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 and through our news submission form.

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  • Im reading posts from many a pap-smear on this topic, and the following must be said.

    You've obviously never been screwed over and lied to.

    Ive taken jobs where I was clear up front and the guy flat out lied. Then slowly, almost so slow its hard to notice as you are not sure if you are wrong or not, your job changes, tasks are longer, days are longer, pay stays the same. Next thing you know, you are working 60+ hours a week at a job you didnt interview for, and if you divide that by your pay, you are actually making less hourly than Wal-Mart greeter.

    And you cant just up and quit. All your experience is this, so if you try and change careers, or even get a similar job, you wont even get an interview because your experience is something else. You cant get a job cause you dont have experience, yet you dont have experience cause you cant get a job.

    Yes, the work is gratifying, but not if you are not paid, are lied to, layered with threats and intimidation, no sleep , eat poorly, time to exercise, and health is deteriorating.

    I do not think its fair to blame the workers unless they were told the truth up front, and most arent. The reputation has only recently been brought to life the past 10 yrs or so, most of these folks signed up way before then.

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