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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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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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.

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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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Alfredo Garcia

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 [name removed] was fired by Brevik for similar behavior, when Dohrmann took over he brought [him] back. [Name removed] was a tech artist let go after several complaints of harassment; [name removed] of the CS team is a stalker who likes to follow women to their vehicles. There are others. COO [name removed] 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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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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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.