FROM Software current and former staff respond to claims of excessive overtime and low pay

Bartski

Gold Member
Gamedev.biz speak to annonymous FROM Soft staff - high team morale despite relatively shit pay and poor compensations for overtime, crunch only around key milestones.


This time period was echoed by another source who noted that while "it's not as if [crunch] happens on a daily basis," it's more common "during the ROM check for the publisher or two to three months before release."
How is this overtime compensated? According to one source, overtime is "generally included in the salary." After midnight, however, "we were paid late-night overtime but that was half of our usual hourly rate."
This is unusual in Japanese companies, where "hourly wages are often increased" after midnight.
Salary Explorer reports the monthly average salary in Japanese game development ranges from ¥231,000 ($1,675) to ¥735,000 ($5,328). By comparison, recent roles advertised at From Software all start "from ¥220,000 ($1,595)" per month.
It's worth taking into context that monthly rent in Tokyo averages around ¥203,730 ($1,477) for a single bed apartment while the cost of living hovers around ¥138,984 ($1,008). These no doubt factor in to staff dissatisfaction with salaries.
However, although there is talk of crunch and low salaries, there also appears to be a lot of employee satisfaction at From Software. Multiple sources gave positive accounts of their experience at From Software, despite their own criticisms.
One suggested the long hours are a bit like playing Dark Souls. "It's kind of tense in a way," they say. "There's a lot of struggle to get things right, but if you get over the hump it is very satisfying. It's just like you defeated a boss in Dark Souls."
Others were more pointed in their praise. "It's been a great experience," one said. "Not only because you can work on an AAA title, but also because you can work with co-workers that are so talented and passionate about creating a video game."
 

Abriael_GN

RSI Employee of the Year
Not surprising to see a bunch of ignorance about Japan spread by this particular outlet. The average rent in a city like Tokyo is absolutely irrelevant as there's extremely pricey property due to how widespread residential highrise is which throws the average completely off. You can *easily* find a good apartment for $700 a month. Even less now with the weak yen. if you're ok with commuting from nearby cities like Chiba or Saitama (which is very widespread), you can go much lower.

Despite what the ignorant who only have traveled there as tourists at best believe, Tokyo is *not* an exceptionally expensive city. Quite the opposite. The one thing that tends to add up is public transportation due to how the various train lines by different operators connect, but most companies will actually pay for your commute.
 
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skit_data

Member
Remember reading about this stuff earlier this year.
As they get more recognized in the industry it will be harder to get away with stuff like this, but since they’re a Japanese studio there will be fewer outcries from journalists compared to american/european studios is my bet.
 
Japans work culture is notoriously toxic and it's almost culturally accepted to give an excessive amount to the job regardless of it's impact on your health both physical and mental. Hopefully that mindset continues to change globally cause the same people exploiting us regardless of nationality. Worker rights are human rights and I hope we continue to move towards improving that around the world.
 

TheInfamousKira

Reseterror Resettler
Japanese people are...

*checks Era*

Xenophobic, toxically traditional, and sexually objectifying towards women in an effort to appeal to a completely tone deaf Western Market of incels and misogynists. Furthermore...

*checks again*

Wait, no, Asians count as white people, unless they're Chinese, then the recent wave of Asian racism definitely gives them POC status, but the Japanese people are crunching, which means that the Evil white people (previously established as Japanese) are oppressing their employees, who, thanks to an excess of oppression points, are considered people of color because they make shit wages, so maybe it's the rich I hate?

Fuck it, somehow this is Texas' fault.
 

OCASM

Member
Japans work culture is notoriously toxic and it's almost culturally accepted to give an excessive amount to the job regardless of it's impact on your health both physical and mental. Hopefully that mindset continues to change globally cause the same people exploiting us regardless of nationality. Worker rights are human rights and I hope we continue to move towards improving that around the world.
Crunch is not a secret. If people seek and hold those jobs it's because they want to.
 

SlimeGooGoo

Party Gooper
So what? Japanese loves to work!

Shigeru Miyamoto and Yuji Naka once said they worked up to midnight. That is common in Japan.

Anime is also made from the delicious sweat and tears of hard-working weaboos.
 
The wage for starting salaries in game development are low because of the amount of people who want to be part of the industry. It is the same for any desirable job.
Having said that, I get paid significantly more than a programmer working at FROM soft, based on these figures, and my work life balance is fairly OK. If you want to work in Japan, you have to accept Japan does not pay well. Cost of living is not cheap either. Japanese people are generally careful with money, and this is why Japanese companies have got away with paying lower wages.
Most foreigners have issues with their wages in Japan because they can't adapt to the Japanese way of life.

