NetherRealm Studios, the developer behind the Mortal Kombat and Injustice series, has come under fire after several employees have reported toxic working conditions, brutally long hours, and an unhealthy, sustained crunch culture within the studio. After the overwhelming wave of reports from employees, NetherRealm Studios said that they are “actively looking into all allegations”.
The wave of shocking reports that can only be described as a PR nightmare for NetherRealm Studios started when former NetherRealm developer James Longstreet posted a long series of Tweets discussing the ill practices of the company. “I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours for months”, he wrote, “Working at NetherRealm on MK9 nearly killed me”.
After which ex-NetherRealm artist Beck Hallstedt also spoke up about his experience at the company. Hallstedt took to Twitter and called NetherRealm Studios out on its “predatory and abusive behaviors”
Another former NetherRealm Studios’ employee spoke with GamesIndusty.biz and said,
“I was doing 90-hour work weeks for about four months straight without a day off. This included working on Saturday and Sunday. I think the most hours I ever worked in a week was 115.”
The allegations of workplace hostility at NetherRealm Studios doesn’t stop there. Another anonymous employee described working for NetherRealm Studios as “emotionally draining,” The employee went on further to say:
“It’s physically draining. You feel like you wake up, go to work, go home and sleep. There’s no time for family, no time for friends or socializing or any work at home. It’s just work. That’s what you do for that portion of your life. And it feels shitty. You feel bad after you do it, physically and emotionally.”
One former NetherRealm Studios employee spoke about how difficult it was to maintain a healthy lifestyle due to the immense workload, saying “We had food orders every day during crunch and I would eat an entire pizza”. They added, “We also had an infinite supply of sodas in the kitchen. By the end of my day, I would drink eight to 12 bottles of Mountain Dew.”
Another employee spoke up about the shady practices at NetherRealm Studios, saying:
“It wasn’t a 100%, gun-to-the-head sort of thing. It was the sly thing where they say, ‘We’re not making anybody work overtime. We’re not making anyone do anything.’ But you look at the schedule and you know how long everything takes to make… They look at the amount of work they need to get done, and if it doesn’t get done, [management] has the reason to [fire you]. It’s a tricky maneuver where they can claim innocence in the fact they didn’t make anyone do anything, but it’s really by coercion.”
In an email correspondence with PCGamer, Isaac Torres, a former QA tester at NetherRealm Studios added to the allegations, saying, “I crunched for about 4 months straight… I was regularly doing 90-100 hour weeks and worked every single day.” He went on further to say:
“I was tired all the time. It took me about 30-45 mins to get home since I had to take a bus. But I know someone who stayed on the couch in the office to not risk falling asleep while driving. I literally had no life for several months. There just wasn’t time. I would get to work at 9 or 10 am. I would leave at 2-3 am. And then that process would mostly repeat itself. Honestly, I have no clue how I did it. I’m pretty sure I aged 20 years in the span of three months.”
NetherRealm Studios has since responded to the shocking allegations by saying:
“At NetherRealm Studios, we greatly appreciate and respect all of our employees and prioritize creating a positive work experience. As an equal opportunity employer, we encourage diversity and constantly take steps to reduce crunch time for our employees,” it said. “We are actively looking into all allegations, as we take these matters very seriously and are always working to improve our company environment. There are confidential ways for employees to raise any concerns or issues.”
Recently Epic Games also came under fire for forcing employees to work 100 hour weeks while working on their battle royale game, Fortnite. And just yesterday, over 150 different Riot Games employees took part in a walkout while protesting against the company’s use of mandatory arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination.
Overall, ill practices like these not only harm the employees but also harms the companies in a number of ways. The finished product always suffers if the development process lacks enthusiasm. More and more companies have started to realize this now. Many companies have put in procedures to ensure their employees remain healthy.
Even though NetherRealm has since issued a statement addressing the allegations, the chain of employees speaking up about brutally long hours, low pay, workplace toxicity, and shady practices at NetherRealm Studios hasn’t stopped. More and more employees are coming forward with firsthand accounts of their disgusting treatment at the company as this article is being written.