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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