17’s offices in Wakefield and Nottingham, confirming that after the company failed to address the complaints, they started to lose the workforce reasonably quickly. We also found out how the MetaWorms NFT project (first announced, then backed out within a day…) had upset the cart within the company.

According to the site, the withdrawal of MetaWorms was a kind of political apology by Team17 at a general meeting after the project had been well planned. According to one employee, “If it were the people in the office who swayed them — if it had been the employees — they wouldn’t have done it. Instead, they did it and 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 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.”

The interviewees said that Team17 had taken on too many games in recent years, and in some cases, there were strict release deadlines, ignoring whether the game was finished at all or not. The management was told about this, but they didn’t lift a finger. The QA (quality assurance) people are paid “low, terrible” salaries. The basic wage is £16,000 (for a year, we suspect!), with senior staff increasing to £19,000. The amount used to be even lower (13k) but has grown over the last five years. Requests for pay rises have been unsuccessful, and one staff member says ten developers are facing lawsuits to get more pay.

“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 paid are fine’. I can confirm they’re not. People are struggling badly,” an employee said. The annual bonuses were also raised as a problem because developers are used to working overtime for them, even though they were cut by more than £1,000, while Team17 achieved record financial results. The reasoning behind the reduced bonuses? First-party, in-house developed games didn’t perform well…

According to another developer, “It is something greatly out of our control. A lot of people relied on that. Even those who put in extra hours or worked to the extremes got a substantially reduced bonus.” Then there is the issue of advertising their work: there have been cases of people being cut off from advertising for the company because they were not photogenic enough. Several instances of sexual harassment were reported to HR, to which the response was that the victims should deal with it themselves. Another developer said that the staff were afraid to report anything because they might be in the crosshairs…

Debbie Bestwick, the CEO of Team17, has been commented on by several people about how she cares for her employees. Pressure from partners can ‘trickle down’ to other departments in the studio. “Things are going to get missed if you are that overworked, and when they are missed, you’re going to be called up by Debbie,” a dev said. The fact that Team17 went public in 2018 may have played a role in this because after that, there was more overtime, releases were rushed, and Bestwick put pressure on his company to keep the share value high… one developer added, “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.”

Despite this, Bestwick has frequently talked about his wealth (and sometimes on social media), despite salary problems and cut bonuses. And yet Team17 is optimistic: last year, they promoted Sony veteran Michael Pattison, who wants to focus on quality. The problem is that the staff themselves are sceptical.

A Team17 spokesperson issued a statement in response: “Team17 Digital takes its responsibilities to its staff extremely seriously. We constantly review our internal policies and practises and assess how we support our employees through our engagement survey and 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 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 we aim 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.”

Source: Gamesindustry

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