While the development of Black Ops 4 was a notorious one, there's now reports surfacing via Kotaku that it may have been worse than we thought for some, with QA contractors allegedly being forced to work very long hours for low wages.
11 anonymous QA test team members, both former and current, spoke about how they felt inferior to full-time Treyarch staff, and were treated like they were in a 'sweatshop'
Apart from allegedly being forced to work long hours, the company also allegedly disabled the air conditioning units overnight meaning QA testers working night shfits were forced to work in 90'F heat at times at their Santa Monica office.
QA was told we were only allowed down at the party for a max of 20 minutes, and we ‘really shouldn’t drink anything’ because we still had to work. It sucks, but honestly we’re pretty used to getting these sort of ‘rules’ when they do any parties here.
An example of the QA team being treated like 'second class' employees include being separated on their own floor of the building from the rest of the employees, being forced to park in a further away parking lot, and not being included when the rest of the employees are given a catered lunch from the company - except being occasionally treated to the left-overs.
The testers were also paid a base wage of just $13 per hour, despite being forced to work 70 hour weeks on occasion. When the company announced that they had given a cash and stock bonus of up to $15 Million to the new CFO, Dennis Durkin, the team didn't even quality for a $15 bonus.
That broke a lot of people. We’re getting paid these very minimal amounts working these ridiculous hours, yet these people are getting paid absurd amounts of money. It’s just a culture of not being cared about.
The company refused to respond to Kotaku when they reached out for comment, instead releasing a generic statement;
We constantly strive to provide a rewarding time and fun development environment for everyone
Following the publication of the article, an e-mail was circulated to all staff within the company, which has also now been aquired and published by Kotaku;
We take the well-being of every single individual working here very seriously. We have a vision for the future of this studio that includes significant improvements to work/life balance. We plan to achieve that through better project planning, streamlined production processes, and rigorous decision-making timelines. It is also our intention to maintain our commitment to increased transparency.
Getting there will require time, hard work, and commitment—most of all, it will require open communication. If you ever feel like your needs aren’t being met, please do not hesitate to communicate actively with your manager. No one should ever feel like they don’t have options, can’t talk openly, or that the only choice is to take their concerns to the public. These conversations should always start with an honest dialogue with your department manager, and if that’s not working, feel free to reach out to one of us.
The studio is not the only one to face criticism for the treatment of it's employees, especially when it comes to 'crunch'. It remains to be seen weather this will translate to real benefits for the QA testing team at Treyarch. We hope it does - a paradigm shift in the treatment of game studio employees appears to be under way, and it's one we wholeheartedly support.