Vodeo Games, the indie company whose workers in 2021 began the first certified union at a video game studio in North America, is shutting down.
The Beast Breaker studio broke the news on Wednesday on Twitter, saying that lack of funding for an upcoming project was to blame. “The story is unfortunately a familiar one for small studios,” the company said in the statement. “Despite a year of avid efforts, we’ve been unable to secure funding for our next project from publishers and investors. As such, we’ve run out of funds and aren’t able to keep the team together — and there is simply no Vodeo without our incredible team.”
According to Vodeo Games, the company will wrap up operations by releasing Beast Breaker on digital distributor Steam. “We hope that it will bring our creation to many new players, and continue to support our team even as we all go our separate ways.”
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, which represents workers in telecommunications, healthcare and law enforcement, among other sectors, made its debut in the video game industry in Dec. 2021 by securing voluntary recognition for a union at Vodeo Games. The union, even though it was at a small studio, marked an important step forward for CWA’s CODE initiative, launched in 2020 to organize workers in video games, tech and digital industries.
The 10-person unit covered both staffers and independent contractors and was in the process of negotiating its first contract when the company decided to close its doors, Vodeo Workers United tweeted on Wednesday. “Despite the sad news, we learned a lot & will continue fighting for workers’ representation moving forward by helping others & sharing our knowledge. We want to thank the folks at @CODE_CWA for helping us throughout this adventure. We highly encourage you to reach out to them,” the group tweeted. According to CWA, the unionized workers have been laid off as a result of the company shutdown. (The Hollywood Reporter reached out to Vodeo Games for comment.)
Since the CWA dipped its toes into the video-game space at Vodeo Games in 2021, the union has ramped up its efforts this year, announcing organizing campaigns at Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software, Blizzard Albany and the indie studio Tender Claws. The Tender Claws union was voluntarily recognized and the Raven Software union won their National Labor Relations Board union election; Blizzard Albany workers haven’t yet participated in a union vote.