Former employees of Montreal video game studio outraged at how they were fired
Some former employees of a Montreal mobile video game studio say they are disrespected by the way management proceeded to tell them they had been fired.
On Thursday, the American video game studio Jam City Inc. made drastic cuts to all of its staff within the company, including dozens of workers at its Montreal subsidiary, Ludia.
CBC Montreal spoke to several former employees who say they learned of the layoffs by word of mouth after management held a morning staff meeting just for those on guard.
“Those who were safe were [told], ‘come to the meeting, we announce that we are laying off people. If you’re at this meeting, you’re safe,” said Kevin, a former quality assurance officer, who was fired.
He said his colleagues had been instructed to keep the news private from the affected staff, who would be informed of their dismissal in one-on-one private meetings with human resources later in the day.
But less than half an hour after the morning meeting ended, Kevin said he had lost access to his various work accounts and tools.
“It’s like a slap in the face,” he said.
The former employee, who had been with Ludia since September 2021, asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions on his career in the industry.
Workers criticize culture change
Kevin said he was told the layoffs were for economic and corporate restructuring purposes. But he said a separate email from management said the company was removing “redundant roles”.
“It felt like a personal blow like ‘your work is redundant so we’re just going to delete it,'” he said.
Before the end of the day, Kevin said his former team had shrunk from 40 workers to 22. He said human resources told him that up to 60 people at Ludia had been laid off.
The studio’s parent company, Jam City, did not confirm the number of laid-off employees, but said the cuts at the Montreal studio accounted for less than 20% of the workforce.
Ludia, founded in 2007, specializes in mobile video games such as Jurassic World Alive, The Price is Right, Family Feud and other game show brands.
CBC Montreal spoke to three former employees who have criticized changes in the studio’s culture since its acquisition by Los Angeles-based Jam City Inc. last fall.
The workers, who were also granted anonymity for fear of career repercussions, said the games’ profitability was prioritized over their quality.
“It was really a business conversation, a money conversation, profitable. Any talk about the fun of video games, or just the general feeling of making video games, was out of place,” said Kevin, citing complaints he had heard. these partner’work.
A former employee who worked for Ludia for two years quit shortly after the acquisition because he disagreed with the direction the company would take. The studio had recently announced a new development that would include non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
They also said that in a question-and-answer session after the acquisition, Ludia told employees that there would be no layoffs. Jam City refuted this claim.
The industry always on the lookout for talent
In a statement to CBC Montreal, Jam City said it has made staff reductions at all of its studios to accommodate the “current economic downturn and the impacts this has had on the gaming industry.”
But the Entertainment Software Association of Canada says the industry is only getting bigger and Montreal studios will be fighting over workers like Kevin who have been laid off.
“Traditionally, the video game industry has been a recession-proof industry,” said Chairman and CEO Jayson Hilchie.
“In the Montreal area alone, there are more than about 2,000 open jobs in the video game industry and several companies are constantly hiring,” he said.
Hilchie said the city has been experiencing a talent shortage recently.
“These [laid off workers] will most likely have opportunities at several different video game studios as they seek new employment,” he said.
But Kevin says he’ll take some time to unplug before deciding if he wants to get back into the game.
“I want the fun of video games to come back,” he said.
“The first thing about making a video game shouldn’t be the money.”