Moon Studios, a 100% remote team known for the critically acclaimed Ori series, has been accused of toxic workplace culture. The mismanagement reportedly resulted in mental health problems for employees and could have become the reason for Microsoft to part ways with the studio.

Key takeaways from the report

  • VentureBeat spoke with several employees who called Moon Studios’ workplace culture “oppressive.” The studio’s founders, Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol, are called the main instigators of this behavior.
  • According to the report, they were constantly making inappropriate comments in public chats while using slurs and insults disguised as jokes.
  • Although Mahler and Kolor seemed nice in person, they provided devs with unclear feedback online and were greedy for praise.
  • Players and critics praised Moon Studios’ games, but employees who left the team reportedly were “scarred with mental health problems” due to the company’s toxic culture.

Relationship with Microsoft

  • Moon Studios had a rollercoaster relationship with Microsoft, delaying games and missing deadlines.
  • According to some devs, Microsoft was aware of the toxic culture. However, the company couldn’t physically inspect the workplace due to Moon’s remote nature. On top of that, Mahler allegedly didn’t let the devs talk to Microsoft.
  • “There was always this fear that if Microsoft woke up, maybe they would cancel the game,” one employee said, adding that the bosses felt “untouchable” because of their titles’ quality and success.
  • Microsoft eventually parted ways with Moon Studios after about 10 years. Although the official reason behind this decision remains undisclosed, the latest report suggests that it could happen due to the studio’s toxic workplace culture.
  • Moon Studios is now working on its new game code-named Forsaken. It will be published by Take-Two’s Private Division.

Moon Studios’ official response

Moon Studios co-founders told VentureBeat that these allegations don’t represent all employees, adding that they always wanted to create a distributed studio and foster a vibrant culture “where our team thrives and delivers the very best work in our industry.”

“We are truly grateful and proud of our team — those who are here today as well as those who spent time at Moon and have since moved to other ventures – and we are happy to have made a positive difference in their lives,” the statement reads. “We are not perfect but we deeply care about our talent and are constantly working hard to improve. If we have ever made anyone feel uncomfortable or let anyone down — we regret that and we will always strive to do better.”

Moon Studios, founded in 2010, gained recognition in 2015 when it released its debut game Ori and the Blind Forest. The platformer was met with positive reviews and became profitable for Microsoft within one week since launch. The title was followed by Ori and the Will of the Wisps in 2020, which received even greater acclaim.

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