French studio Motion Twin is a worker-owned cooperative with no bosses and equal wages.
In an interview with Kotaku, the Dead Cells developer described itself as an “anarcho-syndical workers cooperative.” The studio claims it’s impossible to accurately say that any one of its 11 employees contributes more to the final game than another, and such all are paid equal salaries.
According to game designer Sébastien Bénard, it’s: “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.”
“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,” said Bénard.
“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.”
The team takes votes on major decisions that affect all developers in studio meetings, but many smaller decisions are agreed upon informally. Every member has a say, which requires employees to handle their own “well-intentioned super revolutionary” ideas being turned down sometimes.
For now, Motion Beard has found the structure works best in small teams. While the equal playing field works well at its current scale, it likely wouldn’t fit well with the bloated, hundreds-strong studio sizes of triple-A without considerable effort and innovation.
“Years ago, we did grow a lot, but this wasn’t a great experience,” said Bénard. “We lost much of what made Motion Twin a nice company to work in, many people lost this important motivation and focus that worked for us.
"I think it requires quite a clever structure to go beyond 15 people with a similar equitable design because you’ll need innovative systems to keep everyone involved.”
The flat format seems to be working out well enough for the team - by May of this year, Dead Cells had sold over 730,000 copies since leaving Early Access.