Just to add to this. Wages in Japan are usually connected to age and experience, not skill. So, someone at 50 can be useless and be paid significantly more than a 28-year-old whiz kid. Skill seems to be second to experience, which is one of my only issues with Japan.
 
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mdkirby

Member
Japans work culture is notoriously toxic and it's almost culturally accepted to give an excessive amount to the job regardless of it's impact on your health both physical and mental. Hopefully that mindset continues to change globally cause the same people exploiting us regardless of nationality. Worker rights are human rights and I hope we continue to move towards improving that around the world.
Yah, I mean this definitely isn’t how people sleeping in the streets look where I am 🤣

https://www.vice.com/amp/en/article...ans-office-workers-during-their-60-hour-weeks

Which whilst an improvement to homeless people being everywhere, is a pretty clear indicator that perhaps an unhealthy work life balance is much too common.
 

Fbh

Member
These people work in proximity to our lord and savior Miyazaki, they should be the ones paying for the honor.

But more seriously though, taking the info in this article at face value I do think they should at least pay an average salary. I get they once made more niche games but their past few titles have been multi million sellers and Elden Ring just took it to the next level.
 

Kataploom

Member
Working for those companies isn't a need either, yet people choose to be employed by them.
"B... but... but it's my DREAM job!!" seems to be the perfect "excuse" (how does that count, btw?) some use.

I mean, yeah, a company shouldn't be exploiting their employees or at least should just leave the option in exchange for bigger compensation (some will thank that to hell and back), but it's true that many people prefer to overstay on some companies they're not happy with just because they don't know how to say "no".

Japan is a bit more complex tho, they have a very toxic work culture, you're expected to stay all your live in a company to the point leaving a company or being fired is a found with a lot of criticism (or so I've been told), for which finding a new job other than low barrier entry jobs (konbini, construction, etc.) get much harder... I'd actually go as far as saying that work culture there literally harms free market and liberal economy...
 
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OCASM

Member
"B... but... but it's my DREAM job!!" seems to be the perfect "excuse" (how does that count, btw?) some use.
If those people can't help themselves it's on them.

I mean, yeah, a company shouldn't be exploiting their employees or at least should just leave the option in exchange for bigger compensation (some will thank that to hell and back), but it's true that many people prefer to overstay on some companies they're not happy with just because they don't know how to say "no".

Japan is a bit more complex tho, they have a very toxic work culture, you're expected to stay all your live in a company to the point leaving a company or being fired is a found with a lot of criticism (or so I've been told), for which finding a new job other than low barrier entry jobs (konbini, construction, etc.) get much harder... I'd actually go as far as saying that work culture there literally harms free market and liberal economy...
Japan is indeed a special case but even then it's mostly their fault for not wanting to take risks and make their own companies.
 

RoadHazard

Gold Member
FromSoft is the Dark Souls of game studios.

No, but being an employee in Japan always sounds like an absolute nightmare, every single time anything about it comes up. Extremely hierarchical, work all the time, compulsory overtime (which they in this case earn LESS for than their regular hours - wtf?), etc.

I know a lot of Americans will be all like "suck it up and do your job, if you don't like it you can leave". But no, that work culture is absolutely toxic, nothing to be proud of. I'm happy to live in a country where employees are respected and have rights (and the right to a life outside work).
 
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Mr Hyde

Gold Member
I would love to work at From Software for shit pay. Imagine being part of creating Elden Ring. That's such a huge feather in your cap you're literally going to wanna suck your own dick before bedtime for being so proud of your achievement.
 
Working for those companies isn't a need either, yet people choose to be employed by them.
Yea kind of. Almost every game company crunched until very recently and if you wanted to get into game design it was seen as the norm. Then you have people like yourself who blame the individual not the billion dollar entity basically pushing the “nothing wrong with hoe we do things just don’t work here.” Silly mindset.
 
I would love to work at From Software for shit pay. Imagine being part of creating Elden Ring. That's such a huge feather in your cap you're literally going to wanna suck your own dick before bedtime for being so proud of your achievement.

Hyde won over Jekyll in this post.

I joke, I get what you're saying.
 

