A new report on The Lord of the Rings: Gollum developer Daedalic Entertainment has made a number of troubling allegations against the company, including allegedly enforcing unpaid overtime, allegedly attempting to pay employees below minimum wage, and a toxic work environment caused by a suspected abusive person is given leadership.
“The Lord of the Rings: Gollum” is one of the biggest video game flops of 2023. IGN’s review, which gave it a 4/10, said it was “full of boring stealth, poor platforming and a pointless story and does little to justify this. “Why should anyone take the time to play it?”
After its disastrous release, which saw it panned by critics and gamers and record low sales, Daedalic Entertainment shut down its internal development department and canceled a follow-up game to The Lord of the Rings, codenamed It’s Magic. This led to layoffs of a total of 25 employees.
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 after speaking to 32 people who worked on the game. “There was an atmosphere of fear,” said an anonymous source. IGN has reached out to both Daedalic and Nacon for comment, but it’s worth noting that statements of denial were made about the second game and were shown in the video.
Game two reveals that the production budget for Gollum was around 15 million euros, or $15.9 million. That was an incredibly low amount for a supposed triple-A Lord of the Rings video game and contributed to many of its flaws.
The report also details a series of cuts and makeshift systems made before the game’s release, and claims that publisher Nacon used the AI tool ChatGPT to write the apology statement issued after Gollum’s failings became known. According to Game Two, this apology was made without Daedalic’s knowledge. Note the misspelling of “The Lord of the Rings: Gollum” in the following explanation:
A few words from The Lord of the Rings: Gollum™ team pic.twitter.com/adPamy5EjO
— The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (@GollumGame) May 26, 2023
IGN sources support the Game Two report, describing Daedalic’s low pay, crisis and toxic work culture as an open secret within the German video game industry. In Game Two, Daedalic is accused of exploiting young employees and interns not only for low wages but also for lack of experience in the industry, a claim also supported by IGN sources. In the video, Daedalic denies that it currently employs interns.
Wesley is the UK news editor for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @wyp100. You can reach Wesley at firstname.lastname@example.org or confidentially at email@example.com.