Marvel Heroes studio Gazillion has fallen eerily silent – here’s what we know about the sexual misconduct allegations and missed updates

Something weird is going on at Gazillion.

On October 20th, the studio delayed its regular Friday Marvel Heroes update summary, promising details on Monday. Almost two weeks later, that update still hasn’t arrived, nor has the Marvel Heroes Twitter account been active, even through Halloween, traditionally a big season for the team – but there was no event at all on PC this year.

What has arrived? At least one key studio community rep leaving – Frank “Fenixion” Sanchez aka PhoenixRed, who announced yesterday he’s “made a decision to move on” – and casual posts from Gaz’s TheDink regarding Thor skins, which have thus far been announced only on the German-language PlayStation blog (update: that’s since been removed, but now it’s on the Dutch blog).

A month ago, the studio first shocked fans by casually announcing a new VR game for consoles and then frustrated PC fans by releasing a console-exclusive patch and continuing to promise to “unify” the three platforms in November. Which, you might notice, is now.

While some Redditors point to license issues or lack of support for the PC version causing financial woes for the company and measurable loss of players on PC specifically, others believe the issue is current CEO Dave Dohrmann, who has been publicly accused by former colleagues of alleged inappropriate conduct toward female employees at the studio over the span of several years.

“I knew about his behavior a couple of years ago, as did the members of the board from that time and other executives in the company, even before they made him CEO,” former Gaz Creative Director Jeff “Doomsaw” Donais wrote two weeks ago. “I could have said something and they certainly had the power to do something about it. I know they feared that Marvel would find out and it would harm the license renewals or the business, but that’s no excuse. I didn’t say very much because I had friends at the company (and still do) and I didn’t want them to lose the Marvel license and have to close the company – but reasons like that are why people get away with it for so long.”

Indeed, some players are now calling for Disney and Marvel’s intervention to remove Dohrmann and repair the studio.

We reached out for a statement from Gazillion this morning and will report back if they provide one.

Source: Official forums. With sincere thanks to Darren.
Update: Gazillion has issued the following statement to Massively OP:

“Gazillion would like to assure everyone that the company is functioning normally. We remain a strong publisher/developer with many talented individuals working hard daily to keep us that way. Yes, we just lost two remote community representatives, but that’s not super abnormal in games. We love them both, wish them all the best in the world and will gladly welcome them back if their next adventure doesn’t work out.

“Regarding allegations related to Gazillion staff, if there were indeed any reported cases of harassment here at Gazillion, they would be handled with the utmost seriousness, respect and confidentiality due the complainant and in accordance with California law and company policy. We have absolutely zero tolerance for harassment.

“It is maybe worth pointing out that all information related to this issue thus far has come from unsubstantiated Internet accusations, which in most cases themselves come from other unsubstantiated accounts found on the Internet.”

We have followed up this statement with a second series of more specific questions.

Update: MOP reader Dexy Moon has also pointed us to a stream during which former Gazillion CEO David Brevik and his wife discuss the accusations about Dohrmann in response to a watcher question. The Breviks don’t really confirm anything specific, suggesting that players should do their own internet research. David Brevik notes that any comments he made would be perceived as sour grapes, that “Weinstein”-like behavior “happens a lot” among rich dudes in the gaming industry who lack boundaries and consequences, and that he’d be concerned about the livelihoods of everyone involved if he commented. Mrs Brevik uses the word “douchebag” and says she has no such compunctions about speaking up; indeed, she tells people to have a look at the public record.

When Brevik suggests there aren’t many problems going on at Gazillion right now, his wife guffaws loudly; both appear to agree that little can be done on the company end if victims don’t come forward, “shitty as it is” when it means a victim’s “entire career is over.” It’s not clear whether they are speaking specifically or generally there, though it came in response to a question about what the community could do for victims at Gazillion.

Update: According to Sanchez, the other employee leaving is AgentVapor.
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67 Comments on "Marvel Heroes studio Gazillion has fallen eerily silent – here’s what we know about the sexual misconduct allegations and missed updates"

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Purewitz
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Purewitz

Disney and Marvel need to distant themselves from this trash company and quick. Gazillion is a sinking, burning ship. I hope the victims get justice against this evil company.

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Bruno Brito

Guys, keep this subject alive. If this stuff is really true, then the worst thing that could happen is the woes of the good workers to fall on deaf ears.

