Former programmer accuses Gameloft of maintaining illegal working conditions

Jul 19, 2011
Games

Mobile game developer Gameloft has been around for quite some time – before there really was much of a mobile games market, in fact. Gameloft existed back when crummy cellphones were barely capable of multimedia, and if you had a device that could handle some rudimentary form of Bejeweled or TETRIS, you were lucky. Back […]

Mobile game developer Gameloft has been around for quite some time – before there really was much of a mobile games market, in fact.

Gameloft existed back when crummy cellphones were barely capable of multimedia, and if you had a device that could handle some rudimentary form of Bejeweled or TETRIS, you were lucky. Back then, Gameloft was producing titles like Rainbow Six: Las Vegas and growing its large-scale operation of making small-scale gaming products.

Since then, with the increased mobile gaming with the advent of smartphones, Gameloft has been a major player in the market. It has a pretty strong foothold in Apple’s iTunes App Store, where it routinely turns out well-polished, quality premium titles. They go for a bit more than the latest copy of Angry Birds – generally hovering around $6.99 – but Gameloft games are consistently more of a “real video game experience” than titles such as Doodle Jump. Gameloft produces first-person shooters, licensed titles for other video game publishing companies, and a number of titles that are greatly “inspired’ by popular games on PCs and consoles: games like StarCraft II, Assassin’s Creed and the Halo series, to name a few.

Dark side to development?

Gameloft turns out games with some speed, and they’re always full-fledged experiences that are worth the money players sink into them. But there might be a darker side to those speedy little apps that dot the App Store and seem to appear every couple of weeks. One former programmer for the company claims that the company drives employees to work as much as 120 hours a week, according a story from games.on.net.

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The programmer claims he encountered the intense work conditions at Gameloft’s offices in Auckland, New Zealand, where he would often put in shifts starting at 9:30 a.m. and running until 2:30 a.m. Glen Watson formerly was head studio programmer at the facility, and he said in the article that he believed Gameloft would even manufacture false deadlines to keep developers working long hours in order to get games done on or ahead of schedule.

Under New Zealand law, working conditions with hours this long are technically illegal, although Gameloft denies the allegations. Here’s a quote from gamers.on about the situation:

“‘No one is held here against their will if they do not wish to work over their con trac tual hours,’ reads one of the emails, with another stating that ‘It is more important to deliver a project than worry about possible avenues for future projects.’ Glenn, however, points out that these contractual conditions are actually in violation of New Zealand’s health and safety legislation and would be considered ‘fatigue working’ under the 2002 Health and Safety in Employment Act – work that employees therefore have the right to refuse under that same law.”

The facts of the case aren’t entirely clear yet, but it may be a moot point anyway, as it seems Gameloft’s Auckland office may be preparing to close. Gameloft is working to set up a new studio in Brisbane, Australia, and the Auckland studio is currently under a hiring freeze, so it appears possible that this studio could close.

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Still, it seems taking hold of iTunes and the mobile market altogether is trying work for programmers at Gameloft, and the speed with which the company releases games probably isn’t helping.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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