Last week, following the demonstration by Nexon employee union Starting Point, a group of employees from fellow Korean developer Smilegate staged a demonstration as well calling for more “stable work practices.” In case you have forgotten, Smilegate is the developer of CrossFire (China’s number one online shooter) and also the much-hyped Lost Ark. Its founder, once on the verge of bankruptcy, is one of South Korea’s richest man with a net worth estimated to be USD 2.9 billion. He owns 100% of all Smilegate, which is a rarity.
This demonstration took place on 20 September, on the first anniversary of SG Guild, Smilegate’s employee union. The group showcased its achievements, such as forcing Smilegate to remove non-paid overtime hours, and even managed to get Smilegate executives to sign an agreement where employees will be moved to other internal projects if theirs closes down, not leaving them in the lurch with no actual tasks. This is really great!
Even a key leader from Nexon’s Starting Point was at the demonstration! He gave a talk about the games industry situation where employees where left hanging after projects got unceremoniously canned. While it is true these employees can search for jobs in other companies, it would not be long before they hit the “age discrimination wall” since it is common these days for game projects to come to a sudden halt. A representative from SG Guild echoed his sentiments, stating canceling projects is a habit within Smilegate as well.
In fact, he claimed that there were 6 canceled games in the past year which affected around 150 employees in Smilegate. While the affected employees were moved to other projects, many were allocated non-development roles, a different department, or positions which do not suit their skills and passion. Of course, many left too. It does seem like the overall gaming industry does not really care about their employees, no matter it is in the west or east. Hopefully, these companies can work with unions to change their mindset.