Don’t let the idiot CEO walk freely from this one. Dig, and reveal the truth.

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Raimo Kangasniemi

They are not new to controversy – remember the MMO Jumpgate Evolution that just disappeared after they had made a deal with Codemasters to publish it in EU? That debacle went to be handled by lawyers

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Crowe

If the extent of the reporting was to company HR, then I’d be shocked if they would comment on it. Now if they took complaints outside the company to the police, there would be something firm to report on.

Nick
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Nick

Wonderful article! Thank you for reporting on this. I am a long-time player of MH and have spent quite a bit of money, and my wallet is closed. I have already been disillusioned with how we’ve been lied for at least a year regarding the commitment to PC v. Console. I don’t care if they come out with amazing costumes for Rogue or release Quicksilver as playable – two things I also check in on, there is no way I’d give a penny more to a company headed by Dave Dohrmann.

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Sorenthaz

I figured the game’s just been going quiet because they’ve seemed to just be floundering about and doing nothing for a long while. It’s pretty clear that they didn’t have a big enough team to handle both a console and PC version. Shame too because the game was actually quite fun ~2 years ago. But it seems like once they started losing key members it’s been steadily going downhill.

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thickenergy

It’s almost like the writing is on the wall…

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Kirk Hodges

Well I won’t play until this misconduct is appropriately addressed.

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Joshua Jericho

This whole thing is disheartening.

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Dexy Moon

Here’s an interesting read by an avid forum goer and gamer of MH:

Meat_Axe said:

“Don’t look for the board to help or the CEO to get ousted. I’m one of the ones who’ve done some digging around (got to put my CJ degrees and high-speed internet to use somehow) and asked questions, you want some dirt? Here you go: Dohrmann rep’d one of the investment partners prior to getting appointed CEO. Brevik left, in part because the Board wanted him to work with Dohrmann, who we now know has a very questionable history w/employees (among other things). Brevik refused, so he was shown the door/allowed to resign/etc. Dohrmann’s aka Von Dorman aka Dechow (aliases so far per legal records) situation came to light via a blog from years ago. A search of some available public records give some of that story credibility – like a CJ court record from ’99, his divorce decree and a paternity civil issue (w/another woman who may or may not be the same as the writer of the blog). Wanna know where your online purchases are going players? A rough estimate shows he has legal obligations every month of nearly $4K.

Then you add in the Donais comments. On top of that per insiders, Dohrmann’s not alone. CMO Ivan Sulic was fired by Brevik for similar behavior, when Dohrmann took over he brought Sulic back. Ira Goeddel was a tech artist let go after several complaints of harassment; Mike Robinson of the CS team is a stalker who likes to follow women to their vehicles. There are others. COO Jeff Lind has apparently turned a blind eye to everything and done absolutely nothing which only serves to feed the predatory culture embraced by the CEO and others of his ilk.

Like in other industries, as Donais alluded to, people are afraid to talk because of being blackballed and never being able to work again. If this little company has such an “open secret” about their personnel, think of what some of the big ones could be hiding among their staff that we don’t know about. The rank and file employees deserve better.

After doing some searching on Dohrmann, I’m led to believe that a lot of his activity is borderline criminal at least and he may very well be a serial assaulter in the making (if not already). It should be known that Gazillion isn’t the only board he sits on as well.

I feel for the employees, but I’m not spending money on a company who has a CEO that has a thing for stalking teenage girls and doing who knows what else.

Peace!”

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Bruno Brito

Sigh…This is awful. Here’s to hope the workers do get together to shove these pricks off if this is true. It would be cathartic to say the least.

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Nic

Thank you for your work.

Do careful about the allegations you put there, in case they send you a lawyer letter.

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Armsbend

I has so idea so much confusing drama was going on with such a tiny game.m It all reads very strange.

rockyismydoggo
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rockyismydoggo

“Unsubstantiated” is a strong word when I believe there to be cases filed in a couple of counties in CA…San Mateo and a neighboring county…The author may want to do some research and then ask Gaz some even more specific follow ups on what s/he finds on these public records.

