77 people who were previously temporary quality assurance (QA) workers are now joining ZeniMax Media as employees. This comes as welcome good news at the end of a tough year for video game developers. ZeniMax Media is a video game holding company owned by Microsoft. ZeniMax owns Bethesda, among other studios.
MobileSyrup’s Bradly Shankar reflected on the last year in gaming and rounded up some of the biggest news. The long and the short of it is: some of the best-selling, generation-defining games came out this year, but the people behind those games have been left behind.
As of October 2023, the games industry had lost 6,000 jobs. EA cut 800 jobs early in the year and then in late summer BioWare, owned by EA, eliminated another 50. Volition, the studio behind Saints Row, shut down entirely. Despite cutting more than 100 employees in April, Amazon cut more jobs from its gaming division just last month.
We are THRILLED our contract workers have joined ZWU-CWA! As our union gets bigger, our voices get louder! https://t.co/a57eMan34m
— ZeniMax Workers United – CWA (@ZeniMaxWorkers) December 8, 2023
It’s hard to blame anyone, then, for taking a little good news where they can get it. 300 QA workers at ZeniMax Media formed a union that was recognized by Microsoft at the beginning of this year. The bargaining talks have been going on since April, and these new employees have been brought on as a part of those efforts.
“The use of contractors is common in the video game industry,” the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees said on X (formerly Twitter), “and they often earn lower wages, have fewer benefits, and face less job stability than the direct employees they work alongside. By recognizing the workers as members of the union, ZeniMax and Microsoft management are setting a new standard for workers across the video game industry.”
23 of the 77 new employees will be full-time and get a 22.2 percent pay increase. The other 54 will also have a pay increase, from $18 USD (around $24.45 CAD) to $20.75 USD (around $28.20 CAD). All 77 will also get paid holidays and sick leave. They will be officially hired once the collective bargaining agreement is ratified.
These employees worked on Starfield, which received great reviews, was the best-selling game in Canada for September 2023, and helped Microsoft break the record for the most Game Pass subscribers in a single day.
All 77 new employees will receive a free copy of Starfield as a bonus when they’re hired. The CWA did notice that this is not standard practice. However, I can say it feels more than fair.
Image credit: Bethesda