Nearly a month on, Eugen Systems staff remain on strike

Picket lines intensify outside Eugen's offices, yesterday.

Tensions remain high between a large percentage of Eugen Systems’ (Steel Division, Wargame) developers and company management, as the strike that we reported on last month shows no sign of ending. In a lengthy statement released (and this time translated from French) via industry union site STJV, the developers involved detailed their growing list of grievances with the company, including the fact that it took two full weeks before management would even talk to their rebellious staff.

To clarify, it was two full weeks from the start of the strike – February 14th – that Eugen’s management even brought up the possibility of communicating with their striking employees, although the company wouldn’t have time in their busy schedule to hold a meeting until a full week after that. Even then, the company still outright denies the existence of many of the issues which have driven approximately half of the studio to protest, with only the unpaid wages issue being acknowledged in the slightest. Thusfar, none of the late wages have been paid, after requesting employees to re-invoice for their work.

Worse still, Eugen management have refused to set a date for any additional meetings. Maybe I’m not a great businessman, but I can’t help but wonder if stonewalling nearly 50% of your own, highly experienced studio staff might not be the best approach in this situation. If the staff do return to the company, then they’re not exactly going to be the most enthusiastic bunch, and if they do leave the company, then Eugen have just hemorrhaged a full half of their employees.

According to the striking staff, Eugen Management have also tried to blame the less-than-positive press the company has received on their staff, including spreading lies to the press. Management remains tight-lipped on what exactly is meant to be inaccurate in reports thus far.

At this point, it should be of little surprise that the staff on strike have set up a crowdfunding page to help keep roofs over heads and houses warm during this icy snap of weather. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one, and hoping for everyone involved that this is resolved soon and everyone can return to being paid for their work, and secure in the future of the company.


  1. Michael Fogg says:

    Eugene, on it goes

  2. BaronKreight says:

    I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions. I’d hear what the management has to say. I mean its France, right? Developed country. It’s not like they are dying from poverty. You can often hear air fleet companies employees go on strike and want to be paid more. AFAIK pilots and traffic controllers do earn a lot. Still want more?

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      …with only the unpaid wages issue being acknowledged in the slightest. Thusfar, none of the late wages have been paid, after requesting employees to re-invoice for their work
      Managment [as good as] accept that they’ve failed to pay employees for work done. This isn’t a “We want 2 flavours of chocolate biscuit in the meeting rooms” kind of dispute.

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        Grizzly says:

        Notable is that this strike started the day after they released a big update and accompanying expansion (a really good one too) for their Steel Division game. They went on strike after the work was done, after they did their crunches, and after Eugen could have gotten some money in from the expansion already.

    • Kolbex says:

      Still want more?

      I’ll bet you deploy this line against the owners, too, right? The owners who presumably also live in a developed country and “earn” a lot?

      Of course you do.


      If not, may I ask a followup question: how’s that boot taste?

      • J Arcane says:

        *sniffs air*

        Smells very … American in here …

        • Ghostwise says:

          I fondly remember a previous RPS comment wherein, if workers at a company want to negotiate collectively, then it’s ORGANISED CRIME.

        • doglikesparky says:

          Most Americans, and a lot of Brits, seem to think that wealth is created by capitalists, by the rich, by those with the money from previous (often ill-gotten) gains and exploitation, and that you shouldn’t disparage them.

          Sorry Bub and Bob, but wealth is created by workers using their labour, skills, experience, creativity and education. The capitalist might provide some initial investment, but they are otherwise not needed in the equation.

          The sooner people realise that these parasites who siphon off and spirit away our wealth* are redundant, and dismantle capitalist megacorporations and re-organise them as co-operatives, the better.

          * whilst also doing all they can to avoid the taxation that benefits our societies by squirrellling it away offshore.

          • biggergun says:

            The problem with abolishing capitalism is not some inherent virtue of capitalists, it’s that someone has to be in charge, and capitalists are swiftly replaced by bureaucrats. Honestly not sure which is worse.

