The folks at Kotaku have come out with a report today about Xbox's Undead Labs, and it's sadly a negative one, suggesting the State of Decay developer's transition to becoming a Microsoft studio was hampered by "mismanagement, burnout, and misogyny," summed up as "toxic workplace conditions and lack of direction."
There's a lot to dig into here, with Kotaku mentioning that it interviewed 12 current and former employees, many of whom had "very positive" things to say about certain aspects of the studio, but most also suggesting that the period since Microsoft's acquisition in 2018 has been somewhat of a "crisis", and some advising that Microsoft has perhaps been too "hands-off" with the company since then.
"At first, some employees were worried the Microsoft acquisition would change the indie studio for the worse. Now they worry the $2 trillion company’s incredibly 'hands-off' approach allowed dysfunction to fester, leaving some of the studio’s more vulnerable employees to fend for themselves."
The report goes on to talk about the upcoming State of Decay 3, claiming that the game is still "trapped in pre-production" after several years, and the reveal trailer from 2020 was shown when the team "didn't even know what [the game] was," according to one current developer.
There's a suggestion the studio "burned" through experienced developers through the end of 2021, although those who have stuck around "feel like the 2022 incarnations of Undead Labs and State of Decay 3 have finally turned a corner."
Here's what one developer reportedly had to say about State of Decay 3:
"It could be such a cool game and we’ve got a lot of great people working on it, and I just hope we don’t repeat the terrible habits of the last few years."
The rest of the report goes into a lot of detail about what's described as "allegations of sexism, bullying and burnout" over the years, along with general instances of mismanagement. In a statement, Undead Labs Studio Head Philip Holt told the outlet that the company has "seen a lot of change in the last few years," and acknowledged that some employees felt their experiences at the studio weren't always positive, but also stated that "our past culture does not exemplify who we are now, nor who we want to become."
This is very much the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's covered in the report, so we highly recommend giving it a read if you want the full picture. Undead Labs founder Jeff Strain has also issued a reply to the report over at Medium.
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