Dreadwolf’s Unionised Devs Have Been Laid Off

Last year, all 16 of the QA devs at Keywords Studios Edmonton held a unanimous and historic vote to become the first games industry union in Canada. Unfortunately, just over one year later, they were laid off.


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As reported by Polygon, the Keywords Studios QA team was working on the upcoming Dragon Age: Dreadwolf with BioWare, which recently laid off 50 devs, including the original Baldur’s Gate lead writer. Keyword Studios, for context, is an Irish company formed in 1998 which provides development support for other studios, rather than making or publishing its own games.

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Late last month, BioWare declined to continue contracts with Keywords Studios, which led to the firing of everyone who was assisting with Dreadwolf. Keyword Studios’ global head of marketing Liz Corless shared this news in an email, “We can confirm that regrettably the 13 Edmonton-based staff have now left the business following the end of a fixed term client contract.”

Keyword Studios’ development support James Russwurm added that it has “taken the position that there is no more work available”, despite the studio having several QA job postings on its website, including within Canada.

Following news of the lay-offs, the union filled an employment standards complaint against Keyword Studios. Russwurm alleges that it offered “minimal serverance”, but the union disputes this as serverance has not been paid.

BioWare has come under similar scrutiny from employees it laid off who are now suing the company over low severance pay. The suit requests both fairer pay and punitive damages for what they claim to be “unreasonably poor treatment by BioWare”. Former devs are also struggling to find work due to BioWare’s strict NDA’s that prevent them from discussing their work on Dreadwolf in their portfolios.

It’s worth noting that these are two separate cases. BioWare ended the contract with Keyword Studios, but it was Keyword Studios who laid off the 13 QA devs. BioWare’s lay-offs were a separate instance that occured two months ago.

Sadly, lay-offs have been incredibly common this year. Only two days ago, a report surfaced that The Last of Us’ Factions spin-off game is “on ice” and that 25 developers, also contracted QA staff, had been laid off.

Epic Games announced last week that it had fired 900 developers, while Creative Assembly announced that there “may be job losses” after Hyenas, its upcoming hero shooter, was completely scrapped. This is despite reports claiming that it was Sega’s most expensive project yet.

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