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      Grizzly says:

      Pilots and ATC operators get paid a lot, but the issues they face have less to do with getting paid and more to do with trying to get some sleep. Which happens surprisingly often considering that, err, people will die if they fuck up.

      Also, not getting paid is a huge problem! As much as welfare states have fallbacks in case you lose your job, they don’t have a whole lot of that if your employer refuses to pay you outright. All those laws don’t really help when your employer is breaking them, atleast in the short term.

      • modzero says:

        Yeah, that thing about safety – there are cases of strikes literally caused by concern about being able to do a job well, and the future of the company, rather than some fantasies about workers risking their jobs for a meager rise. Turns out, employees’ fate is usually tied to the company more than management’s is.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      Wait, it’s France? Home of the 35-hour work week? The country in which some of the most protected workers in the world are constantly striking to demand more protections?

      Yeah, I’m not going to jump on the “evil management” bandwagon just yet, thanks.

      • Emeraude says:

        First, that’s a pretty blindsided vision of the French labor market, and second don’t you think people have protection in France *because* they are (were) willing to fight to get them?
        I mean, I know correlation isn’t causation and all that jazz, but it’s not as if so many countries in which people dare not – can not – go on strike and otherwise fight for their own self interest were given equal protection out of the incredible generosity and good heart of the company owners.

        Alternatively, it’s funny how the free market is good when companies use it to drive down labor force, but when the labor force tries to use its negotiating power to drive prices back up – or negotiate itself better living and working conditions – suddenly it’s shameful.

      • Crafter says:

        congratulations, I have no idea whether you are a troll or just a moron

      • StuzaTheGreat says:

        “Wait, it’s France? Home of the 35-hour work week? The country in which some of the most protected workers in the world are constantly striking to demand more protections?

        Yeah, I’m not going to jump on the “evil management” bandwagon just yet, thanks.”

        Ohhhhh, so it’s OK to work only 35 hours a week and NOT get paid for it? I wonder if the supermarket won’t mind them not paying for food, or their landlords won’t mind them not paying rent, or the water company not mind them paying their water bill…

      • Hartford688 says:

        Absolutely- bloody France. Daring to prioritise worker protection. Disgusting. They should increase the powers of the rich and wealthy, the owners of capital first.

      • shde2e says:

        According to the linked article, “Management has indicated on numerous occasions that it considers certain contracts to be old or incorrect and therefore would not have to comply with them.”

        And ” it considers that creative professions (game designers, graphic designers, level builders, etc.) do not need training and that these employees would be overqualified by their specialized training”.

        Oh, and when management gave them a proposal to solve the training issue: “we received this proposal as a draft, incomplete – only programming jobs are mentioned – and filled with errors. We consider that this proposal from management is not serious, but even worse, it contains elements that are far less interesting for the employees than what is currently practised in the company. ”

        This sounds by all regards like management being giant knobheads.

    • SuddenSight says:

      Glad to see there is no sympathy for workers here. Capitalism is about workers demanding the wages they are worth, unless that is more than management wants to pay, in which case they need to shut up and accept whatever crumbs they offer.

      Non-payment of wages is incredibly egregious. I feel no qualms in jumping to conclusions on this one.

      • malkav11 says:

        Unfortunately it seems to crop up quite a bit with videogame companies.

        • SuddenSight says:

          Video game making does seem to be a rather volatile industry. I don’t feel angry at companies that run out of cash and have to lay off employees – that is the just the sad reality of the industry. But if a company cannot pay its workers they should let them go or declare bankruptcy, not keep them around for free labor.

          That said, worker exploitation does seem unfortunately common in game development.

    • Smaug says:

      The company is withholding wages, that is probably the most legitimate reason for a strike.

    • DThor says:

      Agreed. It isn’t necessarily a bad idea to “stonewall 50% of your experienced staff” if the staff in question are poison in the well. Every time I comment on this story I sound like Henry Ford, but as someone who operates in a supervisory capacity in a studio I really have no strong opinions unless I’m getting clear facts, and it’s unlikely we’ll be getting those. The only clear message is failure to make a salary payment, which is a clear, factual event which certainly doesn’t bode well and would trigger me looking for a new job. All the rest, however, is heresay and there’s a tendency for the general public to side with overworked and underpaid hapless employees that are making our favourite games. I’ve heard people ramble and curse at companies I have a good understanding of and sometimes they’re right, and other times it’s utter whiney bullshit.

