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Microsoft accused of allowing toxic work conditions at State Of Decay developer

Yet another video game developer has been accused of allowing rampant sexism and bullying, with Microsoft accused of being too hands-off.

It’s a familiar story by now, but State Of Decay developer Undead Labs has been accused of poor management and discriminatory practices that are worryingly similar to previous reports from Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft and its ‘great exodus’, and a number of other developers.

An article at Kotaku details reports of mismanagement, burnout, and misogyny at the former indie developer, that was bought by Microsoft in 2018 and has only ever worked on the State Of Decay series.

Although successful, the State Of Decay games have long been criticised for their bugs and unpolished gameplay, with the third game announced in 2020 but still stuck in pre-production.

The Kotaku article interviews 12 anonymous staff, most of who are said to consider the last four years, after the acquisition by Microsoft, as being a ‘period of crisis’.

They claim that Microsoft’s ‘hands-off’ approach allowed ‘dysfunction to fester’, with one staffer claiming that ‘women were consistently ignored, dismissed, interrupted, talked over, and blamed.’

Others describe similar problems, where sexist comments were commonplace and women were asked to make notes in meetings rather than contribute to them.

New studio boss Philip Holt is also accused of nepotism and blamed for ‘pushing out’ two director-level women and hiring men in new positions above them.

This is not the first time that Microsoft has been accused of being too hands-off with its first party studios, apparently a knee jerk reaction to complaints that it had previously been too controlling.

Although there have been no report of toxic workplace conditions, new studio The Initiative is said to have lost 50% of its employees in recent months, including almost all senior staff – forcing Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics to be brought in to work on the Perfect Dark reboot.

If similar problems are bubbling under at other studios, then Microsoft could be facing even more problems in the future, especially given the difficulties of integrating such a large company as Activision Blizzard, which is already known to have serious workplace problems.

As the Kotaku report points out, that will mean Microsoft is in charge of trying to change the work culture for roughly 10,000 employees, which even without the example of Undead Labs seems an impossible task without inevitable further problems.

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