Developers at CD Projekt Red (The Witcher, Cyberpunk 2077) and Avalanche Studios (Just Cause) are the latest to unionise, following a tumultuous year in the global games industry filled with layoffs.
Around 100 developers at Avalanche Studios Group, who are currently working on co-op heist game Contraband, have joined the Sweden-based Unionen trade union, with a view to gaining bargaining power while in talks with Avalanche management for a new contract. These developers represent one-fifth of the total cohort at Avalanche.
As IGN notes, union membership is unique in Sweden, in that workers are allowed to join a trade union without a formal union election. Around 70% of the country is reportedly involved in a union, with video game workers now increasingly joining their ranks. In the coming weeks, negotiations between the unionised workers of Avalanche and studio management are expected to continue, with better workplace conditions on the table.
Workers at CD Projekt Red are also unionising, forming the Polish Gamedev Workers Union (PGWU) union as a subgroup of the national OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza. Workers are calling for other Polish game developers to join their union, in an effort to achieve better working conditions for everyone – particularly as global layoffs continue to impact video game workers.
“We started talking about unionising after the 2023 wave of layoffs,” the PGWU announced on its website. In July 2023, CD Projekt Red management announced it was laying off around 9% of its workforce due to economic stressors and overstaffing.
“This event created a tremendous amount of stress and insecurity affecting our mental health and leading to the creation of this union in response. Having a union means having more security, transparency, better protection, and a stronger voice in times of crisis.”
CD Projekt Red has been hit particularly hard by layoffs in the last few months, with management also recently announcing cuts to its Molasses Flood studio after a rescope of its in-development Witcher spin-off game.
It’s not the only studio to initiate significant layoffs recently. Elsewhere, global studios including Ascendant Studios, Epic Games, Team17, Creative Assembly, and Telltale Games also announced staffing cuts. The result has been a games industry with less security than it’s ever had.
In unionising, developers at CD Projekt Red and Avalanche Studios are fighting for a brighter, more stable future, where work in the games industry is sustainable, and jobs are better protected.
“We believe that the mass lay-offs are a danger to the gamedev industry and we believe that unionising is a way for us to preserve the industry’s potential,” the PGWU said. There is hope these unions can aid change to overhaul the industry, and prevent unnecessary layoffs in future.