The CEO Of Rockstar Games’ Parent Company Speaks Out On The Subject of Unions and Working Conditions

The CEO Of Rockstar Games’ Parent Company Speaks Out On The Subject of Unions and Working Conditions
Credit: Rockstar Games via YouTube

In a controversial comment last October, Dan Houser, Rockstar Games co-founder, spoke about several 100-hour work weeks in 2018. His comments came in the wake of development for Red Dead Redemption 2. Over the last decade, video games have become increasingly labor intensive — a challenge for companies hoping to create comfortable work conditions.

Yesterday, CEO Strauss Zelnick of Take-Two Interactive gave an interview to Take-Two is the parent company for Rockstar Games. In the interview, Zelnick addressed concerns with work conditions, development, and unionization. Zelnick said he had a hard time imagining why developers would unionize.

Rockstar, best known for producing the Red Dead and Grand Theft Auto series, has a history of working-condition concerns. After Houser’s comments caused an uproar, he later clarified his remarks. In a later statement, he said not all of the developers had worked 100-hour weeks — only a small group, the senior writing team.

Houser’s remarks about Rockstar are not a first for the company. In 2010, employees’ spouses criticized Rockstar’s management for long work hours.

After the incident, Variety Magazine reported Rockstar Lincoln held a meeting to inform employees overtime work is “not mandatory.”

In (what was perhaps) a bid to stem further controversy, Rockstar Lincoln’s management informed their employees they did not need to work overtime. Employees could let managers know when they couldn’t or didn’t want to work requested extra hours. Before this, some employees thought working overtime felt mandatory because it was expected of them.

During Zelnick’s interview, the Take-Two CEO said it was difficult to imagine why Rockstar employees would want to unionize. But, he added, if the employees did seek to form a union, the company would follow the law and “engage in collective bargaining.”

Zelnick didn’t see what point unionization would have for Rockstar Games’ employees. “Typically unions have been most beneficial when there were more workers than jobs. And where the jobs were low-paying jobs,” he said.

“Take-Two has 500 open positions,” he said. “They make about $100,000 on average, maybe more… It’s hard to imagine what would motivate that crew to unionize.” If Zelnick provided any comment on working conditions at Rockstar, did not quote him.

Rockstar’s latest project was Red Dead Online, which still receives regular substantive updates. Take-Two is also the parent company of Gearbox Software, which is currently developing Borderlands 3. Borderlands 3 is available September 19, 2019.