UPDATE: Since this article has been published, a former Moon Studios developer has gone public and has shared her experience working for the studio. The thread can be found below
I worked at Moon Studios for two years. I was the only woman on the story team. I struggle to find the words to express what a soul-destroying experience it was to work with the heads of the studio, Thomas and Gennadiy. https://t.co/M0adjIJsxs— Franciska Csongrady (@TigrMoth) March 19, 2022
Moon Studios have been one of the bright spots in the games industry, creating the beloved Ori franchise and initiating a forward thinking studio setup where employees work from home across multiple countries.
Recent reports suggest this studio is not what they appear on the surface, as multiple prior employees claim a toxic, oppressive work environment. Dean Takashi at VentureBeat has reported on the situation at Moon Studios, speaking to numerous former employees who described the environment leadership, particularly Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol, has created.
According to former employees, “leaders used calls for an open and honest workplace as a pretense for abuse. The founders criticized the work of employees in public chats and were stingy with praise.”
Mahler in particular made one egregious comment, claimed to be a “joke, in a text chat saying “Tyler is the only person who is aware of my devious plans to kill the Jews by making them work to death through game development.”
VentureBeat’s story has a ton more info, including more accusations of abuse hurled towards employees. Jez Corden of Windows Central has backed up the reporting, saying he has heard that “Moon founders resorted to personal attacks/bullying towards Xbox’s teams, burned all bridges”. Corden also noted that a few employees did reach out to him, suggesting that the culture had improved at Moon in recent years.
I can corroborate much of @deantak's reporting on Moon Studios. I was told Moon founders resorted to personal attacks/bullying towards Xbox's teams, burned all bridges.— jez (@JezCorden) March 18, 2022
Spoke with @Rand_al_Thor_19 on Xbox Two that I didn't think MS would work with Moon again, this stuff is why. https://t.co/mm8Ax5298b
Also for additional transparency, a few devs have reached out to me and said things have gotten better/more considerate in recent years.— jez (@JezCorden) March 18, 2022
Jeff Grubb, also of VentureBeat, discussed on his podcast how Xbox passed on the opportunity to work on Moon’s next game after they learned of the studios work place culture. It seems as though the toxic culture that has persisted throughout the studio has been a poorly kept secret.
Moon Studios did respond to VentureBeat’s request for comment, a section of the response can be found below.
“Moon Studios has prospered for 12 years. We have grown and learned so much over all of these years. We have been privileged to work with many, many great, and extremely talented people. 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. 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.”
This news is unfortunate in many ways. First and foremost for the employees involved who had to endure the abuse. It is also a shame for the games industry which continues to see bad examples of work place culture, employee abuse, and toxic leadership. Hopefully Moon Studios is able to seriously address these issues to ensure all employees working for the studio feel safe and welcome.