ZA/UM has finally confirmed the layoffs and the cancellation of an unannounced expansion for Disco Elysium. And two former employees, including one of the game’s original writers, also shared more details about the current situation at the studio.

ZA/UM former writers on layoffs and management: "The mask has slipped from the face of capital"

Following its report on the upcoming job cuts at ZA/UM, Sports Illustrated (GLHF) spoke with senior writer Argo Tuulik, who confirmed that he and the rest of the team working on the now-canceled Project X7 (a standalone expansion for Disco Elysium) will be laid off.

He worked at ZA/UM for more than seven years, since the the studio was founded, and until recently remained the last member of the original writing team to have worked on the acclaimed RPG. Here is what he told the publication:

  • X7 was “one of many” projects that got canceled by ZA/UM management over the past few years, and the team was informed about its shutdown and layoffs yesterday through an email by CEO Ilmar Kompus;
  • It was followed by a video meeting where Kompus, his partner Tõnis Haavel, and president Ed Tomaszewski “answered some pre-selected questions” (employees got their microphones disabled, so they were unable to ask the management anything);
  • Affected employees then received a letter from HR, reading that each person will have a “score assigned to them based on objectively applied selection criteria and the lowest scoring people are gonna go on the chopping board” (according to Tuulik, about a third or less of the studio’s total headcount will be cut);
  • Tuulik believes that ZA/UM “will forever stay a one-game studio,” adding that the fish starts rotting from its head and that management should be blamed for the current state of the studio and for they way they treated the Elysium world, as well as its creators Robert Kurvitz, Aleksander Rostov, Helen Hindpere, and others.

MORE: Inside all aspects of Disco Elysium drama: ZA/UM shareholders, “mega crunch”, toxicity, and IP stealing allegations

ZA/UM principal writer Dora Klindžić also told GLHF that some workers could lose their immigration status in the UK following the job cuts. “The mask has slipped from the face of capital,” she said. “What remains at ZA/UM is a cold, careless company where managers wage war against their own creatives, where artistry is second to property, and where corporate strategy is formed by an arrogant disdain for their own audience.”

The studio eventually confirmed the layoffs to Insider Gaming: “As with all studios, we adapt the size of our team to the work underway, growing when we start a new project and shrinking if one is cancelled. It is always hard to lose talented colleagues, and we thank those leaving for their many contributions to ZA/UM.”

However, it is still unclear how many people will lose their jobs, let alone what will happen to ZA/UM’s future games, given that all the original creators are no longer part of the studio. But as Tuulik told GLHF, “The individuals of ZA/UM, the cultural movement, have left the corporate body behind like the King Cobra slithering out of its dead skin. Remember, we promised: Un jour je serai de retour près de toi” (a phrase from Disco Elysium, meaning “One day I will return to your side”).

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