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Gumi shuts down Paris office, laying off 32

Former employees speak out against poor severance, management errors that led to closure

Following the shut down of its mobile title Brave Frontier: The Last Summoner, Japanese mobile developer gumi Inc has also closed the Paris office that was working on it, laying off 32.

In a collective statement made to French gaming union Le Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Jeu Vidéo (STJV), a group of former employees denounced the circumstances of the closure, claiming gumi had officered "cheap severance packages," and that the Tokyo-based parent company had assigned undue responsibility to the European office for what the former employees say were "management errors."

The statement lists four main points of contention with the parent company:

  • The conditions offered to people being laid off are minimal, in spite of all the mutual and personal investments during the game's extremely tense development phase;
  • The company hasn't considered finding alternative or exploratory solutions in order to facilitate the redeployment of gumi EU's future ex-employees or the future of their careers;
  • gumi EU (France-based European branch of gumi Inc.) benefits from public funding in the form of a tax credit granted by the CNC, the french institution in charge of public funding for the video game industry, for a value of 1,5 million euros, while at the same time destroying jobs without considering ways to preserve them;
  • gumi Inc. is putting a lot of blame on gumi EU, going as far as questioning its own employees' skills, in order to justify its decision to shut down gumi EU. However gumi Europe, being a branch of gumi Inc., cannot be held responsible for management errors attributable to the parent company, which held all decision power.

In a lengthier explanation, the group accuses gumi Inc of cultivating a "demotivating atmosphere of uncertainty" over six months where employees were unsure whether the European studio would be closed or not. During those six months, over 20 people reportedly left the company due to contracts not being removed or low motivation, but no new hires were made. This resulted in the Paris office coming up with "makeshift solutions" to keep Brave Frontier: The Last Summoner running with regular new content. In February, the office had no marketing department. In April, the internal QA team consisted of two interns.

The sharp drop in employees also resulted in an increase in crunch at the Paris location, where crunch had already been a practice to meet deadlines set by the parent company.

Other concerns include gumi Inc's apparent failure to invest tax credits it received from the CNC into marketing for the game as intended, and the fact that some upper-level management personnel at the Paris office had relocated on the promise of long-term career plans.

"For all these reasons, gumi EU's employees feel cheated and not respected, considering their investment on the 3 years production of the game," the statement concludes.

"The employees at gumi Europe are asking for the reconsideration and reevaluation of their severance packages, and hope that their demands will be heard before they have to take legal action."

GamesIndustry.biz has reached out to gumi Inc for comment.

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