Robert Kurvitz, Lead Game Designer of role-playing detective Disco Elysium, and Alexander Rostov, Artistic Director of the project, publishes on Medium Official statement on his controversial exit from independent Estonian studio ZA/UM.
Recall that in early October, Disco Elysium editor Martin Luiga announced the dissolution of the ZA / UM cultural association and the forced departure of three of its prominent employees from the studio of the same name at the end of 2021: Kurvitsa, Rostov and screenwriter Helen Hindpere.
The reasons weren’t disclosed, but Luiga hinted at the ousting of the core team by the studio’s business side: in response to a user comment “People in Jackets Killed Disco” The Disco Elysium editorial team has included photos of the game’s Executive Producers, Kaur Kender and Tõnis Haavel.
According to Kurvits and Rostov, the majority shareholder of ZA/UM (ZAUM Studio OÜ), which owns the rights to Disco Elysium, was bought out in 2021 by its minority shareholder, the Estonian company Tütreke OÜ, which is controlled by two businessmen: the aforementioned one Haavel and Ilmar Kompus (Ilmar Kompus).
As a result, Kurvitz and Rostov, who were minority shareholders in ZA/UM, were quickly removed from day-to-day operations and company information. The termination followed a few weeks after the developers began demanding documentation and financial data on the studio from the new majority shareholder.
Kurvitz and Rostov allege that Tutreke fraudulently gained control of ZA/UM by using the studio’s money to buy stock, including in the Disco Elysium sequel. This crime was committed by Haavel (allegedly the leader, convicted of investment fraud in Estonia in 2007), Kompus and Kender (another minority shareholder).
Kurvitz and Rostov are currently considering further steps and do not rule out both civil lawsuits and criminal proceedings in Estonia and Great Britain. At the same time, Kurvits has already filed a lawsuit against ZA/UM on behalf of his company Telomer OÜ. The hearing is scheduled for November 28 this year.
In conclusion, Kurvitz and Rostov admitted that they are going through hard times: as a reward for five painful years of developing Disco Elysium, which found the love of people, they were put on the street, built by them “deprived”and her savings are insufficient to cover legal fees.
The developers are grateful to the fans for their support and proof that games like Disco Elysium can attract a mass audience. Kurvitz and Rostov also believe in what Harry Dubois (the protagonist) calls “the law”: “It’s not perfect, but serves to protect creators from those who take away. So will it be”.