The recent trial between Heavy Rain developer Quantic Dream and two press outlets has led to conflicting reports as the parties await the verdict next month.
Digital technology and games workers union Solidaires Informatique recently wrote a short report (in French) on Quantic Dream's libel trial against French publications Le Monde and Mediapart, saying the two days were "grotesque."
The trial, which was open to the public, took place on May 27 and 28, with the verdict now expected on July 8.
Back in January 2018, Le Monde and Mediapart, in partnership with magazine Canard PC, published lengthy reports highlighting Quantic Dream's alleged toxic workplace culture as well as allegations of financial malpractice at the company. Quantic Dream sued Le Monde and Mediapart over those reports later that year.
GamesIndustry.biz was able to verify some of the content from Solidaires Informatique's report with sources who were present at the trial (who have asked to remain anonymous). We also talked to Quantic Dream, who again denied the accusations and highlighted "constant allegations that are now becoming a very toxic form of harassment."
One of the issues at the core of the trial was accusations of financial malpractice. Quantic Dream was accused of the following: when firing an employee, the employee would contest the dismissal to then be able to receive a compensation payment. The move was advantageous for both parties as the transaction would then not be subjected to a contribution to French employee and employer social security organisation URSSAF. As a consequence, the compensation could be greater but would cost less to the company itself. Quantic Dream has contested taking advantage of this practice in the past and previously said URSSAF found "nothing to blame the company for."
The trial discussed one of the original reports' key contentions: that Quantic Dream's co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière was dismissed mid-2016 and applied the method described above to contest his own dismissal and claim a €60,000+ compensation.
Solidaires Informatique reported that Quantic Dream presented several documents to prove its innocence regarding the alleged fraud during the trial, including dismissal letters, all of which had the same reason written down as to why the employee was being fired: "Refusal to follow directives." The press outlets' counsel was prompt to point out that one of them actually had irregularities, making it an unfair dismissal.
The union report notes that the documents included the dismissal letter for De Fondaumière himself, who was then CEO and executive producer. Solidaires Informatique initially reported that, when challenged in court about financial malpractice, De Fondaumière asked: "I'm not under oath, so, I can lie?" However, our sources suggested that was a misinterpretation on the union's end.
In addition to the union's account, our sources noted a handful of other allegations made during the trial. Following the accusations of harassment and toxic workplace culture in 2018, David Cage was said to have called in all the women at the studio individually in his office to investigate the situation, without the presence of a staff or HR representative.
When asked about the one-to-one meetings that had been brought to our attention, a Quantic Dream spokesperson said the company didn't comment on false information. (The company previously has said it enlisted external company "People Vox" to survey employees and found no trace of a toxic atmosphere.)
During the two days of the trial, Cage reportedly said he didn't "owe any explanation to journalists." We were also informed that Quantic Dream's lawyers accused one of the journalists of writing the article as revenge for Guillaume de Fondaumière refusing them access to the VIP section of a Quantic Dream party once.
According to Solidaires Informatique, Quantic Dream's co-CEO David Cage reportedly burst into tears during the trial, but our sources who were present suggested that was an exaggeration. Cage reportedly told the court that it was "meddling with his business" and that the issues addressed in the trial impacted his "honour."
The union report also included some statements Cage had allegedly made while working at Quantic Dream that were brought up at the trial, such as: "In my games, all women are whores," "It's lacking tits in the office," and "At Quantic Dream, we don't make games for fags."
GamesIndustry.biz reached out to Quantic Dream following the original report from Solidaires Informatique, and the studio denied its content. The spokesperson said that Quantic Dream took Le Monde and Mediapart to court for "publishing articles that we felt were not printed in good faith, nor with reasonable research nor evidence, and which drew false conclusions which extensively damaged the reputation and morale of the studio."
They continued: "In recent days, completely fabricated quotes and misinterpreted information purported to have come from the trial have been circulating on the Internet. These misleading accusations have been proven false time and again by numerous testimonies, before the court, by current and former employees of Quantic Dream, third-party audits of financial and human resources records, and the judgments of Labour Court and Appeals Court."
The company also forwarded a statement from its staff delegates, who called Solidaires Informatique's report "untrue accusations."
"As staff representatives, and on behalf of the employees of Quantic Dream, we unequivocally object to the unprofessional, decidedly untrue accusations that have been levelled at us for years now, as well as to the malicious dissemination of damaging images. Employees are tired of the constant attacks from outside sources who follow a personal agenda, never taking into account our own experiences and testimonies.
"Quantic Dream is a rare, inclusive, collaborative and optimistic group of employees. It is run with kindness, positivity and professionalism. We remind you that we are open to constructive and respectful exchanges, with a view to enriching the quality of company life; however, we no longer accept new allegations that flout the human values of our teams."