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Let’s study a case of a unique game studio where everyone has equal say. French studio Motion Twin, the developer of the Castlevania-inspired roguelike Dead Cells has chosen a rather surprising approach to deal with things: the studios’ employees own and manage the company with no boss. The team describes itself as an “anarcho-syndical workers cooperative.” 11 workers there are, in theory, equal, with the same pay.
“We actually just use a super basic formula: if a project finds success, people are basically paid more in bonuses, and everyone is paid the absolute same way,” states Motion Twin game designer Sébastien Bénard. “The devs and the artists are paid the same amount of money, and people like me who have been here for 17 years are paid the same amount as people who were recruited last year.”
Does the idea work? The studio has been in business for two decades with the most recent game Dead Cells selling more than 700,000 units on PC before leaving early access.
Motion Twin’s pay and ownership system, Bénard pointed out, constitutes “a direct challenge, not just to the exploitative practices you see at a lot of other companies, but also to tired old world corporate structures in general.”
Bénard states that the studio’s biggest challenge is “to accept that sometimes, you’ll be right and your proposals will be chosen, and sometimes, your well-intentioned super revolutionary idea will be thrown away by the team. That’s the way it works, and everyone has to accept that the resulting decisions were made by people who understood your point of view, but decided to scrap it anyway.”
Well, there are still other challenges. The team faces the crunch, for example, but everybody tries to avoid it most of the time not to leave people broken and exhausted, with the members doing little to no work after the crunch. The team uses a strict time-tracking system: if developers work late one day, they can leave early on another. “But that should always be an exceptional situation,” pointed out Bénard. “Years of experience told us it’s much more important to have people working together, at the same time, in the same place, than people working at home, or late at night alone in the office.”