Several developers at Keywords Studios have reportedly been laid off, following the conclusion of a BioWare contract for QA work on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, and other titles. Per reporting from Polygon, around 13 unionised workers are impacted, all of whom were assisting BioWare with playtesting and quality assurance work, until the conclusion of the studio’s contract in late September 2023.
Notably, Polygon reports that all workers laid off were part of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union, Local No. 401 – a union formed in 2022, as one of the first games industry-focussed unions in Canada.
Keywords claimed the lay offs were a result of there being “no more work available”.
For its part, the union has now reportedly filed an employment standards complaint against Keywords Studios, in an effort to negotiate better severance pay.
BioWare faces severance lawsuits
In tandem with this union filing, BioWare is also dealing with its own severance issues – as several developers have reportedly initiated a lawsuit alleging a lack of fair severance from BioWare following layoffs taking place in August 2023.
Seven employees are involved in this lawsuit, which alleges that BioWare offered significantly less severance pay than employees were owed, and that it offered “unreasonably poor treatment” to those impacted by lay offs.
“In light of the numerous recent industry layoffs and the fact that BioWare’s NDAs prevent us from showing any of our recent work on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf in our portfolios, we are very concerned about the difficulty many of us will have finding work as the holiday season approaches,” one plaintiff said in a press release for the lawsuit.
“While we remain supportive of the game we worked so hard on, and of our colleagues continuing that work, we are struggling to understand why BioWare is shortchanging us in this challenging time.”
The legal counsel for the seven employees involved has alleged that BioWare’s actions may be contrary to the Employment Standards Code to which the company is beholden. At this stage, next steps are unclear – but the case may progress to court, should mutual solutions not be found.