Daedalic Entertainment, the studio behind The Lord of the Rings: Gollum and the popular Deponia series, is facing a number of allegations from former and current staff, who claim management fostered a toxic work culture that impacted work on Gollum, and the future viability of the studio.
The allegations were shared with German outlet Game Two, which reported that nearly three dozen employees came forward with serious allegations, painting a dire picture of work on Gollum, and of studio culture at Daedalic.
According to these employees, the game’s buggy launch state was a result of multiple factors – including a low budget of just €15 million, which forced cost-cutting measures. Daedalic CEO and founder Carsten Fichtelmann and COO Stephan Harms were also alleged to have had an impact on staff, with sources speaking to Game Two alleging both contributed to an “atmosphere of fear” at the company, with Fichtelmann allegedly prone to shouting at staff.
Employees further alleged they were made to crunch and work overtime without pay, with junior staff allegedly facing significant pressure to work longer, to impress management. Despite these conditions, the state of Gollum did not improve – allegedly leading to a process of “damage limitation” for the game, with its ambitions scaled down.
Sources speaking to IGN have reportedly corroborated the allegations shared with Game Two, calling Daedalic Entertainment’s alleged low pay, crunch, and toxic work culture an “open secret within the German video game industry.”
They further alleged that Daedalic management had knowingly exploited younger game developers, relying on their lack of experience to contribute to the studio’s bottom line.
It’s unclear what action will stem from these allegations. Following the disastrous launch of Gollum in May 2023, Daedalic announced it would shut down its game development leg, refocussing solely on game publishing in future. Around 25 employees were reportedly let go in this transition, as the studio slimmed down.
Both Daedalic and distributor Nacon have reportedly denied the allegations against Harms and Fichtelmann, claiming Daedalic has a “friendly working atmosphere”.