You may remember the big EA Spouse shakeup that happened back in 2004, but evidently Rockstar games didn’t hear about it, or didn’t care. For those of you who are foggy on the topic, EA Spouse was a user on Livejournal who wrote a short essay about the poor working conditions and unpaid overtime at EA. After the media got a hold of it, EA found themselves at the business end of a class action lawsuit that lost them about $15 million.
A similar situation is unfolding now with Rockstar. A post on Gamasutra by a user named “Rockstar Spouse” called for working conditions to improve, for overtime to be paid, for benefits to be reinstated, and for crunch times to be only a sometimes food. The post has over 140 comments and over 300 direct retweets from their website. The blogs picked up the story and ran with it, while the rest of the industry held their breath for the next move whether it be Rockstar or the employees or their significant others.
Rockstar responded, and in true Rockstar fashion. The company posted a series of desktop wallpapers on their website titled “The Eye”, as a reference to a comment made by a former employee comparing Rockstar New York to “The Eye of Sauron”:
The source went on to compare Rockstar NYC to the Eye of Sauron when dealing with their studios. Teams would apparently work on a title for close to two years, but because of other priorities, like a major “GTA” release, for example, upper management wouldn’t focus on other titles until the major project was done.
The most recent volley came from Rockstar in the form of a paragraph buried in a post on their corporate blog – the Newswire:
As for the stories spreading around the internet, yes we have noticed them. Unfortunately, this is a case of people taking the opinions of a few anonymous posters on message boards as fact. No business is ever perfect, but Rockstar Games is a tight knit team made up of around 900 supremely talented and motivated professionals, many of whom have worked here for a very long time. We’re saddened if any former members of any studio did not find their time here enjoyable or creatively fulfilling and wish them well with finding an environment more suitable to their temperaments and needs, but the vast majority of our company are focused solely on delivering cutting edge interactive entertainment. We’ve always cared passionately about the people working here, and have always tried to maintain a supportive creative environment. There is simply no way Rockstar could continue to produce such large scale, high quality games without this. That being said, making great games is very challenging, which is why we have and will continue to try to keep hold of some of the best talent in the industry and support them in every way we can.
While the last sentence seems to be a bit on the humble or apologetic side, it’s certain that this will be eventually settled in a way quantifiable by dollar signs.a