Crytek closes five studios after reportedly failing to pay workers

Crytek is closing down five of its offices around the world after financial trouble has reportedly left many of its workers unpaid for months. Studios in Frankfurt and Kiev are staying open, the developers said in a classically verbose press release, but all other studios are being shut down, including offices in Seoul, Sofia, Shanghai, Istanbul and Budapest. “Management has put plans into action to secure jobs and to ensure a smooth transition and stable future,” said the notice. Translation: a large number of people are losing their jobs.

For the past week employees have been complaining about unpaid wages. One person posted on Imgur claiming that they hadn’t been paid for 6 months. “Upper management refuses to speak to any of us and our managers have no answers,” they wrote. “We have never been apologized to, and they refuse to talk to us.” Meanwhile, more workers came forward to Kotaku, saying that they were continuously paid months late and that many workers had either left or were already searching for work elsewhere.

The developer now says it will continue to work on the CryEngine, seeking to keep up regular updates, along with work on “premium IPs”. Eurogamer are reporting that staff at the Frankfurt offices – the company’s headquarters and home to most of its games – are now being paid some of the overdue wages, but salaries for November have yet to arrive.

This type of meltdown is bad enough, especially right before Christmas, but the obscuring language of today’s press release is even more frustrating. The company called the move to shut down the studios “a series of changes to its future business plans that will see the company refocus on its core strengths…” This chipper tone continues with quotes from co-founder Avni Yerli. “We believe that going through this challenging process,” he says, “will make us a more agile, viable, and attractive studio, primed for future success.” It is as if not paying your employees for months on end was nothing more than a tough Sudoku.

None of this is new to the CryEngine creators. Two years ago the company went through similar problems, which it kept denying until it made staff at their US office redundant and sold their UK office, along with the rights to publish Homefront. “Some people were very impatient,” the company’s co-founder Cevat Yerli (brother of the aforementioned Avni) would later say in a rhetorically snaking interview, a talk which ought to give you some idea of the management’s attitude towards its workers – an attitude that has evidently continued.

We reached out to Crytek for further comment but haven’t heard anything back.

30 Comments

  1. Gunsmith says:

    Crytek went full retard when EA threw a wad of ash at them for console development of Crysis 2. letting future sales get to their heads they started buying up studios and even went so far as to alienate their core audience by shifting focus to the mainstream, the same mainstream that didn’t buy Crysis 2 as they were too busy playing COD, so yeah they brought this on themselves.

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      Don Reba says:

      Crytek went full retard when EA threw a wad of ash at them for console development of Crysis 2.

      EA keeps the ashes of the smaller studios they torch just for such occasions.

  2. welverin says:

    My first thought on seeing the headline was, didn’t you post this story a while ago.

    I guess it’s only a matter of time before they close shop entirely.

    • Chalky says:

      Yeah, Unity and UE releasing really impressive new engines and going to a royalty only model must have hurt the engine side of their business too. They are not long for this world, they’re already the comedy option when it comes to picking a high quality 3d engine.

      • Baines says:

        Isn’t Star Citizen using CryEngine? (Mind, that only further assists the image of being the comedy option.) I wonder if Crytek was somehow banking on that being a profitable success story for them.

        And whatever happened with Amazon’s Lumberyard setup? That was using CryEngine as well, wasn’t it? I don’t believe I’ve heard or read anything about Lumberyard since it was announced.

        • gwop_the_derailer says:

          Amazon paid Cryetek to the tune of about $70 million upfront for the CryEngine source code. That’s what they have been running on for some time.

          As far as I understand, while CryEngine is powerful, its documentation can’t match up to the ones of Unity and Unreal Engine.

        • ChrisT1981 says:

          Funny enough. CIG just switched StarCitizen from their CryEngine Branch to Lumberyard.

  3. SirRoderick says:

    This makes me sad for the people that got strung along in such a lengthy, impossible situation and still end up jobless. Ugh

  4. Creeping Death says:

    So they had 7 studios?

    *checks last time they put out a game*

    2013’s Ryse: Son of Rome. Well that explains it.

  5. FFabian says:

    Not paying your workers or paying late is a big no-no in regards to german labor laws. Could get the Yerli brothers in hot water.

    • apa says:

      The non-German studios are probably subject to national laws. I wonder how well the employees are protected in those countries. I would guess that most employees are relatively young, don’t belong to union and don’t have an employee representative elected at their workplace. Some people in IT believe that they are irreplaceable to the employer…

    • Baines says:

      They did the same thing just two years ago, so it seems not much happened to the Yerli bros.

  6. Hedgeclipper says:

    The Cryguys have made a lot of really pretty stuff over the years, some of it was even fun. But management has consistently seemed like a bunch of assholes.

  7. Jay Load says:

    Their career trajectory seems to be mirroring that of the late, great Orson Welles. Starting with an industry classic then steadily declining into obscurity.

  8. engion3 says:

    How you not get paid for 6 months, do these people not have rent, car payments? I’d be going on interviews after the first missed check.

    • Nibblet says:

      The beauty of opening offices in countries with poor labor protection, like most of the studios in question, is that in addition to low wages you also have an over saturated workforce.
      This means you can treat workers like dirt as most will be too afraid to leave since they may not get another job, and almost everyone can be replaced at a moments notice.
      As a bonus, you can legally put all kinds of barriers etc in their work contract.

    • satan says:

      Desperation.

