What Take-Two's CEO Thinks About Unions

The head of Rockstar Games' parent company says it's hard to imagine why his employees would want to unionize.

28 Comments
Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: Take-Two Games Might Be Shorter, But Have More DLC - GS News Update

Just before the release of Rockstar's open-world action game Red Dead Redemption 2, reports emerged about the working conditions at the studios that developed the game. This naturally led to a discussion about unions, which are largely non-existent in the video game world. Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Rockstar's parent company Take-Two, has now weighed in on the subject of unions. He told GI.biz that it's "hard to imagine" why his developers would want to unionize, but if they do, management would work on a collective bargaining agreement with them.

Before making his point about unions in the games industry specifically, Zelnick offered a higher-level view of why he believes unions exist in the first place.

"Unions tend to develop when labor relations are not typically non-existent," Zelnick said. "And typically unions have been most beneficial when there were more workers than there were jobs. And where the jobs were low-paying jobs. We have fewer workers than we have jobs, and they're high-paying jobs."

"Right now, Take-Two has 500 open positions. There are 220,000 or so people employed in the US video game business. They make about $100,000 on average, maybe more. It's hard to imagine what would motivate that crew to unionize," Zelnick added. "But we're a compliant company and will serve the law. If our colleagues want to engage in collective bargaining, then we will."

Unions are common in other popular media industries such as TV and film, but the video game business is largely unionized. Unionization efforts in the video game industry appear to be ramping up of late, with groups like Game Workers Unite appearing at recent industry events like E3 and the Game Developers Conference to spread the message.

The practice of "crunch," or working overly long hours to finish a development milestone in gaming, is often connected to unionization efforts and measures to improve the work-life balance of developers. Recently, GameSpot spoke with the developers of Ubisoft's The Division 2, and they told us what is being done to minimize crunch and promote a healthy work-life balance.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 28 comments about this story
28 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for xenomorphalien
XenomorphAlien

Maybe they don't treat their employees as bad as the others, but regardless I wouldn't listen to a dude who probably uses $100 bills to wipe his ass on his golden bejeweled toilet as he smokes a blunt made of more rolled up bills while forcing his employees to slave away all day to mental limits and find any way to cheat them out of basic working conditions and rights to save some costs.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

This guy is the definition of a sleazy fat cat. Will do anything to continue his ability to make the most money possible for himself, pay the least amount of money to his employees, and extract as much unpaid work from them as possible, working conditions be damned.

Avatar image for jagdedge124
jagdedge124

Rockstar is probably THE case to be made for unions lol. Not to mention, despite working their workers to the point of insanity, the Online is STILL completely broken.

Avatar image for Xristophoros
Xristophoros

developers make $100k on average? yea right lol

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Xristophoros: On average they probably do. The higher level designer/producer and so on positions make well over 200k, raising the average.

Avatar image for NorseLax09
NorseLax09

@Xristophoros: They probably do... however $100k in silicon valley or other tech focused regions is practically starvation wages.

Avatar image for ThePlantain
ThePlantain

@NorseLax09: Maybe not starvation but with the cost of living in those areas, it's not much.

Avatar image for 93ChevyNut
93ChevyNut

Eddie, please please please proofread your stuff:

"Unions are common in other popular media industries such as TV and film, but the video game business is largely unionized."

I'm assuming you meant non-unionized.

Avatar image for zabieru
Zabieru

@93ChevyNut: Hey you want to know how I know what I say is true? Well the way I confirm it?

You didn't even notice how quickly your brain is influenced. You read my response to you, the RIGHT AFTER made ^^^^ this comment and you used a very similar line of text "please please please" that I used.

People who can be easily influenced by mundain shit like that are funny.

Anywho to RESPOND to your comment my point about caucasoids was that they voted for Trump and obviously most of the electoral colleges are white and have an instilled institutionalized racist and bigot mentality that they spread like parasites.

They even got Mexicans and Cubans believing they are equal LOL just so they can "win". When in reality every original people from the west side of the world map are living in shambles along with the slaves that were brought here.

It's sad to me how I can corrilate these things and feel it's "easy" and "normal" to notice them. I wasn't always like this my guy, likeI realized the truth.

