Skip to main content

Starfield, The Elder Scrolls Online devs are voting to unionize

Over 300 quality assurance testers at Microsoft-owned ZeniMax Media have begun to vote on whether or not they should form a union, according to a report by The New York Times.

ZeniMax Media is the parent company of developers like Bethesda Game Studios and Arkane Studios, who are working on some of Xbox’s biggest upcoming first-party exclusives like Starfield and Redfall. Specifically, Axios’ Stephen Totilo confirmed that the following studios are part of this union vote:

  1. Bethesda Softworks
  2. Bethesda Game Studios Rockville
  3. Bethesda Game Studios Dallas
  4. Bethesda Game Studios Austin
  5. ZeniMax Online Stduios
  6. iD Softwre
  7. Arkane Austin

These unionization efforts come as studios that are part of Activision Blizzard, which Microsoft is currently in the process of acquiring, are also unionizing.

The New York Times report says that quality assurance employees are signing union authorization cards or voting for or against the union electronically as part of “an informal agreement in which Microsoft is staying neutral.” The workers are organized with the help of the Communications Workers of America, and the process is expected to conclude by the end of December.

CODE-CWA's booth appears at GDC.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Developers who worked on games like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls Online spoke to The New York Times ans cited low pay, crunch, arbitrary methods of training and promotion, and more as reasons to unionize. “The recent organizing efforts of ZeniMax employees, and Microsoft and ZeniMax’s neutrality toward this, are an example of our labor principles in action. We remain committed to providing employees with an opportunity to freely and fairly make choices about their workplace representation,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Digital Trends.

Throughout 2022, unionizing has become a major trend in the North American video game industry as developers, namely game testers who work long hours for low pay, fight to improve their poor working conditions. Raven Software and Blizzard Albany QA employees have previously voted to unionize. If all these unionizing efforts and the Activision Blizzard acquisition are successful, Microsoft will be the first gaming platform holding with multiple unionized game studios.

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
This Miyazaki-inspired survival game lets you heal the environment
Person flying on green glider toward floating island in cloudy sky

Aloft gets its name from its floating archipelago, where you (and up to eight friends) are the only people left in an otherwise abandoned world. Like BitCraft, which I previewed during this year's  Game Developers Conference, it focuses on an interactive environment where players have to give in order to get. However, Aloft adds to the world-building with "healing," which will rebuild and nurture cursed islands. At Summer Game Fest, I attended a hands-off preview where I spoke with developers about their inspirations and watched them fight evil mushrooms to save the environment.

After 30 minutes, Aloft gave the impression of a survival game with a solid gameplay loop of cleansing hundreds of islands, designing your own home, and discovering new pieces of the world's mysterious history. As players glide between islands, they might find a few with dark auras that indicate infestation. There, they fight against monsters using weapons like axes and bows. Often, the core infestation manifests as a thick root that spawns hostile fungi-inspired enemies. Once players defeat them and rid the island of the cursed root, the dark aura disappears and it becomes lush again.

Read more
Video games are changing, and Summer Game Fest just teased what’s next
Geoff Keighley shows a slide showing the top 10 selling Steam Games of 2024.

When Geoff Keighley takes the stage at an event like The Game Awards, he doesn’t tend to talk about current events. That’s been a point of frustration for some people over the years who have voiced criticism over how the gaming figurehead uses (or misuses) his platform. As Keighley walked on the stage at this year’s Summer Game Fest, expectations that he’d acknowledge the current layoff crisis in the video game industry were low. Then Keighley delivered the show’s biggest surprise in its first minute.

“This has been a tumultuous and difficult year with company layoffs and studio closures which have disappointed all of us. But there’s also something else happening,” Keighley said to open the show before flipping to a slide showing the top 10 bestselling new games on Steam so far in 2024. The list wasn’t filled with blockbusters; it was topped by surprise success stories like Palworld, Balatro, and Manor Lords.

Read more
Battle Aces does for RTS games what Pokémon Unite did for MOBAs
Battle Aces' kraken in the cinematic reveal trailer.

Whether they're a traditional real-time strategy (RTS) game or a full-on competitive multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) title, these kinds of intense strategy games are often a time commitment. Players can spend hours having to strategically think and constantly ensure that they're building and investing toward the right things, fighting with the right character or unit matchups, and more.

I find that pretty exhausting, which is why I tend to avoid the most hardcore games in these genres. In 2021, though, The Pokémon Company got me to fall in love with a MOBA by boiling it down to its basics with Pokémon Unite, and now the same is happening with the traditional RTS in 2021 thanks to Uncapped Games' Battle Aces.

Read more