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 for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.