The real Dark Souls of Dark Souls game development are the Dark Souls we made along the way.
A dragon perched atop a stone castle breathing fire down at an armored knight holding a shield and sword

Employees at FromSoftware helped contribute to a new report from that tell a tale of a severe lack of pay and periods of crunch at the Dark Souls and Elden Ring developer.

Starting with the pay, the report says that the average annual pay at FromSoftware is about ¥3.41 million or around $24,500 (USD). This amount is described by one anonymous FromSoftware as "not adequate" for living in Tokyo. The annual cost of living in Tokyo, where FromSoftware is based, is estimated to be around ¥4.1 million or $29,500. This cost of living includes costs associated with rent, utility bills, food, heat, and other amenities. These costs are provided by Numbeo and Tokyo rental market research (PDF) within's report.

Another source, Salary Explorer, says that FromSoftware only recently started to match what other Japan-based developers were offering in terms of pay. On average, starting positions at other Japanese game studios sat at ¥231,000 ($1,660) per month. FromSoftware's advertised positions began at ¥220,000 ($1,585) as late as November 2022. While there do seem to be some efforts to improve, there is still a long way to go before that overall average pay at FromSoftware increases to an acceptable level.

The lack of adequate pay isn't the only issue reported on by GamesIndustry. Some employees say that there are periods of occasional crunch during development. The employees say that in the two to three month period leading up to a game's release, they will have to come in earlier than normal and then also stay later than normal to try to get the game ready for release.

The amount of crunch at the studio does not seem to be consistent though. Some reported that they haven't had to do much overtime or crunch at all. The differences here may be due to the fact that the need for crunch differs across the different departments.

If the idea of any sort of crunch isn't bad enough, the next piece of information should be infuriating. Overtime during these periods of crunch were "generally included in the salary," says one source. However, after midnight employees were paid at a rate "that was half of (the) usual hourly rate." This seems to be in total opposition to how pay is typically handled in Japan, where "hourly wages are often increased" if you work beyond 12AM.

Despite these issues, many employees report that they're still rather content with working at the studio. The report from GamesIndustry says that "multiple sources gave positive accounts of their experiences at FromSoftware, despite their own criticisms."

This next quote from one of those anonymous employees is certainly a tone setter.

One suggested the long hours are a bit like playing Dark Souls. "It's kind of tense in a way," they say. "There's a lot of struggle to get things right, but if you get over the hump it is very satisfying. It's just like you defeated a boss in Dark Souls."
Others took a less meme-worthy approach to sharing their satisfaction with working at FromSoftware.

"It's been a great experience," one said. "Not only because you can work on an AAA title, but also because you can work with co-workers that are so talented and passionate about creating a video game."