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Bossa Studios confirms layoffs amid complaints against management

Surgeon Simulator developer will dismiss 15% of staff as it reshapes for "the new industry we see ahead of us"

Bossa Studios has confirmed it is laying off a small number of staff as part of a restructuring.

An anonymous source told GamesIndustry.biz the UK developer was laying off up to 18 staff. When contacted, Bossa Studios replied with a statement from CEO Henrique Olifiers, who said the number of staff affected was fewer than this.

The firm has since told our sister site Eurogamer that 13 of its 85 positions were initially at risk, but this has been lowered to 10 and could be reduced further by end of the consultation period.

Bossa Studios said these redundancies are part of ongoing restructuring efforts.

Earlier this year, the company shifted to a hybrid remote/office-based model where all staff had the option of working from home, brought about in part by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now the developer is building on this and has decided to "reshape the team for the new industry we see ahead of us."

"The new Bossa is cast to succeed in this landscape where subscription services are growing, premium titles are getting cheaper, and players want different experiences with a strong social element at their core," Olifiers said.

"As with any truly fundamental change, big decisions are made. The functions we're reshaping affected around 15% of our colleagues, and we're in the process of helping them move around the industry or find new positions within the studio itself. At the same time we're bringing in new talent to help build our novel capabilities for the road ahead."

Our source also pointed us towards recent Glassdoor reviews, all of which criticise management for troubles at the company.

Claims include "obscene crunch" for the QA department. Olifiers confirmed there had been some limited crunch to Eurogamer, and insisted the company does not have a crunch policy and management never asks staff to crunch.

In this instance, development of Surgeon Simulator 2 fell behind when the studio shifted to remote working in March due to the lockdown and the staff placed themselves under pressure to keep up, according to Olifiers.

"We lost track of a few people doing extra hours," the CEO told Eurogamer. ""QA was broadly on the receiving end of this because it [Surgeon Simulator 2] is a multilayer game, there was a lot of demand on QA.

"So it's fair to say that leading into launch, there were people who were working too much on Surgeon. I wouldn't deny that. But we don't ask people to do that. At times it happens and we try to correct it after the fact, like we did this time around."

Olifiers also says Bossa paid staff who crunched overtime or gave them time in lieu after Surgeon Simulator 2 launched in August.

Multiple Glassdoor reviews also claim that management are too controlling and too concerned with their own creative ideas than listening to the teams.

One anonymous employee wrote: "The successful games the studio have made were made in spite of the founders, not because of them. In fact, the founders attempted to shut those projects down."

Speaking to Eurogamer, Olifiers said that he and the studio's co-founders have always been directly involved with development.

"All our game ideas come from a game jam, and every single person in the studio takes part in those game jams that generate those game ideas," he said. "So from day one, management is involved. I am a game designer, not a business guy. I have been a producer, a coder, a game designer and so on. And so has everybody else in the team. So we are involved in the day-to-day. Of course at times there are creative differences, and we solve that in the best possible way, as far as I can tell.

"The teams usually have a lot of latitude to make decisions they think are right. Traditionally management, and by management I'm talking about myself and the other three founders, we are involved with the day-to-day of every game we make."

Our source claimed as many as 20 staff have left in recent months, although Eurogamer's interview with Olifiers suggests this is limited to two senior members of staff.

In his statement, Olifiers said: "The other thing about fundamental change is that not everyone agrees with it, and that's alright -- the world would be a much more dull place if we all agreed on everything.

"A small number of people are unhappy with these changes, and as unfortunate as that is, there's little we can do other than be candid about our motives and support them as much as possible. They have the right to feel the way they do about these decisions if so they chose to, and criticise us for it. That's just the way things work."

For the record, this article previously indicited Olifiers confirmed claims of "obscence crunch." This was not the case, with the CEO instead confirming there had been some limited crunch, as explained by his comments to Eurogamer. This article has been amended accordingly.

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