Crytek CEO on Refusing to Pay Employees, Calling Them “Impatient”
Crytek has been in a slump as of late, with reports of unpaid wages, selling off the Homefront IP, numerous departures of veteran staff members and even the resignation of Crytek USA head David Adams along with his own studio team. Eurogamer's extensive interview with Cevat Yerli, Crytek's founder and CEO, addresses many of the major issues that has plagued his company over the past few months.
Just a few weeks ago, Crytek sold its Homefront IP to Deep Silver due to financial woes hitting the company. This sale included all previously made content for Homefront: The Revolution along the team that was working on it. Crytek is based in Frankfurt, Germany but owns studios in Kiev, Budapest, Sofia, Seoul, Shanghai, Austin and Istanbul. Over the past few months, many veteran developers and employees have been walking out of their positions at Crytek (including its Frankfurt HQ) due to numerous delayed and unpaid wages. This included Crytek UK's managing director Karl Hilton and Hasit Zala, the director of Homefront: The Revolution. After Homefront's IP was sold, Crytek UK closed its doors permanently. Just a few days ago, Crytek USA CEO David Adams resigned along with his core staff of developers to form an indie studio, Gunfire Games. Many of the leftover employees who remained at Crytek USA have been laid off.
When asked about why Crytek's staff went unpaid for so long, Yerli said the following:
You have two choices, right? Either you delay payments - again delay... it's not that they didn't get paid, they got delayed - delay payments and salvage the company. Or, you push your cash flow directly to the studios and you file for insolvency. Both options are really bad. So you have to make the better of the two bad decisions.
However, like we had promised to everybody - and we said the company is not at a big risk, not a danger, it just needs more time to salvage it and that's what we did. Now, everybody got paid plus inconvenience payments additionally to that, like we promised everybody.
Some people were very impatient and got angry at the smallest delay. Also, there was a critique of us not being proactive in communication, which we don't understand, because we had been frequently in the UK as well as every other studio, talking about potentially rough times. And we had even shared with people how they should maybe work with different banks at a personal level to prepare. Or, if not, they could make a choice to resign and look for other jobs.
But our priority was to not downsize the company. Our priority was to not let anybody lose their jobs at that point. Because if a company gets into a difficult situation and you know the outcome is going to be bad, you have the choice to downsize everything. But we haven't done that because we wanted to keep everybody tied together as a team.
I was surprised and upset a little bit that the intention of us keeping together everybody upset a few of them. But I understand that situation. Some people live in very tight financial planning. That's their own privacy. They can do whatever they want. Those guys, when they get under pressure it can become emotional. We tried to individually help out. Like if somebody gets in trouble they can talk to us directly so they don't get under pressure. We tried whatever we could do. But you can't make it right for everybody.
"Some people live in very tight financial planning. That's their own privacy. They can do whatever they want." sounds very much like "we know you have a family to feed and bills to pay, but that's too bad," which is a slap in the face to those who need to be paid regularly and consistently. The head of Crytek, of all people, should know the struggles of financial plight.
The Crytek CEO also mentioned an original plan to bring back Timesplitters, but due to numerous setbacks, it had to be scrapped. When asked about the development of Crysis 4, Yerli had no comment. Also cancelled was the potential sequel to the Xbox One's Ryse: Son of Rome. Mind you, in an interview with Polygon, David Adams mentioned that his team at Crytek was "always under-budget and over-delivering."
Nevertheless, it's basic managerial skills and a bottom level of empathy needed to realize your employees do not like working for free. Yerli mentioned to Eurogamer that there was a lack of communication between studios, so people were not getting paid without even being informed as to why. Yet, Yerli still complained that his employees were being impatient? It's devoted game developers that helped Yerli and his family (his brothers co-founded Crytek with him) become successful in the first place, but he calls them impatient because they had their own families to provide for.
Lastly, Yerli mentioned a mysterious financial backer that has cemented the survival of his company, which will likely be announced at a later date. We sure hope this financial backer isn't impatient, Crysis games tend to take a long while to make.