Ori developers accuse Moon Studios' founders of creating 'oppressive' workplace, bullying

Ori And The Will Of The Wisps Review Pics
Ori And The Will Of The Wisps Review Pics (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Moon Studios is the team behind the legendary Ori platforming series of video games, both of which launched to critical acclaim.
  • According to a new report from GamesBeat, the culture of Moon Studios may not reflect the contents of its games.
  • Current and former developers have accused Moon Studios' founders, Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol, of building a toxic work environment.
  • Allegations describe the founders frequently making inappropriate comments, refusing to provide positive feedback or encouragement, and more.

Moon Studios is well-known, especially among platforming fans, for the creation of the wonderful and gorgeous Ori series, currently comprised of two critically-acclaimed titles. While both games are renowned for their tranquil atmospheres and haunting stories, a new report suggests the internal culture of Moon Studios is altogether different, fostering an environment of toxicity and harassment.

The incredibly extensive report comes from GamesBeat, and collates interviews with many former and current Moon Studios developers discussing what is described as an "oppressive" workplace, with allegations centering around the co-founders, Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol.

Moon Studios, known for being almost entirely remote, apparently fosters an "anti-corporate" culture, which translates to Mahler and Korol making numerous, casual inappropriate comments and jokes regarding racism, sexism, and more; providing unclear or confusing direction while rarely providing positive feedback; and otherwise using the "open and honest" channels for communication to abuse and harass.

There are currently no lawsuits in place against Moon Studios or the founders, but the company reportedly suffers from an extremely high turnover rate. Former developers summarized their experiences as being mentally wearing, with one claiming the culture was "death by a thousand cuts." Mahler and Korol apparently use the allure of the studio's prestigious games and the promise of large bonuses to rapidly hire new talent to replace developers leaving the company, with new hires being unaware of the culture into which they're walking.

Both Moon Studios founders provided an official response to GamesBeat's reporting:

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 currently has two published games under its belt, with Ori and the Will of the Wisps winning a plethora of awards and astounding critics and players. Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps have close ties to the Xbox platform, both of which easily counting among the best Xbox games for platforming fans. The grim report detailing current and former developers' tales indicate Moon Studios' culture does not mirror the quality of its excellent games.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer primarily focused on covering the latest news, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life, and have been with Windows Central and its sister sites since 2019. While originally brought on to write about all things Minecraft, Zachary has since expanded to write about practically everything that Windows Central covers. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.

13 Comments
  • Wow, and I thought Microsoft was the problem?
  • Also, wow to all the people that always turn these into a "woke" issue. You do realize that people get worked up on both sides right? I see a whole lot of snowflaking on all kinds of issues.
  • Wow it's amazing how boring life has become people want to complain about every little thing. I'm not saying harassment is okay but saying that their feelings were hurt because their bosses didn't say they did a great job all the time is ridiculous.
  • Umm did you read the whole article and not just cherry pick one thing?
  • He apparently did not read it at all. Also, failed to read in quote, the company's response. "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." When a company issues that in their response statement, they knew the cat is out of the bag.
  • Not necessarily.
    That is standard boilerplate PR these days.
    Meaningless.
    Meaningful acknowledgement might be firing somebody.
    And even that might be just a gesture. Scapegoating.
    Talk is cheap.
  • Feeling entirely unappreciated and as if your company doesn't care about you or your work is terrible on its own, but that's only one small piece of this situation.
  • I read the original article. The man has very little control over his company. Everyone is self-entitled directors that tells the CEO what to do. And everyone is a self-righteous ethics expert telling the CEO what jokes are incorporated to share around. For example, the CEO wanted to make a story about rape victim and on a vengeance path. Typically, this kind of woke gimmick can easily sell as some elevated deep story exploring how the victim struggling to establish trust and suffer depression and etc.. But, ironically, the CEO was labeled as being toxic and the team spent a month harassing him to change, which they successfully did. Who is oppressing over who? I am not so sure.
  • "The man has very little control over his company." Stronk leederz GOOD. Smash da woke! Putin's a genius! "a story about rape victim and on a vengeance path ... woke gimmick" It's an action movie trope from the 70's. The 70's! "Who is oppressing over who? I am not so sure." Poor baby. I bet you're feeling oppressed!
  • Your comments does seems kind of odd. You are sure your are okay?
  • Too bad they haven't been integrated into the Xbox family. Lately Xbox seems to have their studios focus more on a great developer workplace and a culture without crunch rather than rushing out games. Then again, it's hard to make a studio and it's members become completely politically correct overnight. Not everyone gets into video game development expecting to act like they are on TV. The Ori games are amazing, so this is a sad article to read. I hope their team doesn't fall apart over a conflict of course personalities and sensitive ones.
  • Then why did almost half The Initiative team leave?
  • That upper management is blind to individual contributors is not unique to Moon Studios. And if that is the extent to this issue, then there is nothing to this story. Just yet another top-heavy corporate body that will bleed talent until they can no longer compete and upper management is replaced with someone who actually understands how leadership actually works.