A recent report indicates that Dark Souls and Elden Ring developer FromSoftware has a remarkably high level of Employee satisfaction. This is despite claims that FromSoftware employees face excessive overtime and low pay at the Japanese game studio.
Founded as a business software developer in 1986, FromSoftware released its first game eight years later, in 1994. The studio then developed a sizable number of games, including the King’s Field series of first-person RPGs and the long-running Armored Core series of third-person mech shooters. Today, however, FromSoftware is best known as the developer of Souls-like games, including the Dark Souls series itself, Bloodborne, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and most recently, the open-world action RPG Elden Ring.
Crunch culture is a well-documented problem in the games industry. FromSoftware’s home country of Japan also has a reputation for its toxic “karoshi” work culture and its sometimes fatal consequences. Thus, outside observers were primed to assume the worst when negative employee reviews of FromSoftwhere began circulating on Twitter. However, a recent report from GamesIndustry.biz indicates that the situation might not be as bad as it initially appeared. Contributor Geoffrey Bunting reached out to several members of FromSoftware’s staff, who spoke of some crunch and relatively low pay, but overall high employee satisfaction.
Current and former FromSoftware employees are contractually prevented from giving interviews, so all sources spoke under the condition of anonymity. Most interviewees described some level of crunch, though the amount seemed to vary from one department to another, with one source noting that their experience was not as extreme as in other industries. FromSoftware advertises flexible hours built around a core schedule of 11 am to 5 pm, and most staff don’t stay past 9 pm.
Pay seems to be a bit more contentious, however. Overtime is “included in the salary,” and employees are entitled to additional half-pay overtime after midnight. The latter is somewhat unusual, as most Japanese firms increase wages after midnight. FromSoftware employees typically take home the equivalent of about $25,000 a year. That is significantly less than the roughly $38,000 employees earn at the similarly-sized Atlas. The cost of living in Tokyo is also quite high relative to other parts of Japan, and many FromSoftware employees feel that the company’s pay is inadequate.
Despite the comments of many staff members, employee morale seems high. Even staff members who were critical of the pay and hours described spoke positively of the expertise and the satisfaction of working on AAA games with a group of passionate co-workers. One even compared the process of struggle and satisfaction to the experience of defeating a boss in Dark Souls. The cynically minded might suspect FromSoftware is taking advantage of its workers’ passion, but that didn’t seem to be a view held by the staff members themselves.