A new Polish game developer union has formed following three rounds of layoffs at The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077 studio CD Projekt.
Polish Gamedev Workers Union was founded by current CD Projekt staff, gameplay QA analyst Paweł Myszka and gameplay programmer Lev Ki, aiming to represent all those working in game development in Poland.
They said they started talking about unionising after the 2023 wave of layoffs that saw nine percent of CD Projekt Red staff (roughly 100 people) let go.
“This event created a tremendous amount of stress and insecurity, affecting our mental health and leading to the creation of this union in response,” Polish Gamedev Workers Union said. “Having a union means having more security, transparency, better protection, and a stronger voice in times of crisis.
“The above shows how employers tend to view their interests to be in conflict with those of their employees. While employees are the ones creating value in this arrangement, they lack any decision power in company-structure-related matters. That is why we need to organise to enter those situations on equal footing.
“We believe that the mass lay-offs are a danger to the gamedev industry and we believe that unionising is a way for us to preserve the industry’s potential.”
IGN has asked CD Projekt for comment.
The layoffs in question occurred in July. At the time, management called the redundancies an “alignment of the scale and size of the team with the requirements of ongoing projects and the CD Projekt Group strategy”.
The layoffs affected those in development, publishing, and back-office teams, and were expected to conclude in the first quarter of 2024.
“The decision is related to the continuing transformation as part of which the CD Projekt Red studio has managed to – among others – incorporate agile methodologies, while reshaping development processes and optimising working arrangements,” CD Projekt said in a statement.
“This change in approach, along with efforts to build more effective project teams, represents a continuation of an ongoing transformation which the Company regards as key to making top-quality games, published on schedule and developed without undue crunch.”
CD Projekt said the estimated cost of the layoffs, which includes severance payments, is 4.5 million PLN (approx $1.1m). CD Projekt boss Adam Kiciński issued an accompanying statement, insisting the company was “overstaffed”.
“We’ve carefully assessed all teams in the company in terms of their expected contribution to the delivery of our strategy,” Kiciński said. “There’s no easy way to say this, but today we are overstaffed. We have talented people on board who are finishing their tasks and — based on current and expected project needs — we already know we don’t have other opportunities for them in the next year.”
This round of layoffs followed the May announcement that CD Projekt would lay off around 30 employees by the end of 2023 as development on Gwent: The Witcher Card Game came to an end.
And that announcement came after two other waves of layoffs. The Molasses Flood, which is owned by CD Projekt and currently developing the troubled Project Sirius Witcher game, saw 29 team members laid off earlier in May. CD Projekt also announced the closure of The Witcher: Monster Slayer in December last year, with layoffs at developer Spokko as a result.
CD Projekt recently released Cyberpunk 2077 expansion Phantom Liberty, which sold three million copies in a week. It has a number of other projects in the works, including a remake of the first Witcher game, its first original IP (Project Hadar), a Cyberpunk sequel (Project Orion), the first game in a new trilogy set in The Witcher universe (Project Polaris), and a multiplayer Witcher game (Project Sirius).
News of this new Polish game developer union follows the formation of a number of new unions in the industry. IGN reported developers at Just Cause creator Avalanche Studios were unionising, and in July a supermajority of workers at Sega of America formed a union under the Communications Workers of America, asking for voluntary recognition from company management.
Wesley is the UK News Editor for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @wyp100. You can reach Wesley at email@example.com or confidentially at firstname.lastname@example.org.