Former Head Studio Programmer at Gameloft’s New Zealand arm Glenn Watson is accusing the popular mobile developer of forcing employees and contractors into performing within "dangerous working conditions." Watson realized it was time to resign when he himself worked four consecutive weeks of fourteen-hour days - including weekends. Some weeks he even worked 100 to 120 hours per week.
"Starting at 9:30 AM, going home at 2:30 AM, and then coming back into the office at 8:30 AM to start work again was not unusual," he said. "There were other times when I would be called back into the office at 11:30 PM by the studio producer, only to head home again at 2:30 AM."
Watson claims that senior management enforced the working conditions upon himself and his crew, and the latter's poor performance was a direct result. In fact, he believes that most of the deadlines were set in place by upper management in France to encourage a frantic sense of "constant crunch". Backed by other Gameloft employees who wished to remain anonymous, Watson told Games.On.Net of a specific week in which executives made the team work overtime in order to complete a demo to be shown at Gameloft's French headquarters.
"It was 11:30 at night," he recalled. "Everyone had been there since 8:30 in the morning, and even our most reliable programmers were making mistakes. I went up to see the studio manager and the producer and said 'Listen, these guys are making mistakes, they are tired, and they need to go home.' The producer replied that they needed everyone to be there, and the deadline had to be met. Later, I found out that one of the junior programmers had actually worked a 24-hour straight stint in the office."
In other instances, the team was given certain deadlines to meet, worked hundreds of overtime hours to get it done, and then learned that they had additional weeks in order to get the project completed. In other words, they were told to get the project finished weeks before the real deadline, thus pushing the workers into long days, long nights and weekend work. The team nicknamed this process as "golding".
"Many of the senior staff were becoming suspicious," he added, "and wondering why their local producer wasn’t standing up for them."
In various emails sent back and forth between Watson and senior management, Gameloft insists that its workers are carrying out their assignments in line with the contracts they signed – delivery of projects must take precedence over other concerns. "No one is held here against their will if they do not wish to work over their contractual hours," reads one of the emails. Watson retaliated, saying that the contractual conditions are in fact in violation of New Zealand health and safety legislation.
Unfortunately, Gameloft reserves the right to define the "contractual hours". Multiple unnamed sources stepped up to say that Gameloft can request staff to work "reasonable hours" without remuneration. In fact, Gameloft management can decide what's necessary -- what those reasonable hours are -- in order to get a project done. In one case, a studio producer approached a junior artist who was working on a completely different project. The producer informed him that he would be staying past working hours to test a game. The junior artist responded to the request saying that he already had plans for the night, but the producer shook is head and said "sorry, you don't now."
Gameloft is widely known for developing copycat games for the iOS and Android platforms including N.O.V.A. (Halo), Modern Combat (Modern Warfare), Order & Chaos (World of Warcraft), Blades of Fury (Soulcalibur), Hero of Sparta (God of War), and many, many others.