Granted, a criminal indictment or a civil suit is not a criminal conviction, but calling these things “unsubstantiated” is likely disingenuous when they know about these court cases and his legal name change done to possibly try to distance himself from these cases…

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Utakata

…for a moment there I was wondering if Mr. Thanos managed to steal all their Infinity Stones. :(

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Utakata

Edit: Oh…

“…who has been publicly accused by former colleagues of alleged inappropriate conduct toward female employees at the studio over the span of several years.”

…this is much, much worse if this true. /bleh

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NeoWolf

I do not care about their dramas, or staff issues and douchebags abusing their positions to do inappropriate things etc.. those are THEIR issues to resolve as a company.
I am a consumer what I care about is the game, the game I have invested time, energy and a LOT of money in and in that respect a company I once cited numerous times as being the ones doing F2P right is doing ABYSSMALLY.

The PC crowd made this game a success, and we have for ayear been told practically nothing, ignored, given practically nothing new in content or pruchaseables to sink our teeth into. We have seen card drop rates change dramatically (more lockbox like in their poor payout RNG), we have seen the inclusion of the first card ever that had ALL costumes etc..pertaining to latest Marvel movie be ONLY obtainable via the card itself, nothing store bought separately as has ALWAYS been the case before. We have seen events not happen, we have seen excuses, we have seen what amounts to the worst example of customer care for a game in a Long long time.

Masses of the Pc folks have gone and for good reason and still from Gazillion nothing. If there was a Dummys Guide to destroying a game this would be the tutorial.

We also see constant mention of Omega as if that is going to fix everything, and how it will bring everything into line with consoles version etc.. although apparently also actually ADDS lockboxes to the game.

So sad..pretty much all respect and trust I had in them is gone at this point.

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Kirk Hodges

Playing the game endorses their inappropriate behavior.

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NeoWolf

I agree, which is why I don’t anymore, but I do keep track of their forums and log in from time to time in order to see if anything has changed/improved, which thus far it has not. :(

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

those cards you mention are literally lockboxes by a different name btw.

but ye it’s a shit show.

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NeoWolf

yup but until recently they did not have drop rates like Lockboxes..now they do (well the recent ones anyway) and with Omega we will get actual lockboxes (shudder) :(

Such a sad, sorry mess

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BDJ

Just to clarify. Omega isn’t coming. I seriously doubt it. They abandoned the PC playerbase. Its done. I don’t see how they can recover the PC players, Omega or not.

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NeoWolf

You may be right, im only stating what they keep saying i.e Omega is coming.. but as you say the damage done at this point may not be something they can fix. I know they would have to do something pretty spectacular at this point to get me back logging in every day :(

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

idk i got some cards with sue storm introduction pack and i think i bought a couple with leftover currency once or twice. didn’t give me fuck all so i assumed they were just like any other lockbox and never bothered again even with my currency balances.

i probably have a couple bucks worth of currency still in the game lol.

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NeoWolf

You will have had 1 card of several different types (Mk 1-5 etc..). typically speaking you didn’t have much chance of getting anything from one card of a type..
But from my own experience with them they started getting worse with the Agents of Shields card but have gotten much worse since they added the Spider Man Homecoming cards, you didn’t need to open more than 10-20 to get everything worth having in all the cards before that. However after that your lucky if you’ll get a second costume etc..from them in almost ten times that amount.
As I said they are now very much like your typical MMO lockbox now in their l;ikelihood of giving you something worthwhile i.e not at all. :(

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

ugh, this is looking like such a shit show. with while i doubt the license was in question before, i am starting to think maybe it will be if this allegation ends up having legs to it.

some may remember a couple years ago i was praising the fuck out of this company and the game ( i think bree thanked me in a podcast for getting her in to it actually), but far beyond my original gripes abotu th einventory stuff it seems to have gone into the shitter since brevik left the company.

if these allegations are true i wonder if brevik left becuase of that behaviour. i know something when you’re in a leadership position you can have trouble getting rid of someone who is a problem causer in your org and the answer ends up being to walk away yourself instead.

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Sterling

I’m gonna need a new passive-aggressometer after reading that statement. Mine just exploded.

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MeltWithYou

How can you have so much momentum, one person leaves and it just falls apart? I’d like to see Brevik candidly talk about Gaz like he does Blizzard North, but whenever anybody asks him anything about it, he won’t talk about it.

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kody

It’s probably due to some sort of severance agreement he signed with Gazillion.

