Devoted Wives of Rockstar San Diego Decry Studio Conditions

By Garnett Lee, Jan 11, 2010 8:00pm PST Late last week in an open letter appearing on Gamasutra a group calling themselves the "Determined Devoted Wives of Rockstar San Diego Employees" made serious accusations about deteriorating work conditions at the studio. Though its current project is not specifically named, the studio is currently in the thick of development on Red Dead Redemption aiming to hit an April 27 launch this year. While long hours and crunch time have long been a part of the game development cycle, the circumstances described in the letter point to an unrelenting push that is taking a heavy toll on the employees.

Claims put forth in the letter include required 12-plus hour workdays six days a week, intimidation tactics used when employees need time off for doctor appointments, reduction of benefits and specifically comp time off, and annual salary increases under the cost of inflation rate. In the long thread of comments that follow a number of posters claiming ties to the San Diego and other Rockstar studios support the accusations.

While difficult to validate any of these comments individually without potentially jeopardizing the source, the volume and specificity of them make a strong case for their being rooted in the truth. It offers an unfortunate commentary on the state of the industry that it could have degenerated again to the state it was in circa 2004 when the EA Spouse scandal struck. Given the prolonged economic recession, though, it's almost hard to imagine that it took this long to hear about a slide back to old bad habits.

Current circumstances also put a tough road before the Determined Devoted Wives of Rockstar San Diego. Following up on the letter with sources at the studio Joystiq learned that they are likely done developing their star racing series, Midnight Club. Between terminations and departures that team has dissolved. The source went on to say that Take-Two in order to generate some much needed cash may outsource a Midnight Club to get it cranked out. Worse yet, without that franchise, the future of the studio post-Red Dead Redemption is anybody's guess. Given Take-Two's precarious financial situation, Rockstar San Diego could be shuttered, its employees forgotten casualties who never see the fruits of their labor.

With the run of layoffs and studio closures over the past several months this could be a sign that best practices for development may have taken a back seat to corporate pressures. In addition to the comments below, Shacknews always accepts confidential responses to news@shacknews.com and through our news submission form.

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  • I think part of the issue is the wide desire to get into the industry. Some poor sap is willing to work the hours. If not you can always quit and try to find a job doing something else.

    Same reason I don't get into the automotive aftermarket/tuning business, though I've moonlighted for years. Every kid wants to get into it, so there is always some sap willing to work for next to nothing to get their foot in the door, fallaciously thinking it will get better later. However, it is an industry were there are a few big winners and a lot of losers scraping by.

    So instead I work a fairly normal job that does stuff I have no particular interest in. It's not that exciting, and I still sometimes have to work odd hours with on call and such, but there is much worse out there. I get a good paycheck, benefits, and they don't work me into the ground. It's a choice I made with my career.

    Kids, the game industry is not the best career move. Too many people wanting to do it because it looks like it will be fun/cool/whatever. The cool factor will wear off fast.

    I'm not numb to their plight, but there has to be some realization for these employees that this is how the industry is right now.