Toxic management cost an award-winning game studio its best developers

The big bucks dudes(to be clear here we’re talking about publishers, not developers) are incentivized to keep the status quo. They get a constant stream of new talent that works at sub-par rates.

Very few studios are independent at this point so it’s rare for any of them to have leverage. Since all the capital is organized around the big publishers unless you have a breakout success(which can be harder than the startup space) they can dictate terms and conditions.

There used to be a fun clause where upon studio bankruptcy the code/assets would revert to the publisher. Seems reasonable right?

Well what would happen is the publisher would start denying milestones for frivolous things, usually at peak headcount ~4mo from ship. This very quickly puts the studio in the red and they fold since they can’t sustain a lawsuit and employ 100+ people while not getting paid. The publisher would then get source+assets, re-hire the team that was suddenly out of a job at 80% rate and ship the game with no royalty clause to the original studio + get IP. That’s the kind of exploitation you see in that industry.