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Report: Firesprite devs describe rocky acquisition by PlayStation

Sources tell Eurogamer the deal led to toxic culture, crunch, staff turnover, claims of sexual discrimination and ageism

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Firesprite Studio staffers say the company took a turn for the worse after becoming a Sony subsidiary, according to a Eurogamer exposé.

Sources detailed a number of complaints, saying that Firesprite had a more positive studio culture in the past that was dismantled in short order after the acquisition.

Longstanding senior leaders including most of the founders left the company in the past year, with new leadership brought in from XDev, a Sony support studio.

Eurogamer reported that two of those XDev leaders had accumulated around 13 grievance complaints.

Among the allegations were sexual discrimination and ageism, but sources said a Sony investigation dismissed the cases as a misunderstanding.

Eurogamer said that some staffers took matters further, as they explored more legal options and have allegedly received a financial payout from Sony.

The acquisition also had an impact on development, specifically on the company's VR game Horizon: Call of the Mountain.

The studio was under pressure from Sony and original Horizon developer Guerilla Games to make Call of the Mountain a high-quality PSVR 2 title, and it had to be ready for the headset's launch. In order to make that fate, Firesprite's development team doubled in size within three months.

However, it was challenging to integrate new talent, and the studio underwent crunch to release the game on its targeted launch date.

Eurogamer added that as employees left and redundancies occurred at the studio, the corporate messaging maintained that there were no issues.

Looking ahead, staffers said that leadership should consider revisiting studio principles, listening to employees as it addresses the culture. Studio overseers should also consider leading without Sony's influence.

One source said, "Sony has committed the worst possible mistake in buying a studio and meddling to the point where it may end up in a death spiral and unable to complete any of the projects it is working on."

Earlier this week, Firesprite suffered some job cuts as part of larger layoffs of around 900 PlayStation employees.

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Jeffrey Rousseau avatar
Jeffrey Rousseau: Jeffrey joined in March 2021. Based in Florida, his work focused on the intersectionality of games and media. He enjoys reading, podcasts, staying informed, and learning how people are tackling issues.
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