OCASM

Member
Yea kind of. Almost every game company crunched until very recently and if you wanted to get into game design it was seen as the norm. Then you have people like yourself who blame the individual not the billion dollar entity basically pushing the “nothing wrong with hoe we do things just don’t work here.” Silly mindset.
People have agency even if they don't want to admit it.
 

Rickyiez

Member
 

LiquidMetal14

hide your water-based mammals
Japanese people are...

*checks Era*

Xenophobic, toxically traditional, and sexually objectifying towards women in an effort to appeal to a completely tone deaf Western Market of incels and misogynists. Furthermore...

*checks again*

Wait, no, Asians count as white people, unless they're Chinese, then the recent wave of Asian racism definitely gives them POC status, but the Japanese people are crunching, which means that the Evil white people (previously established as Japanese) are oppressing their employees, who, thanks to an excess of oppression points, are considered people of color because they make shit wages, so maybe it's the rich I hate?

Fuck it, somehow this is Texas' fault.
 
Not surprising to see a bunch of ignorance about Japan spread by this particular outlet. The average rent in a city like Tokyo is absolutely irrelevant as there's extremely pricey property due to how widespread residential highrise is which throws the average completely off. You can *easily* find a good apartment for $700 a month. Even less now with the weak yen. if you're ok with commuting from nearby cities like Chiba or Saitama (which is very widespread), you can go much lower.

Despite what the ignorant who only have traveled there as tourists at best believe, Tokyo is *not* an exceptionally expensive city. Quite the opposite. The one thing that tends to add up is public transportation due to how the various train lines by different operators connect, but most companies will actually pay for your commute.

Yeah Id say only rent per m2 is expensive if you compare it to other countries. Otherwise I've been there 30+ times and food and other necessities are normal priced. It would help for a metro pass but I guess most people get those anyway with their empoloyer.
 

peronmls

Member
Eh. They'll be fine. They can just leave. That's what I've been told in life at least. In the end we are all replaceable.
 

Katajx

Member
I’m not going to applaud uncomfortable working conditions, but some of my favorite games wind up being made in Japan.

They are progressing at their own rate, and I think they do what works for them and it’s not for us to police or judge them when we don’t know their culture.

Wages and making games in the west is more expensive on whole especially considering where the studios operate out of. I’d say the majority of our AAA games in the US are based in some high cost of living areas.

I don’t think that is good for gaming.
 
Yeah Id say only rent per m2 is expensive if you compare it to other countries. Otherwise I've been there 30+ times and food and other necessities are normal priced. It would help for a metro pass but I guess most people get those anyway with their empoloyer.
The rent in Tokyo is insanely cheap compared to peer cities. As is eating out. Tokyo being expensive is a holdover from the 80s that just won’t die.

The metro pass offers the lamest discount. It’s just not worth it.
 

Griffon

Member
Eh. They'll be fine. They can just leave. That's what I've been told in life at least. In the end we are all replaceable.
Not as replaceable as you would think.

Video games is an industry that requires highly qualified individuals.
Japanese FROM employees don't have the balls to ask for better pays, but if they did FROM would have no choice to do it or settle for worse quality work.
 
They are creating extremely successful hit games in a short amount of time they deserve higher pay. If you like Fromsoft games you should want the people making them to be treated better. Miyazaki isn’t making these things by himself

You know when people at Atlus are being paid substantially better, that something is wrong.
 
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Clear

Member
Trying to dig dirt on companies in other countries smacks of cultural imperialism to me.

Its a just kinda rude really; as if your average person commenting on this has a clue about Japanese culture and what is considered to be expected working practices in that society.
 
Trying to dig dirt on companies in other countries smacks of cultural imperialism to me.

Its a just kinda rude really; as if your average person commenting on this has a clue about Japanese culture and what is considered to be expected working practices in that society.
True.

To be fair, the citizens of other countries seem only too happy to transpose American cultural values into themselves.

Most western countries are basically American cultural outposts at this point.
 
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mrmeh

Member
As an aside... when I was working 8am to 9-10pm every day for a few weeks my code was much worse, spent allot of my time fixing errors. Not the best way to work.
 
9 years working as game dev in japan and only time i saw that low salary was for early graduates (19-22 years old) and as designer.

the rent is kinda... wait do u want to live in a small room in ginza? or bigger apartment outside dense areas?

but its true, 100k p/year is not common as other countries, i would say 60k-90k is pretty common.

Bonus is 2 times a year (June 30 and December 10), and normal is Month Salary X 3 / 2. so if u make 4k monthly, it would be 6k June / 6k December. Some companies pay more, other less.
 
