GWU Newsletter #2

Dear Game Workers,

In this newsletter we’ll be discussing the new Ubisoft announcement, speculative work, and what that could mean for our industry.

Ubisoft’s E3 announcement with HITRECORD

As we’re sure you know, Ubisoft announced a partnership at E3 with HITRECORD that would allow their fans to "create art and music and contribute directly to the game" for Beyond Good and Evil 2.

Pay close attention to this part: "If a contribution you have uploaded to HITRECORD is included in a final asset that HITRECORD delivers to the BGE2 dev team at Ubisoft Montpellier, then you will get fairly paid for your contribution!"

This is called speculative work or spec work, a creative work that is submitted to prospective clients or employers before receiving confirmation of a job or pay.

Why is this bad?

Spec work is an old, underhanded way for companies to get free work out of hopefuls – and in an industry where people are passionate and keen to obtain their dream job, it can be especially heinous.

The video game industry is known for the churn, with large companies using employees up until they leave or break. Spec work is but one facet of a much larger issue: free work for no pay.

You can see this type of behaviour even outside of purely creative jobs, like public relations or community management. Potential employers will present you with a problem, listen to how you would handle it, and then not hire you – but still use your idea.

For more information on what spec work is and why it can be very detrimental to just about any industry, check out No!Spec.

Wait, but what is HITRECORD?

HITRECORD is a company run by Joseph Gordon-Levitt that touts itself as a “community-sourced production company” that has paid over 2.75 million to artists since 2010.

According to Addweek, it currently has 650,000 creators in 193 different companies and is working with several major companies. For a quick and dirty payout breakdown, that’s a little over 4 dollars and 23 cents per collaborator for the entire 8 years. $4.23.

[This is not directly representative of how people are paid – as it has been stated that some people have received as little as $.92 and as high as $1,376 per project.]

Projects can take weeks or months, meaning you would need several projects to choose your work, find you worthy of a high percentage, and to pay you regularly to get you the equivalent of a decent wage.

Are they at least transparent about pay?

They claim to be, despite there being huge disparity between pay amounts – not to mention the nebulous assigning of percentages to contributors. Here’s the BGE2 breakdown posted on Ubisoft’s own blog:
  • HITRECORD delivers finished music and visual assets to Ubisoft Montpellier
  • HITRECORD team reviews all final pieces and accounts for every contribution and artist
  • HITRECORD makes an assessment of how much each artist should get.
  • The assessment will be posted publicly.
  • If you’re included in the Profit Proposal, you’ll be emailed and notified on the site.
  • After proposals are posted, there will be a 2 week window for community to provide feedback on every proposal.
  • HITRECORD reviews and addresses concerns raised.
  • Based on concerns, they may make changes or adjustments.
  • After the two weeks are up, HITRECORD will make final decisions and the Final Profits will be posted and money is paid out through Hyperwallet.
  • Everyone included in Final Profits will be e-mailed and notified on the site, with instructions on how to collect through Hyperwallet.
That’s a whole lot of reviewing – and then leaving it up to the public whether or not your wage for the project will change.

Pro players – we need your help!

Our survey completion rates are:
  • Game Developer: 135 responses
  • Game Journalist: 9 responses
  • Game PR/Marketing: 10 responses
  • Game Streamer/Video Creator: 20 responses
  • Professional Player: 2 response
  • Other Game Worker: 13 responses
Game developers are still leading the pack when it comes to responses. Thanks for your help, game developers!

However, we really need to branch out and break into the hard to reach areas of places like streaming, game journalism and professional play. We all need to work together as an industry and not be divided by discipline.

Streamers and Pro Players especially, as you are a new worker not present in most industries.

If you know anyone who is doing streaming or pro play on a regular basis, please encourage them to take the survey!

Join the Discord!

We are congregating and organising together on a secure Discord channel where we can talk about our issues.

If you’re a game worker in Australia and unionising is on your mind, join us! Fill out the application form and you will be emailed an invitation link once it’s been reviewed.

Applications are manually approved by our team to ensure security and prevent harassment.

Bits and Pieces

News from the industry: That’s all for now! Stay tuned for more. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to any other game workers in Australia who may be keen!

We need everybody’s help to make a difference.

About GWU Australia
Game Workers Unite Australia is looking to build a union for game developers in Australia and work in tandem with all branches of Game Workers Unite to bring about effective change in the industry.

We seek reform in wages, diminishing crunch, creating transparency in contracts, workplace safety, and bringing about laws to ensure game workers of all kinds recieve their legal workplace benefits.

We are run exclusively by workers (non-employers), but we actively encourage employers, academics, and others to engage in the community and help support the organization's direct action efforts both materially and through their visibility.

We support students, streamers, pro players, public relations, marketing, ads, sales, designers, writers, programmers, artists, producers, QA, localisers, audio, community management, office support, journalists, and more. If you work in games, you are one of us.