Report: Quarter of staff laid off at Disco Elysium maker ZA/UM

Report: Quarter of staff laid off at Disco Elysium maker ZA/UM

The developer of Disco Elysium, ZA/UM, has reportedly laid off around a quarter of its staff.

That's according to GLHF, which reports that around 24 employees might be made redundant in the near future. This comes alongside news that a new project at ZA/UM, codenamed X7, has been cancelled. That title was apparently a standalone expansion for Disco Elysium.

The job cuts are going to impact not only the X7 team, but also other projects at the studio and non-development staff. ZA/UM president said that X7 was going to take another year or two to develop and would have taken "more time and effort than Disco Elysium did".

Subsequently, the two writers at ZA/UM who co-created X7 – Dora Klindžić and Argo Tuulik – have gone on the record and spoken to GLHF. They name exec Tõnis Haavel as helping to foster a toxic culture at the studio; Tuulik says he knows of numerous women leaving their jobs and saying Haavel was the reason why.

The fact that the exec has previously been found guilty of financial crimes has done little for his reputation at ZA/UM. In 2022, Disco Elysium's original writing team – which had been ousted from the studio – accused Haavel and CEO Ilmar Kompus of illegally gaining control of the company.

“The fish starts rotting from the head, not the tail or the midsection," Tuulik said.

"Don't get angry at the junior producer, mid-level lead, senior artist, community manager etc. They didn't know, were kept in the dark. It's not their fault. It was their love for Disco, not dystopian totalitarianism, that brought them here. It's their worst nightmare too.

“It's the people on top – the motherf*****s in sailing shoes and bowties – that f****d Harry, f****d Kim, f****d Robert, Rostov, Helen, Olga, Cash, f****d Elysium, f****d you and me too. They are not artists, they are professional f*****s."

Klindžić added: “I've seen good work done at ZA/UM. I've also seen management and production staff terrorizing creatives, lying, playing power games, turning people against each other, destroying relationships and people's self-esteem. For this, there have been no repercussions.”

Update - 16/2: ZA/UM has provided the following statement to  

“As with all studios, we adapt the size of our team to the work underway, growing when we start a new project and shrinking if one is cancelled. It is always hard to lose talented colleagues, and we thank those leaving for their many contributions to ZA/UM.”

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.