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Team17 report includes details about low pay and sexual harassment

Many team members also had no knowledge of the MetaWorms NFT project until it was announced.

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In a shocking new report from Eurogamer, over a dozen former and current Team17 employees open up about some of the poor working conditions they’ve experienced at the company.

It’s hard to know where to start with the report, as there is no shortage of concerning things detailed in it from astonishingly low pay rates to HR dismissing reports of sexual harassment, to many teams within the company having no knowledge of the controversial MetaWorms NFT project prior to its announcement.

Starting with low pay rates, members of Team17’s QA team have reported terrible base pay rates starting around £16k ($21k USD), and up to £19k ($25k USD) for senior QA roles. If those rates seem low to you, get ready to feel even more surprised when you hear they actually used to go even lower than that, starting around £13k ($17k USD).

The staff noted they requested pay raises, however, their requests have been unsuccessful.

“There were people who would have to skip meals to save money, people who would have to go into the office during the pandemic to reduce their bills, people who couldn’t afford new clothes, people who got an emergency bill and were in their overdraft,” one employee told Eurogamer.

“We took it to management, and the second time we took it to HR. Nothing came of it. We were essentially told ‘the wages you are being paid are fine.’ I can confirm they’re not. People are struggling, badly.”

Team17 employees were subjected to poor pay rates and unhelpful HR responses following reports of sexual harassment.
Team17 employees were subjected to poor pay rates and unhelpful HR responses following reports of sexual harassment.

Not only do employees report poor pay rates at Team17, but annual bonuses were also cut last year despite the fact that Team17 reported record revenues in 2021. Team17’s HR department not only failed employees who requested much-needed pay raises, it also dismissed reports of sexual harassment.

The staff mentioned several incidences of sexual harassment including degrading messages and suggestive photos sent to women by male colleagues, all of which were reported to HR. The response? Victims were told to “sort it out for themselves.”

It doesn’t help that CEO Debbie Bestwick is described as being unhelpful, to say the least. While employees struggle to get by, Bestwick sits comfortably as one of the richest people in the UK games industry, with Eurogamer placing her wealth at around £200m.

Bestwick is described by staff as not being shy in discussing her wealth. Bestwick is also described as “formidable” and someone who’s known to single out team members in meanings.

“It is humiliating at times,” a staff member described the situation to Eurogamer, “because your hand is forced – you have bugger all budget, you have too many games, and then you’re sat in a meeting being asked ‘why the hell did this game not meet our expectations?’ It can be a very pointed thing. It’s not unheard of for people to go out of those meetings crying, which at a workplace is shameful.”

Many members of the team had no knowledge of the MetaWorms NFT project until it was announced, and those that did know about it were instructed to keep their opinions to themselves.
Many members of the team had no knowledge of the MetaWorms NFT project until it was announced, and those that did know about it were instructed to keep their opinions to themselves.

If you recall the recent MetaWorms NFT announcement snafu, you may be surprised to hear that many members of the team were unaware of the project prior to its announcement. Meanwhile, those that were aware of the project were instructed to keep their opinions to themselves.

“I don’t ethically believe in NFTs; does this mean I cannot share that opinion on social media channels after the partnership has been announced?” reads an internal FAQ document from Team17 shared by Eurogamer.

“While Team17 cannot control what Teamsters publish on their social media or other public-facing channels, please be mindful that as an employee of Team17 you are representative of the company and its reputation,” the FAQ remarked in response. “Criticizing or embarrassing Team17, its contractual partners, or fellow Teamsters in a public forum could be cause for disciplinary action.”

When Team17 did back down from the MetaWorms NFT project, Team17 members reported being informed about it through a meeting that felt like a “political apology” which sparked anger, and rightfully so.

It wasn’t dissent from the team that resulted in the MetaWorms NFT project being pulled, but rather overwhelming public backlash, which members of the team (community managers in particular) had to endure.

“If it was the people in the office who swayed them – if it had been the employees – they wouldn’t have done it,” a staff member explained to Eurogamer.

“Instead, they did it, and they left it for a day and a half to simmer and see what would happen… It wasn’t even that people might lose their jobs [if developers pulled their games], or that the company was going downhill. It was that the managers were doing something so monumentally stupid without a thought for those who would actually bear the brunt of it. They didn’t apologize to staff, even the community managers who were subjected to a barrage of abuse because of it.”

Staff praised fellow team members working hard over long hours.
Staff praised fellow team members for working hard over long hours.

As nightmarish as the situation sounds, and as hard as it’s been on the staff’s morale, they told Eurogamer they’re proud to work on Team17 projects, with staff members having no shortage of praise for fellow team members.

The issue at hand, as it often is with these sorts of companies, comes from out-of-touch higher-ups who refuse to listen to employees and treat them as if they’re expendable. Which for us and many others, is unacceptable behavior across the board, not just at Team17, but at companies like Activision Blizzard as well.

To get a better sense of what employees have been going through at Team17, we encourage you to read through the full report from Eurogamer, as well as gamesindustry.biz.

After reading through the reports in full, we’re horrified to hear what employees have endured, and we hope that by getting this information out to the public, Team17 will be forced to take a good, hard look at these internal issues, and will take the steps necessary to make things right.

Senior Editor

Morgan is a writer from the frozen wastelands of Maine who enjoys metal music, kpop, horror, and indie games. They're also a Tetris fanatic who's fiercely competitive in games like Tetris 99... and all games in general. But mostly Tetris. You can follow Morgan on Twitter @Author_MShaver.

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