A number of former employees and contractors at NetherRealm have criticised the studio’s working culture over the past two weeks, and further reports since then have suggested things have been especially bad for workers who weren’t employed full-time at the company. These comments were prompted by numerous other reports on industry working conditions over the past few weeks, most recently including crunch on Fortnite.
According to anonymous sources who worked on titles like Mortal Kombat 9, X, and Injustice 2, temporary workers often received hints of full-time employment, but were rarely brought on board as proper employees. Still, contractors making around minimum were reportedly asked to contribute to larger parts of the game.
One anonymous source tells USgamer that some Mortal Kombat fatalities come from temp workers, as part of open invitations for ideas. “They invite the temp workers because they can just give away an awesome idea without having to pay them extra for it. One person in QA made storyboards for their suggested fatality sequence. Their idea made it in, but they never got that full-time position they were chasing.”
Broadly, this report – and another from PC Gamer – suggest that the studio was especially exploitive of these contractors. One source says “I know full-time employees that would take extra long lunches and told contractors when they could take their lunch, or when they could take their break. They would micromanage us.”
Another source says contractors “were called nicknames behind their backs and they were very inappropriate, especially for women. A lot of the nicknames for women were really perverted and disgusting.”
Those comments are on top of distressingly predictable reports of crunch and overwork, similar to what we’ve heard out of studios like Rockstar and Telltale, as more developers have begun to feel comfortable discussing their experiences. NetherRealm has yet to issue a response to these reports.