Just like any other form of entertainment, the gaming industry has its fair share of controversies. Most of the time, the biggest issues will arise from the games themselves. A title might contain explicit content or deal with sensitive themes and ideas. However, now and then, the actual developers themselves can be the ones in the crossfire.
Although video game developers rarely make the news, studios can prove to be incredibly controversial. There are many gaming companies that have made headlines and been criticized for the way they do business. The developers included below have all been involved in controversies in some form or another. A few of them are likely to continue to be contentious in the future.
Konami has gone from being one of the most revered gaming companies to one of the most hated. The studio is responsible for a string of high-profile titles but has proven controversial due to a number of missteps in recent years. Most gamers will cite the ill-treatment of Hideo Kojima and his development team as a major reason. Konami effectively forced Kojima out of the company and carried out a series of nasty acts against him seemingly out of spite. The company then announced that it would be concentrating on mobile games for the foreseeable future. Of course, this alienated quite a lot of longtime fans.
EA is arguably one of the most hated publishers and developers in the world of gaming. This is despite the fact that they regularly release many of the most successful and popular games on the market. In fact, customers have voted EA the Worst Company in the U.S. several times.
There are a lot of controversial practices that have landed EA in hot water over the years. For some, it is the acquisition and subsequent closing of other developers. Others cite a perceived lack of innovation in the company’s games. Of course, some people also object to things like loot boxes that have become commonplace in EA’s games.
In any case, EA’s poor consumer practices combined with a lack of regard for their own talent makes them a truly controversial gaming company. Unfortunately, EA will have a lot to do to fix their terrible reputation and will undoubtedly still draw criticism for some time to come.
Riot Games is the developer responsible for the 2009 game League of Legends. For almost a decade, the studio didn’t attract all that much attention. Instead, the focus was on its hugely successful first title. But that all changed in 2018 when a report emerged on Kotaku about sexual abuse and misconduct at the company. According to several former and current employees, female employees were harshly treated and discriminated against. Some even accused the studio of misgendering LGBTQ+ workers. Lawsuits and suspensions followed but the developer has still not completely addressed the issue.
It might seem strange to include such a lauded developer on a list like this. Lionhead Studios released such acclaimed games as Black & White and Fable. Yet, the company was never far away from some kind of controversy. A lot of this criticism came about because of founder Peter Molyneux and his string of broken promises. The British designer would often make outlandish claims that his team simply could not deliver on. This was a constant source of displeasure for fans, who had their hopes wrongly built up for every release. A series of poor titles and a never-ending stream of delays meant Lionhead lost its luster in the final years. It ultimately folded in 2016.
Although Ubisoft has faced criticism in the past, they have not been involved in too many controversies. But the 2014 game Assassin’s Creed Unity caused something of an uproar due to its buggy launch. Meanwhile, the developer has also come under fire for creating games that are too similar in nature.
However, over the last months, the gaming company has faced more serious accusations. Several reports have suggested that there is a systemic culture of sexual abuse and racism. Several high-profile executives have already been fired or voluntarily left Ubisoft, while the publisher has started internal inquiries.
Destructive Creations is the video game developer behind the hugely controversial game Hatred. That title was released in 2015 for PC and looked to some to have been created specifically to cause as much uproar as possible. The first announcement trailer appalled many of those who saw due to the graphic violence. Featuring a mass murderer who wants to kill as many people as possible, it was also just a bad game. But that didn’t stop Destructive Creations from criticizing reviewers and pundits for the negative scores. The subsequent titles from the same developer also failed to make any positive impact.
Rockstar is one of the biggest names in the gaming industry. Yet, despite the incredible success the company has had, it has always been controversial. Much of the criticism against Rockstar comes from the fact they develop mature games. The studio designs franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, and Max Payne for adults. They often contain darker themes and graphic violence because of this. Of course, there was also the famous Hot Coffee nudity mod for the 2004 game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
But much of the recent controversy has been with the developer’s culture of crunch. Bosses regularly forced employees to work overtime for months at a time. This can involve working nights and weekends over long periods of time. While crunch is widespread in the gaming industry, Rockstar seems to have a particular problem.
Most people will know of Gearbox Software through franchises such as Borderlands. While the developer has a fairly solid reputation in the industry, it has skirted controversy from time to time. The main reason for this is CEO Randy Pitchford.
The boss of the studio has become a well-known personality online. Not only did he get involved in a spat with Twitter users over the use of loot boxes in Borderlands 3, Pitchford also had a public row with Claptrap voice actor David Eddings. The company has also faced accusations of not paying employees properly. Even worse, though, was the criticism of the terrible games Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013) and Duke Nukem Forever (2011).