Another Bethesda studio at Xbox is unionizing

 Starfield Shattered Space array.
An image of Shattered Space, an expansion coming to Bethesda Game Studios' Starfield. | Credit: Bethesda Softworks

What you need to know

  • Bethesda Game Studios Montreal is one of the four offices making up Bethesda Game Studios, the Xbox developer under ZeniMax Media that's behind games like Starfield.

  • Bethesda Game Studios Montreal shared that the team is filing for unionization with the Quebec Labour Board, with the intent of joining the broader CWA Union collective.

  • Bethesda Game Studios Montreal says it is unionizing in order to "ensure job security as well as improve transparency, accountability, flexibility" and more.

  • Several teams under Xbox have already unionized, including U.S.-based ZeniMax quality assurance employees and Activision Central Quality Assurance.

Unionization continues to spread across the Xbox organization.

The latest team to begin unionizing is Bethesda Game Studios Montreal, one of the four offices that make up the iconic developer behind games and franchises like Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and Starfield. Bethesda Game Studios Montreal is unionizing with CWA Canada as One BGS MTL, and has filed with the Quebec Labor Board. The team is currently awaiting approval from the board.

"As a union, we will strive to make BGS a supportive workplace that fosters creativity and talent. This will allow us to keep creating some of the best video games in the industry in the jobs and at the studio we all love," One BGS MTL stated on Twitter.

"Having a seat at the table will ensure job security as well as improve transparency, accountability, flexibility and more. We aim to make sure everyone receives fair compensation for their work and the value they provide."

Right now, Bethesda Game Studios is developing The Elder Scrolls 6 while continuing to work on updating Fallout 76, as well as preparing the launch the Starfield: Shattered Space expansion later in 2024.

Several teams under Xbox have already unionized

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Microsoft first shared in 2022 that it was committed to remaining neutral in employee unionization efforts during its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, forging the agreement with the CWA well ahead of the acquisition's finalization in October 2023.

This agreement was first tested in January 2023, when over 300 quality assurance testers at ZeniMax Media (the parent company of publisher Bethesda Softworks) filed for unionization and succeeded without any interference from Microsoft. Microsoft also recently stayed neutral when 600 workers at Activision Central Quality Assurance unionized, as well as working out an ethics standard for the usage of AI in game development with ZeniMax employees and hiring some Starfield testers as full-time employees.

This push for unionization also comes at a time of great turmoil in the gaming industry, with layoffs and studio closures across almost every company. This includes Microsoft, which shuttered Arkane Austin, Alpha Dog Games, and Tango Gameworks earlier in the year.

Analysis: Good soup

I'm always happy to see unionization across different areas in the gaming industry and elsewhere. Unions aren't a magic bullet that instantly solves problems — just ask any union members how long it can take to get things done — but extra protections are needed, and any possible pushback to corporate nonsense is welcomed, especially in a year like 2024.

I can't foresee any reasons this union won't go through, but in the meantime, I'll be waiting optimistically for the team across Bethesda Game Studios Montreal. Hopefully this can serve as an inspiration for even more studios, not just at Xbox but across the rest of the gaming industry as a whole.