Just last year, QA contractors working on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf voted unanimously to become Canada’s first-ever video game industry union. Now, sadly, the Keyword Studios employees working on the RPG have all been laid off after developer BioWare decided not to renew their contract.
Keyword Studio’s QA staff were initially contracted to assist with playtesting on the fourth mainline Dragon Age RPG. All 16 employees then voted “yes” in favour of unionising last summer, making history as Canada’s first video game-related union. The group cited low pay and instructions to go back to work in the Edmonton-based office as reasons for their action.
Speaking to Polygon, a UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union) representative confirmed that all 13 QA workers who were assisting BioWare lost their jobs in late September. Keyword’s head of marketing, Liz Corless, then said the terminations were due to “the end of a fixed term client contract.”
A now-former QA tester from Keywords Studios, James Russworm, also told Polygon that the union have filed an “employment standards complaint” against the studio, as they seek out a better severance package. That echoes the action taken by a group of laid-off BioWare workers who are suing their ex-employer for “adequate severance,” although the two issues are only linked via Dragon Age: Dreadwolf.
BioWare’s recent behind-the-scenes have also been bumpy. The storied studio recently laid off around 50 employees, which included senior developers who had been around since the early Baldur’s Gating days. Then, as mentioned above, seven of those former employees filed a lawsuit to fight for a better severance package. Here’s hoping the staff affected at both studios lands on their feet.