Good morningtimes, fellow co-pilots in this thing we call life. It’s time again for your favorite day of the week: Wednesday! What better day is there than GYGO day?? Jokes aside, a lot happened this week. Nintendo has been sued for defective Joy-Con controllers, two former Doom and Wolfenstein developers have opened a no-crunch-allowed game studio called Bad Yolk, and my personal favorite:
Someone Figured Out How to Ride Prince Sidon Anywhere in Breath of the Wild
You heard me.
— ꧁斉田あおい꧂ (@aoisaita_mario) July 26, 2019
The BOTW glitch-hunters have outdone themselves this time. This opens up worlds of possibility for little old me. Riding Sidon on Death Mountain… riding Sidon through the Gerudo Desert… riding Sidon through the spooky Great Hyrule Forest to visit my Korok pals…
Nintendo Facing Class Action Lawsuit Over Switch Controllers
Many Nintendo Switch owners, including myself, have been facing a very particular frustration with the console: its detachable, defective, garbage Joy-Con controllers. I have experienced this personally; on many controllers (including literally both of mine), the Joy-Cons will register nonexistent input from the analog stick, causing the cursor on the screen to “drift” in one direction. This causes a lot of issues in games like Celeste, where timing and precision are deeply important to not only completing the game, but enjoying it. (My fiancé and I got so fed up that we bought into Nintendo’s possibly not-intentional trap, which is that we bought two of their more expensive “pro” controllers to replace our Joy-Cons.)
Anyway, Nintendo’s getting sued for it. The lawsuit, filed via the U.S. District Court in Washington by the law offices of Chimicles, Schwartz Kriner, & Donaldson-Smith (CSK&D), claims that Nintendo is knowingly distributing defective Joy-Con controllers. After some time, the controllers tend to begin the drifting phenomenon. The issue seems to be rather widespread, and Nintendo is aware of the issue but hasn’t really done anything about it—hence the lawsuit. I hope, for the sake of JUSTICE, that Nintendo is held accountable for the quality of the Joy-Cons and in the future will produce controllers that aren’t liable to become defective in under a year.
Grand Theft Auto V Developer Rockstar North Abuses Tax Relief in the UK
Rockstar North, the developer of Grand Theft Auto, has made billions in revenue for its parent company Take-Two Interactive over the past 10 years. However, it also has paid no corporation tax whatsoever in that time, while claiming more than £42m in tax relief.
TaxWatch UK, an investigative think tank based in the UK, estimates that Rockstar Games made a profit of $5 billion between 2013 and 2019, during which time the company released GTA V and Red Dead Redemption 2. Despite GTA V being one of the best-selling entertainment products of all time, making over £1b in the first three days of sale, it received massive amounts of tax credits from the government’s video games tax relief scheme, which was set up in 2014 to bolster the UK’s games industry. TaxWatch points out that the £42m in tax relief Rockstar North received is equivalent to 19 percent of the total relief paid to the entire UK games industry since 2014.
This Week In Crunch
As games and the gaming industry get larger and more ambitious, developers and studios have taken to forcing mandatory overtime on their workers to meet deadlines and demand. This controversial and exploitative workplace culture—where employees are overworked, underpaid, and burnt out, followed frequently by mass layoffs and ever-increasing wage inequality between workers and high-paid executives—is known as “crunch.” TWIC is a column within a column where Emily Durham brings you news about this week’s world of crunch.
The most recent entry into the workplace crunch oeuvre is Naughty Dog, developer of The Last of Us and the Uncharted series. While Naughty Dog higher-ups have claimed that crunch was never mandated for its employees, current and former employees have anonymously come forward to discuss the realities of “non-mandatory crunch” at the company in a massive COGconnected report.
As is the case in many situations where crunch is “non-mandatory,” while the company can’t force you to work long hours, the expectation can still be there for its employees and hired contractors due to peer pressure and high standards.
One source said, “While crunch is not required, it’s not discouraged either, and managers may participate in the peer pressure, and allowances are made to encourage it—most notably dinners, and sometimes decisions being made in the off-hours, so if you’re not there, you’re not part of the decision.” Another former developer said, “The truth [is] they don’t tell you that you have to work X amount of hours, but you have to get your work done. And the amount of work is just impossible for any person. It is just way too much. And if you don’t hit the goals you will be fired. So I guess you don’t have much of a choice.” The developer also claimed that they were reprimanded for missing a weekend shift and, in a different instance, for not working “at least 14 hour days.”
There have been many updates since the beginning of the Riot Games crunch proceedings. Starting with the initial court filing alleging that Riot Games engaged in gender discrimination, followed by Riot’s forced arbitration requirement mandating that the women who came forward had to settle outside of court, followed by Riot employees’ walkout, followed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)’s own gender and pay discrimination investigation, Riot has seen a lot over the last year or so.
It’s hard to keep track when the news cycle picks up and dies down so rapidly. But here is a great explainer piece on what happened and is still going on in the Riot Games walkout world.
Part of why it’s been so hard to keep track of what’s going on, as this piece explains, is that a lot of the proceedings have taken place out of the public eye. Unfortunately, the reality, as a result of both Riot’s forced arbitration policy and the nature of DFEH’s complaint, is that Riot will likely handle this all out of court, sweeping it under the rug and getting slapped with a few fines.
Former DOOM Developers Open New Studio Bad Yolk
Two former developers from Swedish developer MachineGames have announced the formation of a new game studio, Bad Yolk. The developers, who worked on the modern Doom and Wolfenstein series, hope to create high-quality video games in an environment that abolishes the “crunch” mentality that many large developers have, while safely managing the work/life balance of its employees.
More of this, please.
hello daylight! thought i would get on here so i can share some of what I'm working on at @badyolkgames here in Uppsala! just some environment tease to start with but stay tuned for more! #gamedev #indiegame #gaming #ue4 #landscape #calm #breeze #blueskies pic.twitter.com/vnvpDgdsty
— Princess® (@BadyolkPrincess) July 11, 2019
In Other News…
- Riot Games working on “anti-addiction” surveillance system for League of Legends
- Marvel’s Spider-Man is now the best-selling superhero game ever
- Bethesda removing mandatory login from Doom re-releases after fan backlash
- Dark Horse and Square Enix announce The Art of Mana, an art book collecting 25 years of mana art
Emily Durham is a science writer by day and a Sidequest copyeditor by night. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her playing Stardew Valley or Sunless Sea, sewing korok cosplays, or taking blurry pictures of her two perfect cats. She tweets sporadically at @EmilyRoseDurham.