Bernie Sanders and Take-Two Take Opposing Views On Video Game Developer Unionization

06/19/2019 - 14:55 | By: Robert Grosso
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Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick opened up with an interview with GameIndustry.Biz's Brendan Sinclair about the studio's challenges, from working with 3rd party studios and new console generations to the importance of E3 for the company.

A small but interesting part of this interview was over the ongoing discussion on unions for game developers, an issue that Take-Two has received some flak over due to the mistreatment of employees at Rockstar Games due to their heavy crunch culture. Issues with Rockstar, along with other major development teams such as BioWare and CD Projekt Red, has led to growing support for a unionized force for developers.

Just this week, the debate went more mainstream as U.S presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called for, via twitter, more game developers to join up with organizations such as Game Workers Unite and the IATSE.

"The video game industry made $43 billion in revenue last year," stated Sanders. "The workers responsible for that profit deserve to collectively bargain as part of a union."


Zelnick is quick to point out that unions may not be necessary in his opinion, although he's willing to consider some options.

"Unions tend to develop when labor relations are not typically non-existent," Zelnick says. "And typically unions have been most beneficial when there were more workers than there were jobs. And where the jobs were low-paying jobs. We have fewer workers than we have jobs, and they're high-paying jobs."

According to Zelnick, there are around 220,000 people employed in the United States working on video games, with an average salary of $100,000, numbers that Zelnick is citing from a 2017 ESA Report on the economic contributions to the gaming industry.

It should be noted that the $100,000 number from the 2017 ESA report is actually $94,000 and this was arrived at by taking the average US developer salary of $83,060, first reported in 2014 in a Game Developer/Gamasutra salary survey, and adding 16.8% to represent 'supplements' such as retirement funds, insurance and employer contributions. There is no official number or breakdown of where that average salary goes, with some developers reportedly being underpaid due to crunch or closure, while others are just below the average at default.

Regardless, the discussion for unions in the gaming world is still ongoing, and Zelnick admits that he would be willing to give developers more of a say in their salaries.

"It's hard to imagine what would motivate that crew to unionize, but we're a compliant company and will serve the law. If our colleagues want to engage in collective bargaining, then we will." Zelnick stated.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Leave your comments below. 

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Staff Writer

A game playing, college teaching scholar who happens to write some articles every so often. Enjoys penning long-form articles that few probably read. Love the art of gaming, preservation, collecting and RPGs. Have worked as a journalist, critic, educator and blogger for over ten years now, with articles published (as user editorials) on Game Revolution and Giant Bomb as well as a contributor for the websites Angry Bananas and Blistered Thumbs. Now making TechRaptor my home.