      I rather enjoy their games, I hope it gets sorted soon.

      • shde2e says:

        Considering the number of people involved, the fact that the company admitted that they didn’t pay their employees and has refused to do so (which is probably a breach of contract too), and the fact that the management’s response to this was to ignore their employees and shout “fake news” at news sites that reported negatively on them without actually explaining what was fake about it, this has all the looks of a legitimate revolt against a pretty terrible employer.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Hard to come up with a more legitimate reason to strike than withholding pay. Wages being paid on time is crucial.

      It sounds like the management tried to pull a bait and switch with hiring contracts. Either that or the company is going under, but if that was the case, employees would be jumping ship instead of striking.

      The only thing I don’t understand is why the employees are being asked to submit invoices at all. That… shouldn’t really be a thing, unless they are all technically contractors. Wouldn’t surprise me if management tried to define their workers as independent contractors. The gig economy is still kind of a wild west.

      Edit: or “invoice” is a mistake intranslation

      • thetruegentleman says:

        Where would they jump ship to?

        Realistically, all they can do is either keep working and hope they get paid while waiting for unemployment ‘benefits’ (which last roughly as long as the actual employment), or try to start their own company.

      • Cederic says:

        Isn’t some of the pay owed due to working excessive hours? Maybe the staff are being asked to confirm the hours they worked.

        Cynically it’s a great way to delay paying them, while saving money because you don’t pay them while they’re on strike, which saves you the funds needed to pay for their previous overtime. The longer they drag this out the more money the studio saves, and if it makes some of them quit then they save on redundancy too.

        Would get even more interesting if staff get a revenue/profit share from the games made, and even more so if they lose that if they leave.

    • funderbolt says:

      No, I don’t want “more”, I’d like to be paid for work I’ve performed, please. I’ve just traded a not-insignificant portion of my lifespan for promised monies, as per our agreement; I expect to be compensated for that trade, and you’ll get no more of my time and labor until we are square. Sorry if I sound unreasonable, but feel free to take it up with management (me). If utility companies can shut off services for non payment, so can I.

  3. Sakkura says:

    Do French unions not have strike funds? Or is this just too narrow of a scenario to be covered?

    • aepervius says:

      There is, in this case look for the link on “syndicate of worker of video game” (first link) link to – the rps article is not that good as they speak of invoicing which actually does not happen, those people are either hourly or salaried but working as staff, no invoicing happens for either such staff (it happens only in case of external worker). The article mention overtime labor law, and mention of pay slip coming late. Eugene pretend it is due to a recent reform, which is BS as to my knowledge no other company even big one has this problem (my family is French – if that was happening I would have long heard of it).

      From my experience pay “slipping” and overtime dispute are usually a good sign that the finance of the company are bad, and a good sign you may dust off your resume.

      • mitrovarr says:

        Yeah, I would bet the company is dead but just hasn’t stopped moving yet, and the management is unwilling to acknowledge that and start shutting it down. Recovery from that kind of death spiral is impossible; they’ll just refuse to face facts until they literally can’t keep the lights on any longer, and everyone the company owes money to (especially the workers) will be much more screwed than if they’d simply faced facts and filed for bankruptcy (or whatever the French equivalent is) when the writing was on the wall.

    • Dragev says:

      Unionising is not that frequent in France (with less than 10% of all employees being in one), and the unions don’t have strike funds. The only situation in which the company would be legally forced to pay its employees during a strike is in the case of a ‘serious and deliberate failure of the employer to fulfill his obligations’, which would seem to be the case here, but I’m far from an expert and I guess they’d need a legal decision on that point.
      The new reform excuse is, as aepervius said, total BS, the problem would have to be pre-existing.

