Love Island game developer lays off staff amid company turmoil

Just weeks after complaints of "problematic content".

Fusebox, developer of the popular Love Island mobile game, has laid off staff shortly after complaints surfaced regarding "problematic" in-game content.

Word of potential layoffs was originally picked up last month by GamesIndustry.biz, with at least nine of 61 employees thought to be affected - primarily narrative writers and designers.

Now, a report by The Independent has shed new light on the situation - with "dozens" of staff said to have been placed at risk of losing their jobs, just weeks after concerns were raised regarding various in-game storylines.

Specifically, the concerns relate to another Fusebox game, Matchmaker: Puzzles and Stories, where staff flagged content written by a third-party to Fusebox bosses.

In one conversation, a character admits to lying about a bisexual encounter to make themselves "sound more interesting". In another scenario, a male NPC forces the female player character to kiss them after he takes hold of her drink.

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Image credit: Fusebox/Independent.

Staff were told these elements would be removed, but they were still included in an international version of the game. Dozens of Fusebox staff then signed an open letter of complaint, which led to a meeting with Fusebox chief operating officer Paul Virapen. The meeting reportedly did not go well, and sparked four further complaints to Fusebox's HR team.

Fusebox's website states it writes "inclusive stories that reflect the diversity of our players", and in the past the developer has been praised by fans for including discussions around issues of consent and healthy relationships in its work. But staff now say Fusebox's treatment of their concerns makes this claim seem "performative".

In a statement of its own, Fusebox blamed its round of layoffs on a restructuring of the company, designed to focus on "a more agile co-development approach" which relied on further content written by third-parties in the future.

"[Our] games reflect the stories that are often shared in the reality shows that we work with," Fusebox wrote, "and as such, delivering content enjoyed by players of the game, and fans of the show alike."

The Love Island game's new season of content was originally due alongside the show's most recent TV series (which has now just concluded), when the app would see a spike in engagement and earn the most revenue. Fusebox now says its new season of in-game content will be released towards the end of the year.

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Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips

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Tom is Eurogamer's news editor. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and makes sure we put the accent on Pokémon.

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