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supernova8

Member
This time period was echoed by another source who noted that while "it's not as if [crunch] happens on a daily basis," it's more common "during the ROM check for the publisher or two to three months before release."
How is this overtime compensated? According to one source, overtime is "generally included in the salary." After midnight, however, "we were paid late-night overtime but that was half of our usual hourly rate."
This is unusual in Japanese companies, where "hourly wages are often increased" after midnight.
(Source: I live and work in Japan, no not an English teacher)
Yes in Japan, it's quite common for a certain amount of overtime to be "included" in your salary. It's generally called みなし残業 (minashi zangyo), and it means that (generally, not all contracts are the same of course), for instance, if you're paid a certain amount (baked into your salary) for 30 hours of standard overtime, you won't get any extra overtime pay unless you go over those 30 hours and/or you work unsociable hours (for my company that's anything past 10pm or weekdays/national holidays) if that's written into your contract.

If they are only getting paid half-time after midnight then most likely they saw what contract they were getting into and knowingly agreed to it. So... tough shit.

Also, more generally, it's less common in Japanese companies to see someone clocking off bang on the dot of their specified end of shift unless they are just doing some sort of low paid, menial admin task sort of job.
Salary Explorer reports the monthly average salary in Japanese game development ranges from ¥231,000 ($1,675) to ¥735,000 ($5,328). By comparison, recent roles advertised at From Software all start "from ¥220,000 ($1,595)" per month.
It's worth taking into context that monthly rent in Tokyo averages around ¥203,730 ($1,477) for a single bed apartment while the cost of living hovers around ¥138,984 ($1,008). These no doubt factor in to staff dissatisfaction with salaries.
So I've lived in central-ish Tokyo in a nice single bed apartment (studio apartment that is), which gave me a 30minute-ish commute from Tokyo station, and my rent was a smidge over ¥100,000.
I've lived in a tiny apartment (like really small) in a nice suburban area even closer for about ¥85,000.
I currently live in a really nice, brand new luxury two bedroom apartment with my girlfriend (about an hour out from Tokyo by train) and we pay ¥170,000.
I personally don't know anyone who pays ¥200,000 for a single bed apartment. That would be pretty damn luxury or it would be right in the center of Tokyo, which of course is a lifestyle choice.

On the salaries:

It advertises a new graduate salary at ¥260,000, including various benefits like housing allowance (rent subsidy) which is not amazing but not out of the ordinary. Graduate salaries typically suck across the board unless you go into something the legal or finance industry.

On top of that, it says the company pays two bonuses per year (seemingly 1 months' salary worth each based on glassdoor-esque reviews but hard to tell) and it even says they pay an extra bonus at the end of the fiscal year depending on the overall company's performance (it mentions paying between 2 and 4 months' worth but I'll count it as one month since it's likely highly variable).

Back of a napkin salary calculation

1) So if we take that ¥260,000, multiply by 12 we get ¥3,120,000
2) Get that number and then add three months' worth of salary (¥1,040,000) we get ¥3,900,000
This is actually ever so slightly below the average in 2021 (about ¥4,030,000m according to recruitment firm Doda).
Also I'm saying the average for all working people, not just for graduates. The average starting graduate salary is almost definitely lower.
---------
So yeah I don't really see the issue. If someone joins From Software knowing the salary is shit then either they did it because:
1) they really want to work at that company
2) they weren't attractive enough as a candidate to negotiate a higher salary or find a better offer elsewhere

Also such a salary is enough to live comfortably in/close to Tokyo as long as you're not expecting Ritz-Carlton level accommodation in the center of Tokyo overlooking the imperial palace. Pretty simple.
 

supernova8

Member
They are creating extremely successful hit games in a short amount of time they deserve higher pay. If you like Fromsoft games you should want the people making them to be treated better. Miyazaki isn’t making these things by himself

You know when people at Atlus are being paid substantially better, that something is wrong.

I could be wrong and over-generalizing but when I used to work at a software development company (in sales not technical), my impression was that most of the heavy lifting was done by around 5% of the engineering team and the rest were sort of cannon fodder/bums on seats doing (relatively speaking) simple coding work. The cannon fodder engineers would inevitably get stuck on something and one or more of the aforementioned 5% would swoop in and put out the proverbial fire before the project got too far off track.

I suspect that the real heavy-lifters are getting paid a lot more than the available numbers suggest (otherwise they are either ignorant or just love making Souls games that much).
 
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