Last week, several employees of Indivisible and Skullgirls developer Lab Zero Games left the company, citing inappropriate and hostile behavior from studio owner Mike Zaimont as their reason for leaving. Now, Zaimont himself has confirmed that in the wake of the exits, he chose to lay off the rest of Lab Zero's team.
Zaimont explained the situation to Kotaku when contacted by email, stating that the company "was forced into layoffs" because it was unable to meet its payroll obligations.
"It is not a decision I made lightly," writes Zaimont. "I personally know how hard it can be to find employment in a poorly performing economy, but we have more debt than cash, and the last thing I would ever do is not pay my hard-working colleagues or our partners for their work. We are exploring all funding options in hopes of bringing those team members back, but right now that's the reality."
The layoffs initially came to light via tweets from former Lab Zero artists Mariel Cartwright and Jonathan Kim, who both quit Lab Zero last week. On Wednesday, Cartwright began selling sketchbooks and promised that the profits would be directed to supporting Lab Zero coworkers "who are now without work[.]" Kim retweeted Cartwright's announcement and referenced the layoffs, adding that Zaimont hadn't yet agreed to a severance arrangement. Kotaku reports that Zaimont has promised health insurance through the end of the month and told employees to anticipate an email about severance at a later date.
While former Lab Zero staff allege a longstanding pattern of inappropriate behavior from Zaimont, the recent turmoil began earlier this summer after Zaimont made an offensive "I can't breathe" joke while commentating a Skullgirls match. Not long after, Zaimont was accused of making inappropriate sexual comments to multiple people in the Skullgirls community, leading to Zaimont being banned from the Combo Breaker tournament and associated events.
Cartwright, in a now-deleted statement concerning her resignation, said that Lab Zero employees came to better understand the extent of Zaimont's alleged misconduct in the following weeks. "It's been years of behavior that was tolerated because we thought we had no other choice," said Cartwright, "but it's clear to me now that my choice is to remove myself and move on."
Before the exits and layoffs, Lab Zero's board asked Zaimont to exit the company while he was placed on administrative leave in light of the misconduct allegation. After rejecting the board's terms, LabZero artist Brian Jun says Zaimont removed all members of the board.
Hidden Variable Studios and Autumn Games will continue to work on Skullgirls without the involvement of Lab Zero or Zaimont. As for how this will impact other Lab Zero-related projects, like the Indivisible TV show in development for NBC's Peacock, is unclear.