On January 31, publisher Team17 announced a Worms NFTs and was roundly rebuked by fans and studio partners alike. A day later it apologized and canceled the whole thing. According to a new report by Eurogamer, that was only the tip of the iceberg of Team17’s bullshit, which also included bad pay, rising workloads, and failures to address sexual harassment, all while its CEO made millions.
Employees were apparently given almost no notice before the company’s disastrous NFT announcement went live, and were told to keep any criticisms they had to themselves. If Team17 had asked its workers what they thought, it might have managed to avoid becoming one of the internet’s villains for the day, but according to an in-depth investigation by Eurogamer, ignoring staff concerns is an ongoing problem with how the company operates, especially in its QA department.
Team17 QA developers are reportedly paid between $20,000 and $25,000 annually while working sometimes-grueling amounts of back-to-back overtime. When QA staff petitioned for pay raises, management ignored them.
“There were people who would have to skip meals to save money, people who would have to go into the office during the pandemic to reduce their bills, people who couldn’t afford new clothes, people who got an emergency bill and were in their overdraft,” a current Team17 staff member told Eurogamer. “We took it to management, and the second time we took it to HR. Nothing came of it. We were essentially told ‘the wages you are being paid are fine’. I can confirm they’re not. People are struggling, badly.”
Team17 did not respond to a request for comment by Kotaku, but told Eurogamer in a statement that it “takes its responsibilities to its staff extremely seriously” and is constantly reviewing policies and practices around “compensation, workplace culture and environment, among other key areas, to continually strive to improve our employee experience.”
This is in stark contrast to Team17 CEO and co-founder, Debbie Bestwick, who reportedly made over $10 million in total compensation last year, making her one of the top-paid people in the games industry. While Team17’s claim to fame was the 2D tactical series Worms, in the years since it has branched out into lucrative publishing deals with popular indie games like The Escapists, Overcooked 2, and last year’s excellent sim shooter, Hell Let Loose. Team17 went public in 2018 and has seen its stock price soar.
But while Team17 was apparently having a record start to its 2021 financial year, bonuses were slashed for some of the employees who most relied on them. According to the employees Eurogamer spoke with, however, Bestwick continues to ignore complaints.
Shortly after the Worms NFT announcement went live, Bestwick reportedly shared her frustration and shock over the backlash on Facebook. A copy of the post reviewed by Eurogamer concluded with, “I dare anyone to question my ethics tbh!”