Houston, we have a problem
[Update: Squad has released a statement, denying all of the allegations below:
Regarding some recent comments made by former team members that caught community and press attention, we want to share the following statement:
In Squad we are very proud of having a very united team, committed to creating a high quality product, improving themselves as professionals, promoting and respecting the opinion of every member of the KSP community.
The comments made by those former team members does not reflect the reality of our company, but in Squad we will keep moving along with our commitment of respecting and listening to all of those who want to make constructive criticism about the company or KSP.
To be honest it’s not the most helpful statement ever, so it’s up to you to decide who you believe now.]
Indie goliath Kerbal Space Program has been doing very well for itself. It came out of nowhere, got over one million sales on Steam alone, has console deals, and even has endorsements from NASA. With success like that, everyone at developer Squad should be really happy, right? Wrong.
Multiple former employees of Squad have come forward to decry the studio’s alleged high amounts of crunch time, regular firings, and incredibly poor pay, leading to the community to question where all the money is actually going.
It started when someone claiming to be former Media Director PDtv took to 4chan and revealed all, saying their NDA had expired (you can see the imgur screenshots in the gallery below, just in case anything ever happens to that link). According to them, four prominent Squad employees were fired once the studio figured out their work could be offloaded to someone else. They also mention the standard salary for Squad employees was $2,400 annually, or just $200 per month.
While at face value it’s difficult to prove that what PDtv is saying is necessarily true and not just a grudge of a former employee, and so should only be taken as rumour, others related to Kerbal Space Program have since come forward and bolstered the story.
On reddit, r4m0n, a prominent modder in the community who has had significant amounts of contact with Squad, listed multiple problems at the company, including long crunch hours, poor pay, rushed releases to fit the marketing department’s whims, and poor communication between the studio and its community moderators. Meanwhile, former developer NovaSilisko said that, for the 10-11 months they were there as an intern, they were paid a grand total of $2,700, after fees.
Other former staff, such as former Community Manager Anthony “Damion Rayne” Keeton and Game & Server Developer Rob “N3XI5” Nelson, have decided to remain more tight-lipped on the issue, citing currently active NDAs preventing them from being able to talk.
It’s worth pointing out that Squad is based in Mexico, where the minimum wage is $100 per month. While the claims suggest Squad is offering double that is great for those based in Mexico, the studio also hires a lot of international staff, of which they still expect a full 40-hour work week.
$2,400 annually might be reasonable in Mexico, where the cost of living is lower, but it definitely isn’t reasonable to expect developers elsewhere to commit full-time to a project when they could be paid that amount, and more, each month elsewhere.
So if staff are earning $2,400 annually, where are the rest of the funds for this massively successful game going? According to a Polygon feature from 2014 (before the game was finished, and before console versions were announced), Squad co-founder Adrian Goya was planning to form a new record label, and another co-founder, Ezequiel Ayarza, was hoping to have Squad produce a film he had written.
It’s not currently known if either of these projects are still in the pipeline, or whether attention has turned solely to Kerbal, but it’s still an interesting look at how the owners viewed Kerbal when many of these ex-employees worked there.
We have contacted Squad for comment on this issue, and will update if we receive a response.