Layoffs at Disco Elysium Studio Confirmed

2019 hit Disco Elysium’s studio ZA/UM layoffs of around 24 employees, making up a quarter of their workforce. The news was originally broken by Marco Wutz from GLHF on February 15, with their later report confirming that the last remaining Disco Elysium credited writer Argo Tuulik has also been laid off from the studio.

While, Disco Elysium has received multiple awards including Best Narrative, and Best Role-Playing Game at the 2019 Game Awards, the events at the studio pre and post-release have been anything but award-worthy with the PMG documentary revealing multiple issues ongoing at the studio including layoffs after Disco Elysium was released. Developer interviews pointed towards harsh development with at least nine months of crunch before release.

ZA/UM has been facing turbulent times since the release of their only game, Disco Elysium. ZA/UM Studio founder and Disco Elysium designer Robert Kurvitz, art director Aleksander Rostov and writer Helen Hindpere were involuntarily removed from the studio, with the blame being hinted towards the investors. Later in 2022, the trio alleged that they were fired unfairly and also blamed Investor Kompus for the misappropriation of funds of around 4.8 Million Euros.

disco elysium layoffs

Disco Elysium Expansion Cancelled

Along with the recent firings, Project X7 was also cancelled which was believed to be a standalone expansion to Disco Elysium. According to ZA/UM president Ed Toaszewski, the game was one to two years away from release and was expected to take more time and effort than Disco Elysium. It is important to note that this is not the first Disco Elysium related project that was cancelled since a Disco Elysium sequel was cancelled in 2022. After that, a new sci-fi game was paused in 2023. Aside from these, there are currently two projects under development at the studio with one of them being directly related to Disco Elysium.

Sources close to the issue blame the studios’s management for these events while adding that they have always targeted random people, “be it the old Disco team, the press, or even people working there”, and harming their talent in the process with accusations being made at the management for being sexist.

The official memo sent by CEO Kompus to staff:

Dear all,
Despite concerted efforts over the past eight months by our management team and the X7 disciplines, following consultation with our management team, I have taken the difficult decision to cancel X7. This decision, unlike the pause on Project P1, will unfortunately most likely lead to redundancies within our studio.
With the cancellation of X7 we are proposing to reshape our team to support our two remaining games. This adjustment will almost certainly lead to redundancies, mostly affecting the X7 team but also our non-development teams and non-X7 projects.
We are approaching this sensitive issue with the utmost care and respect. We will be initiating a formal redundancy consultation procedure with employees of Zaum Studio Limited who are at risk of redundancy in accordance with UK law. If you’re one of these employees, you will very shortly receive a Slack message, email, and a calendar invite for a meeting with your Lead and HR to discuss the next steps. Any individual whose role is affected, but who is not employed by Zaum Studio Limited, for example those employed by Deel or in our other EU locations, will be contacted separately about the procedure that will be followed. During this transition period, let’s maintain professionalism and support each other, upholding our studio values.
Ed will provide more context during our campfire in two hours (invite will be sent shortly). We will also open our anonymous Q&A form which can be found here: [Link]
Regards,
Ilmar

Writer Argo Tuulik Comments Amid Disco Elysium Layoffs

Argo Tuulik was among those fired with him being the last writer present at the studio who worked on Disco Elysium. Argo Tuulik confirmed the events that GLFH reported on and explained that he was one of the creators of Project X7 which had been in development since Summer 2022.

According to him, project cancellations have been around the clock at the studio and commented that their project “absorbed the vast majority of people from another cancelled project” last summer. Project X7 co-creator Dora Klindžić also reached out and described the work environments at the studio in the past two months as filled with crunch, burnout and conflict.

As per Tuulik, the affectees of the layoffs were specifically those people who raised complaints regarding work conditions. He went on to speculate that the studio will not be able to release any games in the future, stating that he expected ZA/UM to be a one-game studio.

It is disheartening to see that the legacy of a game like Disco Elysium is being marred like this, especially considering the cultural and political themes present in the game itself.

EsportsNext is covering the Disco Elysium layoffs actively and will update the article as more information is revealed, meanwhile you can check out our beginner guides on the online co-op game Helldivers 2 which is making waves on PC.

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Zain Raza
Zain Raza
Zain's gaming passion started with the PSP era. He has been a PlayStation fan from the start and loves narrative driven single-player games. He dabbles into all things pop culture.

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