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News video games 30 May 2023, 14:43

author: Karol Laska

Disco Elysium was Supposed to Go to Ubisoft or Microsoft; Dev Reveals New Details

Robert Kurvitz, in an interview with Chris Bratt, gave the official reason for his dismissal by ZA/UM - it was an attempt to steal the Disco Elysium brand. The developer, however, dismissed the reports.

Many new facts around the ZA/UM scandal and Disco Elysium have come to light thanks to a video published on the People Make Games channel. We've written already about the game's endangered sequel and toxic work environment, but during Chris Bratt's interview with Robert Kurvitz, significant but unconfirmed reports emerged in the context of the dismissal of the originator of the entire project and the Elysium universe.

Kurvitz allegedly revealed the main reason, given in writing (the document was unfortunately not shown), why he was kicked out of ZA/UM's corporate structures. He allegedly tried to steal and sell the Disco Elysium IP to reputable third parties. Immediately after citing this reason, the developer denied that such an act on his part had occurred at all.

Ubisoft and Microsoft in play

Kurvitz responded to the allegations from ZA/UM with a simple question: "To what companies did I supposedly offer the IP in question?" Names such as Ubisoft and Microsoft were to be mentioned in the discussion between the parties - so the talk was of major players in the market. It was even specified that there was contact with one of the leading developers at Obsidian (a studio that has been part of the Xbox family for some time), Josh Sawyer. Chris Bratt contacted the developer in question - Sawyer clearly replied that no such talks had taken place.

After months of research, however, Bratt learned that word was spreading behind the scenes that Kurvitz was said to be in contact about selling the IP to Larian Studios, the makers of Divinity: Original Sin and the upcoming Baldur's Gate 3. The journalist wrote to the Belgian developer, but in a return email learned that the latter was withholding comment on the matter.

Accusation from a co-worker

ZA/UM claims one thing, Kurvitz claims another - the entire court battle revolves on this conflict of visions, opinions and interests. Thus, it is difficult to pass judgment on the case at this point. However, one significant incident should be cited, as mentioned in the documentary by Petter Sulonen, Lead Technologist at ZA/UM. Kurvitz allegedly made him an unusual and legally and professionally risky proposal. He asked him, or at least that's what Sulonen claims, to make the source code available for unspecified use. The programmer did not comply with this request - as he put it, it could affect his future at the studio.

Thanks to People Make Games, we definitely know more, but it's still not enough to clearly answer the question of who is telling the truth in the dispute surrounding Disco Elysium. The above information, while contradictory, nevertheless shows that the scale of the conflict runs far beyond the confines of a small independent studio or even the Estonian finance market, becoming a global scandal for the video game industry. That's assumingt Ubisoft and Microsoft were also entangled in the whole affair - even if only for a moment.

Karol Laska

Karol Laska

His adventure with journalism began with a personal blog, the name of which is no longer worth quoting. Then he interpreted Iranian dramas and the Joker, writing for cinematography journal, which, sadly, no longer exists. His writing credentials include a degree in film studies, but his thesis was strictly devoted to video games. He has been writing for Gamepressure since March 2020, first writing a lot about movies, then in the newsroom, and eventually, he became a specialist in everything. He currently edits and writes articles and features. A long-time enthusiast of the most bizarre indie games and arthouse cinema. He idolizes surrealism and postmodernism. He appreciates the power of absurdity. Which is probably why he also tried soccer refereeing for 2 years (with so-so results). He tends to over-philosophize, so watch out.


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