Elden Ring is one of the biggest video game success stories of 2022, but now its developer, FromSoftware, is making headlines due to rumors of crunch and low pay at its development studio.
FromSoftware’s latest title earned widespread critical acclaim, and its quality has been reflected in the sales charts as well. The game broke into the mainstream in a big way, having one of the biggest game launches on YouTube ever.
Unfortunately, like so many wildly successful AAA video game titles, it didn’t take long for conversations of crunch, long overtime hours, and low salaries to surround developer FromSoftware.
The discourse began in March, shortly after Elden Ring’s release. First spotted by The Gamer, it turns out that a handful of FromSoftware employees were turning to a Japanese job board called Career Connection to discuss poor working conditions and low pay.
For context, Career Connection is essentially a Japanese version of Glassdoor, where current or former employees can leave reviews of their employer to inform potential future applicants about working conditions at a company.
The reviews of FromSoftware left on Career Connection range from 2012 to 2019, with FromSoftware’s employee satisfaction rating sitting at 2.6 out of 5 stars. Employee reviews cite low compensation for the workload, 40 months of overtime per month, no maternity leave, and more.
Now, months after folks started to notice the reviews of poor conditions at FromSoftware, GamesIndustry.biz has revealed more stories from FromSoftware employees about what it’s like to work at the Elden Ring developer. According to the report, multiple sources said there is in fact “some level of crunching” at FromSoftware.
The extent of the crunch at the studio seems to vary from department to department. One of GamesIndustry.biz’s sources said they have barely had to work any overtime.
Another said, “During critical periods of game releases, I often had to work early mornings and overtime for two to three months.”
One source claimed that overtime wages are only half of their usual hourly rate, which differs from most Japanese companies where hourly wages usually increase in the late hours.
FromSoftware employees also spoke about low pay at the studio. One source said their “salary is not adequate,” and added that their coworkers felt the same. According to the data on Career Connection, the average annual income for a FromSoftware employee is 3.41 million yen, which comes out to just under $25,000 USD.
It is worth noting that the yen is very weak to the dollar right now, so that direct conversion from Yen to USD may not be entirely representative of the employee compensation. However, FromSoftware operates in Tokyo, where the cost of living is higher than most other places in Japan.
Even with some negative accounts, other FromSoftware employees said working at the studio has been a great experience. One employee even likened it to FromSoftware’s own Dark Souls, saying, “There’s a lot of struggle to get things right, but if you get over the hump it is very satisfying. It’s just like you defeated a boss in Dark Souls.”
Elden Ring publisher Bandai Namco announced a pay raise for all its employees following the success of Elden Ring, so we’ll have to see if FromSoftware follows suit by raising pay for the developers behind the game.
Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over six years of experience in the gaming industry with bylines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine, and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.