A new investigation by Fanbyte has revealed more details of the downfall of Funomena, the indie studio responsible for Wattam. It includes new allegations shared by former Funomena employees, including details of the company's internal response to People Make Games' report in March.
In March, YouTube channel People Make Games investigated three indie developers accused of mismanagement and abuse. One of those developers was Robin Hunicke, co-founder of Funomena.
Prior to the video's release, Fanbyte report that Hunicke warned staff that the information in it was exaggerated, old and not reflective of the current state of the studio - a dismissal that allegedly upset staff. The response the day following the video's release was worse, with Funomena staff called to an all-hands meeting and told that they'd all be let go the following week if the studio couldn't secure immediate funding.
According to staff who spoke to Fanbyte, this meeting was the only contact they've had with Hunicke after the People Make Games report came out. They say Hunicke blamed PMG and the staff who spoke to the channel for the company's financial difficulties, before handing the meeting over to her co-founder Martin Middleton. Employees were asked to keep the news secret during that meeting while efforts to find funding continued, though the threat of closure became public the following week.
"Even now, we have no idea if Funomena is shutting down or not or if they got any funding," one employee who wished to remain anonymous told Fanbyte. "There’s been no clear support from Robin or Martin [since the announcement]." While the status of Funomena is unclear, all of previous staff were let go, and many are still looking for new jobs.
Hunicke did publicly acknowledge the allegations on Twitter several days after the video's release. "Leadership is a journey, and often a difficult one," she wrote. "It saddens me to know people are hurting from mistakes I’ve made. I am truly sorry. Right now I’m taking time to talk to people, focus on the feedback everyone is sharing, and figure out next steps."
There are other new details in the report, including that Funomena had tried to address its financial difficulties by doing work-for-hire for studios making content in Roblox. Employees allege that mismanagement of these deals led to regular crunch and what Fanbyte describe as "deteriorating health and burnout," internal reports of which management ignored. Hunicke also reportedly expressed interest in the blockchain and NFTs as a potential avenue for the company's financial survival, and dismissed employee's concerns about the ethics of both NFTs and Roblox as "sensationalist troll enabling."
You can read the full report, which includes details of an MMO project the studio had begun work on, at Fanbyte.