Tanatalus And Straight Right CEO Discusses Tough Times In The Australian Games Industry

We spoke to Tantalus and Straight Right CEO Tom Crago a while back about work on Mass Effect 3, and how he's tried to steer his company in the correct direction in the midst of what was essentially the collapse of the work-for-hire model in Australia. In an interesting interview with Gamasutra, Crago went into more depth on the struggles he, personally, had to go through during that difficult time.

"In the space of a year, a while back, we went from being very profitable to losing a ton of money," he told Gamasutra. "This was a huge affront for me, as every one of my 12 years in this industry I had managed to turn a profit, and I had never had to let one of my developers go because I couldn't afford to pay them."

But, of course, Tantalus did undergo a small amount of redundancies, and Crago discussed the huge responsibility he felt to those he had to let go. He felt that was time to become far more transparent about his business, and integrated that idea into a new profit share programme that financially rewards staff, but also gives workers an insight into how well the company is doing as a whole.

"I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could do things better, from a studio perspective, and I made a lot of changes," he said. "Fundamentally, and I realize this is a little controversial, I came to the conclusion that in an industry as volatile as video games, it's impossible to put your hand on your heart and say to any of your developers that their job is going to be secure for the next five or 10 years."

It's definitely worthwhile heading to Gamasutra to read the whole interview.

Mass Effect 3 Wii U developer faced a tough reality [Gamasutra]


Comments

    Credit to Tom for having the guts to make the hard decisions he felt he needed to make, but the story needs to be challenged with regards to Tantalus undergoing 'a small amount of redundancies.'

    Over the course of the year teams were made redundant as soon as their projects finished.

    The last team was made redundant on the morning of the office party a couple of days before Christmas (nice!) and then staff were rehired under the new company (SR) as independent contractors with lesser conditions. This happened just before new employee statutory entitlements came into effect on 1st January.

    I hope one of the changes Tom mentions is an end to Tantalus' practice of 'hiring' their staff as independent contractors. In my opinion this looks very much like "sham contracting", an illegal practice that the Australian Taxation Office is targeting this year:
    http://www.workplaceinfo.com.au/recruitment/employment-contracts/tax-office-targeting-sham-contracting-lawyer-warns

    If the employees mentioned in the article are genuine employees with all the benefits that status affords under Australian law, then that's great, and best of luck to Tom and Tantalus.

    There’s so much more that was happening in the background. Again in 2011 did the staff get an x-mas break and told not to come back the following year. While Iron monkey, half brick, and many others are making a profit why isn’t straight right following their example?

    also ex Tantalus..
    Didn't Tantalus stop hiring staff while all new hires were made under the new SR company? I would be interested for Tom to have his chance to put his side of the story with regards to the following allegations:
    1. 'the bosses' (Joss and Tom) remain as part of Tantalus while 'the workers' are part of SR.
    2. Contracts with publishers for work are signed with Tantalus rather than SR.
    3. Whether SR is adequately funded to cover its liabilities (particularly with regards to payment of staff) or whether assets are quarantined with Tantalus while liabilities remain with SR. Does SR pay the wages or Tantalus?
    4. Whether people working for SR are adequately covered for workers compensation and OH&S.
    5. Whether staff get credited for work they perform, something which appears not to have happened with the first project SR did.
    6. How the profit sharing works if contracts with publishers are signed under a 'work for hire' model that delivers no royalties.
    7. Whether staff will be made redundant in the week before Christmas this year as appears to have happened for the last two years.

    And that's the Aussie industry in a nutshell. The CEOs go for a swim in their money pool while the rest of us get the sack. Again. I'm sick to the back teeth of these "entrepreneurs" whining about their difficult times and all the clever things they're doing for the industry when the people who actually create the actual frakking product can't support their families.

Join the discussion!