After Lab Zero Games collapsed earlier this year due to a wave of controversy and inaction surrounding Mike “Mike Z” Zaimont’s inappropriate behavior toward multiple members of the community and a former co-worker, some of the ex-developers have formed a new studio.
Future Club is made up of the former Lab Zero team and is a worker-owned studio that splits the power among its employees to avoid a similar situation to what happened at their former workplace.
Future Club CEO and producer Francesca Esquenazi wants to ensure that everyone who works for the studio has a say in what happens with the company and the direction things move.
“We wanted to make sure that we could lay all the groundwork we need at the beginning,” Esquenazi told VICE Games. “So that even though we’re starting fresh, we also we’re starting on a really good foot, to help potentially avoid a lot of the issues that we ran into before.”
The team is still working on all of the details for running the new studio as a “co-op” business, but Esquenazi says she feels “pretty confident that it’s really the best choice for our team.”
There are still several questions surrounding the Lab Zero situation, including what will actually happen to the studio now that it’s just Mike Z involved since he doesn’t own the IP for either Skullgirls or Indivisible.
Autumn Games and the Skullgirls Mobile developer Hidden Variable Studios both publicly backed the developers leaving Lab Zero and cut ties with Mike Z and Lab Zero last month. That joint statement also said there were already plans to continue developing Skullgirls with the help of some of the former devs, so it’s possible that Future Club could end up working on their former projects at the new studio.
But the studio also plans to focus on creating its own projects and IPs in this new environment.
“We’re so grateful to our fans for supporting us over the years. We love making games and want to keep making them with each other,” creative director Mariel Kinuko Cartwright said. “We’re excited to get the chance to develop our own IPs, and we can’t wait to get back to work designing games. Come hang out with us at the Future Club.”
Moving forward, the team will continue to develop projects while working out exactly how to function as a co-op developer.
“We’re a team of a lot of talented individuals, but we’re greater than the sum of our parts,” Esquenazi told Kotaku. “That’s part of why we’re taking this step. We all have value. Us working together collaboratively in a balanced way will make us a stronger team and allow us to make better products.”