    • DThor says:

      As mentioned below, we can have that attitude because of where we live, but yeah, that’s where I draw the line. Once even a discussion of missed paycheques gets brought up, I’d be on a job hunt. I don’t work in games but in a similar field, and I’ve been extremely lucky to not have to deal with this. I’ve met plenty of people who have showed up for work in good faith and been confronted with a locked door and a bullshit legal letter taped to the inside. Sucks. Hard.

    • Rumpelstiltskin says:

      to be clear, they weren’t completely without salary for half a year. the imgur post was misleading in that regard, probably intentionally. there were delays during the last 6 months, usually about a month each time, and the last one closer to 2 months. one of the imgur comments clarifies that.

  9. Faults says:

    This is one of the few times where I really had wished that a company was publicly traded. If there was any justice, major shareholders would have had a meeting and wiped the Yerli brothers and the rest of upper management clean off the company.
    If you look at the Glassdoor reviews for the Frankfurt branch, it’s full of people claiming the company is full of some of the industry’s best, brightest and nicest workers, yet management bungle and bungle and bungle until they seemingly run the whole operation face-first into the ground. It is an absolute (excuse the completely unintentional pun) crying shame that a team of that caliber is being squandered and taken for a ride by a bunch of apparent imbeciles.

    • po says:

      Poor management seems to be mentioned very often in game industry glassdoor reviews, for many companies.

      While I’m of the opinion that in a lot of places, someone who has worked their way up to the position, and learned not only their job, but that of most other people in the department, would make a better manager than someone fresh out of college with an MBA, software development is not one of those fields.

      Software development of any scale is such a complex process that it cannot be managed effectively by people who have not specifically been taught software development methods (and that does not include a few weekends of Agile/Scrum seminars).

      Because of that, all the people in the game industry who have built up experience in creative or technical fields are unlikely to understand how to manage projects effectively (and I’d also say that even software development practices fall short, because game design actually requires managing both technical and creative teams, together, and someone who worked in only one field cannot effectively manage someone from another).

      Perhaps it would be best to focus on developing project management around the tech-artist position, where people are already working at bringing both creative and technical fields together, developing best practices/pipelines, and educating people on how to use them. That role /is/ actually doing a lot that overlaps with project management, only they aren’t given the kind of authority they need, to go with their wider understanding of how well everyone is working together.

      • syndrome says:

        In fact — and I’m a backwater country game developer representative — not only a programmer isn’t protected by labor laws and unions, but there is a clear intention at shunning experts because they disrupt the established working values.

        Many of you think that game development is done differently, but for the majority of studios (including USA), it’s done simply by having a good PR (read: lying) while labor exploiting, stealing IPs (whenever possible) and making production stations independent of individuals.

        Programmers are aplenty and 90% of them are not that good, if you are a management, you tend not to rely on the remaining 10%, nor you want an expert to tell you what to do.

        This is all contributing to an appalling state of the software development, where costs are cut at the wrong end and dev cycles depend on parallelization, because everything became overcomplicated.

  10. April March says:

    I guess that this makes them more agile in the same way that the reflex to throw up after physical overexertion is meant to make you more agile.

  11. po says:

    Seems to be a pretty common theme with game studios: Achieve success > crawl up own backsides > do stupid stuff > fail to learn from resulting consequences.

  12. Rumpelstiltskin says:

    clever picture choice

  13. mercyRPG says:

    INSIDER INFO:

    Just to give for you all a little insider perspective about what was going on in _one_ of the five studios closed down (I’m talking about the one closer to the top of the ABC):

    – Burning Money! Lots of money. – Told my super talented Graphics Artist Lead, who left our studio [consisting of veterans of the game Nexus: The Jupiter Incident] he went to Crytek in 2008 to work as a humble graphics artist and excellent 3D modeler.

    Word was at that specific Crytek studio * couple years ago * that they did possibly a Ryse alpha [?] and during a “Let’s see guys “In What Stage Are You At” vertical slice inspection of the alpha of that game it was a total disaster shown to Crytek Bosses present. They immediately fired the game designers and as you can imagine immediately relocated work for that game to Frankfurt. And that was YEARS ago. Imagine, how much money – high gamedev salaries – was BURNED on useless projects.

    My same friend told be the studio has become DILUTED with INCOMPETENT IDIOTS years ago, who were just sucking away money and resources from Crytek, but did nothing, all useless eaters… already this was happening a couple years ago.

    Now you know, why Crytek had to close these studios. Same reason as why Star Citizen hired incompetent idiots after the core team shown in the earliest Making of videos. Look at the later Making Of video series, there you can see a fresh hire worker trying out CUBES in Crytek Editor as Chris Roberts enters and asks him: “Work goes good?”. OMG OMG that fresh hire worker was a perfect example of what we call “Parachuting Incompetent” pulled into the studio by people [his friends] already working there and diluting studios by recommending useless eater “workers” to be hired. Look at where Star Citizen is now.. Only on Fan’s increasing desperation and push is only now the FPS part going to be maybe maybe finished.

    You only get to know these totally sad Game-Quality-Destroying facts, after you work hard in the game industry and listen to super talented Leads what absolutely substantiated rumors they whisper under their breaths.

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      Don Reba says:

      Scrapping an early build that’s not up to the studio’s standards sounds like a good thing. And the “everyone is an idiot but me” attitude might be more telling of your friend — it’s not constructive.

    • diamondmx says:

      New employee in “learning new company’s tools” fiasco. Fuck off.

    • syndrome says:

      This is known as the Bozo Event Horizon, a typical situation for any company that has money but no vision or an adequate leadership.