recently came under fire over a report on the studio's frenzied workplace conditions and the overall culture that negatively affected the release of certain games, most recently Anthem
, and the studio's subsequent response to report, which was largely viewed as dismissive. In a follow-up letter sent to BioWare employees, however, studio boss Casey Hudson admitted that the workplace problems are real.
Let's back up a moment. Anthem saw its share of bugs on launch day, one of which resulted in level 1 weapons being the most powerful
in the game. It still became BioWare's second best game launch
ever, though even Hudson said after the fact that "it's been a rougher launch than expected," with the game debuting with a "degree of issues." He also said he was "disappointed" about the shape Anthem launched in.
These things sometimes happen, for a myriad of reasons. However, BioWare's issues run deeper than just a flawed launch. Kotaku
wrote a lengthy article
highlighting a troubling work culture at BioWare, which not only affected Anthem but also games like Mass Effect: Andromeda. Based on interviews with 19 people who either worked on Anthem or adjacent to it, the report called it a "studio in crisis," with some employees suffering from "depression and anxiety" over the workplace conditions.
One of the core issues is a misguided belief that no matter how bumpy the development road might be, it will come together in the end. In some cases, this mean a last-minute production "crunch," with upper-management sending down word that it would all work out no matter what problems developers were facing.
Only minutes after the report went up, BioWare issued a response on Twitter and in a blog post. BioWare couldn't have read the full report before issuing its reply, though it was provided with bullet points by Kotaku beforehand. Still, the response was not well received. It did not address the problems mentioned in the report, and worse yet, appeared to dismiss them.
"We put a great emphasis on our workplace culture in our studios. The health and well-being of our team members is something we take very seriously. We have built a new leadership team over the last couple of years, starting with Casey Hudson as our GM in 2017, which has helped us make big steps to improve studio culture and our creative focus," BioWare said.
Now two days later, BioWare has changed its tune, or at least clarified it. In a letter to employees, Hudson was upfront about the fact that the report was accurate.
"The article mentions many of the problems in the development of Anthem and some of our previous projects. And it draws a link between those issues and the quality of our workplace and the well-being of our staff. These problems are real and it’s our top priority to continue working to solve them," Hudson wrote.
Hudson also noted on Twitter that the initial response was not meant to be dismissive. Furthermore, Hudson said the reason BioWare did not provide an initial comment on the report is because it named specific developers, something the studio found to be "out-of-bounds."
"It’s unfair and extremely traumatizing to single out people in this way, and we can’t accept that treatment towards any of our staff. That’s why we did not participate in the article and made a statement to that effect," Hudson added.
It is an unfortunate situation, and one that is probably not specific to BioWare. If there is a silver lining, though, it's that the report forced BioWare to acknowledge and hopefully address the "real" problems with its workplace culture. Admitting there is a problem is always the first step towards solving it.