Disco Elysium devs have ‘involuntarily’ left studio ZA/UM

A new blog post claims several key members of the Disco Elysium development team were forced to leave studio ZA/UM.
Disco Elysium studio za/um conflict

In a Medium blog post titled, ‘The Dissolution of the ZA/UM Cultural Association’, Disco Elysium developer Martin Luiga has seemingly confirmed major changes happening behind the scenes at revered studio, ZA/UM. According to Luiga, several key members of the original Disco Elysium team have been forced to leave the company in an ‘involuntary’ way – and while these circumstances are not specified, the post implies major turmoil at the studio.

‘I, Martin Luiga, a founding member and Secretary of the ZA/UM cultural association, as well as the assembler of most of the core team, am hereby dissolving the ZA/UM cultural association (not to be confused with the ZA/UM company, on which subject I would note that neither Kurvitz, Hindpere nor Rostov are working there since the end of last year and their leaving the company was involuntary. Which would seem like bad news for the loving fans that are waiting for the Disco sequel.),’ Luiga wrote.

Read: Embrace the strange: Why video games should be weirder

It appears this cultural organisation was largely established to ensure a positive and progressive workplace with strong ethics – one that valued people over the company itself. Luiga has chosen to ‘dissolve’ this organisation as he feels it no longer represents these values.

‘It no longer represents the ethos it was founded on,’ Luiga said. ‘People and ideas are meant to be eternal; organisations may well be temporary. I find that the organisation was successful overall and most of the mistakes that were made were contingent, determined by the sociocultural conditions we were thrown into.’

Part of the reason for this dissolution also appears to be the departure of key members of the Disco Elysium development team, including writer and designer Robert Kurvitz (who wrote the original book on which Disco Elysium was based), writer Helen Hindpere, and design developer Aleksander Rostov. This news, which was not previously announced, was later confirmed by Rostov.

These exits are significant, as each developer had a signifiant role in shaping the narrative and atmosphere of the beloved adventure game – including the intricacies of its politics and unique, semi-dystopian world.

In response to the Medium post, and the claim that future Disco games are now unlikely, ZA/UM has claimed that video games are a team effort, and they will remain so as the studio begins work on its next major project.

‘Like any video game, the development of Disco Elysium was and still is a collective effort, with every team member’s contribution essential and valued as part of a greater whole. At this time, we have no further comment to make other than the ZA/UM creative team’s focus remains on the development of our next project, and we are excited to share more news on this with you all soon,’ ZA/UM told VGC and other publications.

The future of the franchise remains up in the air, with no current confirmation that ZA/UM is working on a direct video game sequel. As of writing, a television series is in the works with Amazon.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.