Oh what a tangled web YOU weave.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

He completely disregarded that unions also exist to ensure decent working conditions. And that includes not working 60 hours per week. But I guess that's what you get if you pick a "well paid job".

Avatar image for sweet_jcs
sweet_jcs

@Atzenkiller: Well IATSE doesn't get us less than 60hrs/week, that's minimum for film, but it would make sure you are properly compensated for your time.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@sweet_jcs: Yeah, obviously. No one would work that much without getting compensated properly. But high wages ensure that not only those who are really into it join, but also those who are just looking for a well paid job, no matter what it is.

Avatar image for amaneuvering
amaneuvering

"They make about $100,000 on average, maybe more."

What a crock of complete and utter bull****.

I was on £18k as a f'n level designer at Rockstar North or titles like GTA IV/V--don't even try to pretend the average wage at the company or whatever game company is at or above $100,000!

What disingenuous pish!

Avatar image for gagula94
gagula94

@amaneuvering: 18k per year or month? Cause he is referring to a yearly pay and 18k yearly would be really low for the dev.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@gagula94: Yeah there's no way a salaried dev makes that little. $50k is starting wages.

Avatar image for xxmavr1kxx
xxmavr1kxx

@gagula94: Yea, thats like 8.65/ hour if it were converted to a 40 hr work week x 52 weeks a year. That doesnt seem right at all.

Avatar image for sbargovox3
SbargoVox3

Hah, I'd say relations are non-existent when management coerces the workforce to take 100-hour work weeks with threats of being fired, while they themselves clock off at lunch to get ready to go out partying at a strip joint, eh Rockstar?

Unionize now.

Avatar image for The_Bones
The_Bones

What a twit. A CEO that can only think from the perspective of a CEO.

Avatar image for Heazie
Heazie

@The_Bones:

He's right.

Avatar image for gagula94
gagula94

@Heazie: He is not. Sure devs may be payed plenty but if you are coerced into working 80+ hours every week for months, or you are fired if you don't do it, then no matter how much they pay you it will not be worth it. Your mental health would be ruined.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@gagula94: It sounds like their main issue is that there are too few game developers out there. Which I actually find hard to believe. But the fewer people there are in a field, the more they get paid. And the fewer people you have to work on projects that require hundreds of them, the more those people will have to work to make up for the lack of workers. And if there were more workers then obviously their income would go down again, so ultimately things always balance themselves out. Just gotta wait until everyone becomes a game developer and no one can find a job anymore. That's how it always works.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Atzenkiller: It's the opposite. There's too many game devs out there, which is why they can get away with mistreating the employees. The average game dev lasts 5 years or less in the industry. FIVE YEARS! Then they're replaced by some new guy fresh out of college who is so excited to work on video games and will work for whatever money and whatever hours. Resist the mistreatment? You're gone and quickly replaced.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@Thanatos2k: So the gaming industry is not looking for people with experience? Why did Zelnick mention that there's more demand than there are people and that his company has 500 open spots? $100k per year on average sounds like complete bullshit though.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Atzenkiller: Of course they're looking for people with experience. Problem is they can't find them, because they all quit the industry due to terrible working conditions. So they keep filling it up with the endless stream of naive NCGs. They'd rather have a team of cheap inexperienced people working 100 hours a week than experienced people who only work 45.

For Zelnick the holy land is getting experienced people to work 100 hours a week instead.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@Thanatos2k: So why is this not a widely known issue and why do guys like Zelnick get to keep making statements that paint a very different picture? If conditions really are that bad, why have those folks not gone on strikes and formed unions yet? I mean if you've been to college or university or whatever and then spent a few years working in the industry and then just drop out, that seems like a pretty big issue to me.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Atzenkiller: This IS a widely known issue.

https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/318588/The_great_video_game_exodus.php

Zelnick is a sleazy liar who benefits from the current system. Why would you ever take his word on any of this?

The game industry has very carefully busted any attempts at unionization over the years. And traditionally, STEM careers are not something that most people consider in need of worker protection. Video games is the unique exception.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@Thanatos2k: I see. Thanks for the info.

Avatar image for gagula94
gagula94

@Atzenkiller: Not really if anything that would be even worse. That would make game companies not think twice about crunch time. You are paying devs cheap and there are plenty who want work, so work the ones you have to death and when they start complaining fire them and get the new fresh batch.