Dantos
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Dantos

They really needed a system like rifts in diablo or fractals in GW2, something scalable, and some kind of matchmaking to go along with it, to actually encourage grouping. Danger Room was supposed to fill that role I think, but it never really made an impact. Part of the problem was all the hazards for me, you couldnt catch your breath, and with how damage worked in that game, either you were being 1 shot, or you were fine, there was nothing in between.

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Tithian

Yeah, sadly something’s up. A major Marvel movie launched (or launches, this week, depending on where you live) and there was no event, promotion or whatever, as is usually the case.

Also I highly advise you to check the top Twitch clip of the game, it’s probably the most cringe worthy thing you’ve seen, with the CEO openly threatening the Community Manager’s job, who currently is nowhere to be seen. The VOD of the stream itself was deleted, but the clip remains.

Skoryy
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Skoryy

I’ve been thinking of jumping back in and finishing off the storyline with War Machine, but… damn.

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StonerMk2

Still a damn shame whats happened to Gaz over the last couple years. Was a time i spent all my gaming time playing and enjoying Marvel Heroes. Sure wasnt Marvel Ultimate Alliance good, but it wet my thirst for a Marvel RPG, and i spent….way…waaaay too much money buying character packs and whatnots. I pretty much stopped playing after David Brevik stepped down though, saw the direction stuff was going then and after the console launch well..seemed like they just gave up on the PC side of the game.

Dantos
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Dantos

Beyond the harassment allegations, one of the biggest issues, in my mind, is that they horribly misjudged the direction of BUE(aka NGE) went. It felt, frankly, not even half baked, but like cooking spaghetti with the sauce TBD at a later date, maybe, but maybe only for table 3, not 1.

I still defend the removal of power points as a thing, they were stupid after a certain point.

And Ill just say it, too many heroes, all the focus and balancing on newer ones they could sell, while the older ones that everyone had, languished as systems changed and power creep creeped along. There was/is no way they were ever going to keep everyone’s favorites competitive. It became less and less about playing who you liked, and more about playing the current meta.

CapnLan
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CapnLan

Damn. I’ve seen this before.

Anyone remember a little game called Jumpgate Evolution? It was being developed by a company called NetDevil who was eventually bought out by Gazillion. During it’s development things suddenly went silent. Then the website vanished. Obviously the game was cancelled but we never got any word about it. It was just…gone. Those of you who play Marvel Heroes should probably prepare for the worst. I can’t say for sure that things will turn out like they did for JGE (and really hope they don’t) but like I said, I’ve seen this before from Gaz.

Dantos
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Dantos

So much time spent on the JGE forums….

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BalsBigBrother

I am sure that there is more to it but it does seem from the outside that once David Brevik left Gazillion as a company lost focus and have been on a slow death spiral ever since.

I had a lot of fun in Marvel Heroes and don’t begrudge any of the money I spent on it. Still I am a little sad to see it fall in the way it has. Will watch for further news though I rather suspect it wont be good when it arrives :-(

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Dug From The Earth

The game needs to shut down at this point. Its awful, and its still managing to fool many people into opening their wallets.

Painful to say, as I really want there to be more super hero games out there.

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Alex Hyer

They f’d the game as soon as David Brevik stepped out of the dev team.

They absolutely trashed the PC version, and did not care at all.

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Aymiia Darell

The first few years were great. Then when David, and what’s-his-face, and the other what’s-his-face (that was like a community guy that then went on to be more game focus) left (which is about around the time I left, before console hit, I think), that’s when it was looking grim.

Sorry to hear the PC version didn’t get to have a Halloween. Hope they get Christmas, Midtown was a lot of fun the last Christmas I played with Squirrel Girl.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I blame Starro.

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A Dad Supreme

“Something weird is going on at Gazillion.”

Word is, reporters have been going to Gazillion all day for an official explanation, but some cranky old security guard at the door stopped them from going inside…

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Wolfyseyes

….oh no. :c

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mysecretid

Something isn’t right; that’s my feeling as well.

Gazillion used to be one of my favorite developers but, as you say, they’re not what they used to be, and the game has suffered thereby.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i was talking about some old guild drama and marvel heroes came up and someone asked about it. and i told them used to be a great game with a few flaws, but don’t waste your time on it now as they’ve ruined it.

wpDiscuz