Monday, February 26

Cuphead Studio Cares More About Its Staff Than Any Delays

A group of cartoon characters helps a cartoon chef cook a red-colored soup.

Image: StudioMDHR / Kotaku

Maja Moldenhauer, the director at the studio behind Cuphead and its DLC, recently talked about how the company’s number one priority is making sure its employees are healthy and treated well. In fact, Moldenhauer explained that she didn’t even care about delays.

In an interview with IGN posted yesterday, Moldenhauer talked openly about how little she cares about delays or how long it takes to finish a game or a piece of DLC. For example, Cuphead’s upcoming DLC, The Delicious Last Course, was first announced in 2018 with a 2019 release date. But that would be delayed a few times to avoid crunch and later because of covid.

However, Moldenhauer explained to IGN that she doesn’t mind the long delay as “mental health needed to be at the forefront” of the studio’s priorities.

“The number one thing, especially through COVID was keeping everybody happy,” Moldenhauer told IGN. “This is video games. Take your time. Mental health needed to be at the forefront, taking the space and time that you needed, especially over the last two years.”

“We’re like, ‘If it takes longer for the game to come out, it takes longer. Who cares?’”

You might think that a company treating people with respect and caring about their mental health should be expected and not celebrated, but in the current world we live in, these stories are embarrassingly rare.

If you read Kotaku or other gaming sites, you’re likely aware of the stories and reports of terrible labor practices, months of crunch, and tons of burnout in the video game industry. It’s so common that when a studio head talks openly about being mindful of employee mental health and well-being, even if it means delaying a game or DLC to treat folks better, it can seem like a bizarre (but nice) anomaly. One which deserves some attention, I think.

Cuphead DLC Announcement Trailer | Xbox One | Windows 10 | Steam | GOG

According to Moldenhauer, this attitude at the Cuphead studio is a result of the small team’s history and past jobs, experiences, and a desire to do better.

“If we’re going to risk it all, it’s going to be a company that we’re proud of,” said Moldenhauer.

“It’s going to be a company that is all the things, an amalgamation of all the things we’ve always […] wanted. Respect for each other, love, and support. Things that we didn’t receive in our past jobs. Well, we did, but at the end of the day there was a bottom line.”

In addition to an employee-first-mentality and desire to create better working conditions, Cuphead’s director isn’t worried about how well the new, upcoming and long-awaited DLC sells or if it makes any money. Instead, just getting to make this cool piece of art and share it with the world, and doing so in a way that didn’t lead to burnout or crunch, is all the reward they need.

Cuphead’s long-awaited and delayed DLC, The Delicious Last Course, will be released on June 30.

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