Report: Ori maker Moon Studios "oppressive workplace"

Report: Ori maker Moon Studios "oppressive workplace"

The developer of the Ori series, Moon Studios, has been described as an "oppressive" place to work.

That's according to reporting from VentureBeat, which has spoken to numerous former members of staff at the company who describe it as having a toxic working culture. At the centre of this story are studio founders Thomas Mahler (pictured) and Gennadiy Korol, who are painted as bullies who would regularly demean their staff.

Mahler, in particular, is said to publicly criticise people for their work if it was not to his standards, even going so far as to describe it as the product of "failed abortions." The duo would often also publicly tear down the previous work of members of staff who joined the company.

"I remember there's one meeting where they argued for a full hour," one former member of staff said.

"It was a particular call to get to the bottom of some problems. The whole team was there, just listening. And then eventually, everyone was like, we're tired and you're wasting our time. We are leaving. Nothing got accomplished. It affected everybody's morale."

There are also allegations of offensive jokes, racist, sexist, homophobic and ableist comments, as well as Mahler and Korol often pressuring staff to work long hours, often asking why developers weren't working over the weekend.

In response, Mahler and Korol wrote the following statement:

“We don’t believe the experiences suggested by your questions are representative of the more than 80 Moon Studios team members who are thriving and doing great work every day — nor do we believe they are representative of the experiences of former members of our team. In fact, we are very proud of our history of making people happy, advancing their careers, and contributing to their financial success.

"We built Moon Studios with a simple premise. First, we wanted to create a distributed studio that is not limited by geographic boundaries enabling us to draw the top talent from around the world. Second, we wanted to foster a vibrant culture where our team thrives and delivers the very best work in our industry. And finally, from day one we set out to share the profits and rewards of our efforts with the full team. We believe we have succeeded.

"What makes our team so powerful is our global and cultural diversity — we have team members working from more than 40 different countries across four continents — and a flat studio structure that allows everyone to speak honestly and directly and to challenge and push each other to do our very best work. We purposely set out to create a different kind of studio — one that encourages creativity, open communication, collaboration, and performance.

"The result has been two award-winning games — with more on the horizon — and a team of professionals who enjoy working together, are excelling and breaking new ground in our industry, while also sharing in the financial success of Moon Studios. If at times we are brutally direct in our critiques and challenges, we are also genuine and vocal in our praise. We are incredibly proud of everything we have built and achieved together.

"Finally, we appreciate the irony that we — an Austrian and an Israeli Jew — started this multicultural enterprise. We view each other as brothers. And, like brothers, we sometimes argue and frequently tease each other. We have made jokes at our own expense about the differences in our backgrounds — and there may have been times that our teasing of each other has come off as insensitive and may have made others feel uncomfortable.

"Moon Studios has prospered for 12 years. We have grown and learned so much over all of these years. We have been privileged to work with many, many great, and extremely talented people. We are truly grateful and proud of our team — those who are here today as well as those who spent time at Moon and have since moved to other ventures – and we are happy to have made a positive difference in their lives. We are not perfect but we deeply care about our talent and are constantly working hard to improve. If we have ever made anyone feel uncomfortable or let anyone down — we regret that and we will always strive to do better.”

Moon Studios is best known for Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.