Indie studio Funomena, mired in controversy, may shut down

Indie game studio Funomena, the developer behind games Wattam, Luna, and other “playful, experimental, and emotionally engaging experiences,” said Tuesday it may be “forced to close the studio,” citing financial concerns. News of Funomena’s possible closure was reported Tuesday by People Make Games’ Chris Bratt, who had previously covered allegations of abuse and workplace mistreatment made against studio co-founder Robin Hunicke.

In a recent episode of People Make Games, Bratt posted the results of investigations into three indie studios: Mountains, Fullbright, and Funomena. Bratt said that he’d interviewed eight former employees of Funomena who had either worked on Wattam, the game from Katamari Damacy designer Keita Takahashi, or Luna, a 2017 “interactive PC and VR fairytale.” Those employees described emotional abuse, humiliation, and other unprofessional behaviors from Hunicke, and said they felt traumatized by their experiences while working at Funomena.

You can watch People Make Games’ full report below.

Hunicke responded to that report on Twitter, saying last week, “Leadership is a journey, and often a difficult one. It saddens me to know people are hurting from mistakes I’ve made. I am truly sorry. Right now I’m taking time to talk to people, focus on the feedback everyone is sharing, and figure out next steps.”

On Tuesday, Funomena said via its official Twitter account that the studio was seeking investment to keep it afloat, but warned employees and contractors at the studio it may shut down.

“Funomena was in the process of closing an investment round just before GDC, & we are still actively working to do so,” the studio said. “Last week we let everyone know that if we do not successfully finish the fundraise, we will be forced to close the studio.

“We love game development, we love making games and we love bringing people into the community,” the studio added. “It is our sincere hope that we can continue to do so, together.”

However, Funomena followed those tweets with a third that appeared to implore other studios to reach out with job opportunities for outgoing employees.

Polygon reached out to co-founder Robin Hunicke for comment on Tuesday, but did not receive a response. Funomena was founded in 2013, by Hunicke and Martin Middleton, formerly of thatgamecompany.

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