  4. Solidstate89 says:

    Solidarity forever
    For the union makes us strong

  5. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Thusfar, none of the late wages have been paid

    Uh yeah that goes pretty far above and beyond the usual good reasons for striking. Not being paid for your work is a pretty big problem.

    • Rhywden says:

      “Pretty big problem” probably doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’m moderately certain that they’ll run into legal problems soon.

      Granted, I’m working from German law here but a cursory inspection of French Insolvency Laws leads me to suspect that they’ll have something on the books which is called “delayed filing of insolvency” by which you are legally required to file for insolvency as soon as you cannot cover your debts and outstanding payments.

      In Germany this is covered by criminal law and actually punishable with jail time.

  6. Vincku says:

    French management, at its best.

  7. MrEvilGuy says:

    Solidarity with the workers! Fuck their management. Not communicating for several weeks is disgraceful.

  8. Reiver says:

    Stand with the workers! Love steel division and appreciate the detailed love it was given so I have a massive affinity with those who gave it that. The fact they waited until release to go on strike… People who disrupt to leverage position vs. those who recognise their service role but want fair treatment!

  9. Caiman says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that a management that allowed this situation to develop in the first place still thinks that it bears no fault or responsibility. It would appear they flunked diplomancy 101.

    • Drumclem says:

      I know it was (probably) just a typo, but I actually love the notion of “diplomancy”. I can only think of men in suits casting spells to have people agree on something. I’d study that.

  10. pookie101 says:

    It is seriously an industry that needs reform. From not paying workers (Eugen), to half your staff straight up quitting due to working conditions after a game is finished (CDprojekt with Witcher 3)

  11. alert says:

    Incredible how little we’ve heard of this dispute (in the lead up, during, the lack of interviews with those involved etc.) All the while games journalists happily write woke thinkpieces on why Cuphead is racist or how they are going on “strike” for International Women’s Day.

    Speaks volumes about the type of leftism that the industry exhibits. Completely unconcerned with tremendous exploitation of labour and, instead, hyper-focused on identity issues within the commodities themselves (not that these are unimportant, but they will never form the basis for radical action).

    • SuddenSight says:

      I am very confused by your comment. This is an update to the strike after RPS first mentioned it back in February. Meanwhile the Cuphead article wasn’t even an RPS article, but a link in the Sunday Papers. And that article wasn’t discussing any intended racism in the Cuphead game itself, but the racist heritage of the animation style used.

      Furthermore, the International Women’s Day strike wasn’t even mentioned on RPS as far as I can tell. And why should it be? The strike involved millions of women from many industries, not just video games.

      In summary, there is no reason why news sites cannot write about both this strike and other events going on in the world. I see no evidence that this strike in particular is being ignored. And your examples of “wasted reporting” are mostly irrelevant to this site, not to mention actually good reporting that I can only assume don’t align with your narrow moral view.

    • Landiss says:

      It’s not about that, I think. It’s simply about the costs and abilities. It is one thing to write what you think about some game, but it is quite different to do investigative journalism (or good interviews). There is simply no investigative journalism here (or pretty much anywhere in gaming press, to my knowledge) and it’s been ages since I’ve seen a good interview in gaming media (honestly speaking, I can’t even remember any examples at the moment, but there must have been something, right?).

      And honestly, is it really surprising? Expect to get the quality you paid for.

  12. Zephro says:

    Good for them. Solidarity and all that. I used to work as a dev in the games industry and I’m so incredibly glad I’m shot of it. I had one of the less cowboy of the employers at that.

  13. morganjah says:

    Doesn’t Paradox publish Steel Division?

    Isn’t this a problem easily solved by releasing fifteen buggy DLC’s over the next five weeks?

    • All is Well says:

      I think you’ve set a new record for just how vaguely Paradox-related an article can be for someone to be able to shoehorn in a complaint about their DLC beneath it. Good job!

  14. Hyena Grin says:

    Solidarity. I hope they’ll stay strong. Management needs talented, skilled laborers, and are doing them a huge disservice by withholding earnings.

    I’d be surprised if the devs aren’t already formulating a plan to break off and form a new studio if Eugene keeps stonewalling.

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