In August, multiple employees of Skullgirls devloper Lab Zero Games resigned (opens in new tab) from the studio after an internal investigation revealed an alleged pattern of inappropriate behavior from lead designer Mike Zaimont, who had assumed control of the company. Shortly after that, Zaimont laid off (opens in new tab) all remaining employees. Today, some of those former members of the studio announced that they have launched a new operation called Future Club (opens in new tab), "a cooperatively structured independent game studio."
"We wanted to start fresh with a company structure that was worker owned and gave everyone a say in the future of our organization," CEO and producer Francesca Esquenazi said. "Future Club is an employee-owned cooperative game development studio, established with the belief that strong teams are greater than the sum of their parts. We value open, honest communication with peers, partners and players, and take pride in our strength as a team."
The studio currently consists of 15 developers, and while projects haven't been announced yet, the studio said that it is "currently developing new IPs."
"We love classic games and are mega influenced by them, but we picked the name Future Club because we want to think of the future too," senior animator Jonathan Kim said. "We want to make games that inspire kids and adults as much as our old favorites inspired us. 2D hand drawn animation has a long future ahead of it, and we want to see how far we can push the medium. Like the games that influenced us, our goal is to create games that are compelling and beautiful enough to be remembered long after their time."
Future Club is also moving proactively to avoid the kind of trouble that eventually brought Lab Zero down: Along with the co-op structure, it's also establishing conflict resolution systems up front that will enable employees to raise and address issues when they come up.
"When you’re in the early stages of a company like we are or were with Lab Zero, it’s very easy to think, 'Everyone's getting along, we’re all excited about this new venture, there's not going to be problems, we don’t have to worry about it'," creative director Mariel Kinuko Cartwright told Kotaku (opens in new tab).
"But there are going to be problems, and you have to know how to deal with it. I’ve learned it’s too late to figure out your conflict-resolution process when there's already conflict. Figuring it out now while we’re still getting along is really, really important and hopefully we can come up with a plan that can carry us through years of working together."