A fresh report on The Lord of the Rings: Gollum developer Daedalic Entertainment has made a number of disturbing allegations about the company, including reportedly enforcing uncompensated overtime, allegedly trying to pay staff below minimum wage, and a toxic work environment cultivated by an alleged abusive leadership.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is one of the biggest video game flops of 2023. IGN’s review, which returned a 4/10, said it was “filled with dull stealth, bad platforming, and a pointless story, and does little to justify why anyone should take the time to play it”.
Following its disastrous release, during which it was panned by critics and players and met with low sales, Daedalic Entertainment shut down its internal development arm and cancelled a follow-up The Lord of the Rings game, codenamed “It’s Magic”. This resulted in layoffs totalling 25 staff.
Now, a 40-minute video from German publication Game Two, titled Why Gollum Had to Fail, alleges significant failings at both Daedalic and publisher Nacon, having spoken with 32 people who worked on the game. “There was an atmosphere of fear,” one anonymous source said. IGN has contacted both Daedalic and Nacon for comment, although it’s worth noting denial statements were issued to Game Two and shown in the video.
Game Two reveals the production budget for Gollum was around 15 million euros, or $15.9 million. This was an incredibly low amount for a supposed triple-A The Lord of the Rings video game, and factored into many of its failings.
The report also details a number of cuts and makeshift systems made to the game ahead of its launch, and alleges publisher Nacon used AI tool ChatGPT to write the apology statement issued after Gollum’s failings became public. According to Game Two, this apology was issued without Daedalic’s knowledge. Note the misspelling of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum in the statement, below:
A few words from the ” The Lord of the Rings: Gollum™ ” team pic.twitter.com/adPamy5EjO
— The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (@GollumGame) May 26, 2023
IGN sources back up the Game Two report, describing Daedalic’s low pay, crunch, and toxic work culture as an open secret within the German video game industry. Game Two alleges Daedalic exploited young employees and interns not just in terms of low pay, but their lack of experience within the industry, a claim also backed up by IGN’s sources. In the video, Daedalic denies currently employing interns.
Wesley is the UK News Editor for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @wyp100. You can reach Wesley at email@example.com or confidentially at firstname.lastname@example.org.