The battle over Disco Elysium seems to be a bloody one.
Conflicting statements continue to be made about what is happening at Disco Elysium studio, ZA/UM. One side claims fraud, the other toxic management.
Yesterday, in a Medium post, game director Robert Kurvitz and artistic director Aleksander Rostov – both leaving the company in 2021 – accused some ZA/UM shareholders of criminal activity.
According to the post, most shares in ZA/UM – more specifically, Zaum Studio OÜ – were previously owned by Margus Linnamäe. According to the post, Linnamäe’s shares were bought out in 2021 by Tütreke OÜ, a holding company owned by Ilmar Kompus and Tőnis Haavel. Kurvitz and Rostov allege that Tütreke OÜ bought the majority stake by fraudulently diverting funds from ZA/UM itself.
Kurvitz and Rostov say they are investigating their legal options. “Both civil claims and criminal charges are on the table – in Estonia and the United Kingdom,” they say.
Shortly after this post was published, GamesIndustry.biz published an “exclusive statement” from ZA/UM regarding the dispute. While the statement does not name specific individuals, it shares the “reasons for the justified firings of some former ZA/UM Studio team members.” Earlier reports noted that Kurvitz, Rostov and writer Helen Hindpere were the developers “involuntarily” dismissed from ZA/UM.
ZA/UM “denies any claim of financial malfeasance or fraud being held against us.”
It alleges that the dismissed developers (again, not named in the statement) created “a toxic work environment that is antithetical to the ZA/UM culture and team productivity” and engaged in “misconduct in interacting with other colleagues that includes verbal abuse and gender discrimination.”
The statement also alleges that the dismissed developers attempted to “illegally sell to other gaming companies ZA/UM’s intellectual property with the aim of undermining the rest of the team.” Disco Elysium’s IP rights have also been the subject of other recent reports. Indeed, Kurvitz recently filed a lawsuit against ZA/UM. The studio’s co-founder Martin Luiga, who made the firing of the three developers public in the first place, suggested that the lawsuit was aimed at Kurvitz trying to retain the rights to Disco Elysium.
In parallel with the release of the ZA/UM statement, GamesIndustry.biz spoke to some unnamed sources at the studio. “CEO corporate scheming on one side, a toxic auteur on the other.” Another said the case was “not black and white”.