2nd Jul 2020

Keywords Studios Covid-19 Updates


The situation with Covid-19 is continuously evolving across the globe and we are working quickly to take all necessary actions to protect our people and our communities. At the same time, we have been doing everything possible to keep our operations running to minimise impact on production to our customers by implementing work from home procedures to ensure our studios remain operational.

Below you can find all the latest news and information about our services and studios. We will continue to bring you updates on a regular basis.


News from our Team

July 2nd, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update on the current QA studio and production status.

Hi everyone,

As advised a few weeks ago, our team has been hard at work planning limited studio reopenings. Now that the situation is in better control in most of the regions where we operate, that we feel safe and prepared, and in conjunction with government support and authorization, we’re ready to act on it. These limited reopening are going to be applied under 3 axes:

1. Work that is currently happening at home, stays at home.

2. We will prioritize staff to come work in the studio on a voluntary basis and with people that have been unable to work from home as of yet.

3. We will prioritize studio work per the services listed as Limited Studio Production.

1. Work that is currently happening at home, stays at home. Hopefully, the situation will change positively over time but, for the short-term, the model that we’ve applied is still valid. The work that we’re restarting inside the studios is not a transfer of the work that’s been happening at our homes, but services that requires studio infrastructure and hardware to happen that have been on hold up until now. This is done to:

  • Protect our staff, by conducting work in a safe manner.
  • Have more of our staff willing and able to work, back to work.
  • Optimize in-studio capacity, which is reduced by our application of safety measures, like social distancing.
  • Increase our global service capacity, to be able to offer more work and services to our clients.
  • Protect our client’s work, should subsequent waves of the disease require us to close down studios again.

2. We will prioritize staff to come work in the studio on a voluntary basis and with people that have been unable to work from home as of yet. Essentially, we want to make sure that employees that are in the studio, want to be in the studio, and that employees that want to work but haven’t been able to do so as of yet, can work.

3. We will prioritize studio work per the services listed as Limited Studio Production. Below is a recap of the types of work we plan to have in and outside the studios. Do note that we’ve added Certification QA to both in and outside studio production, varying per needed tests and hardware.

Services affected

Limited reopening schedule

With the above in mind, below is a recap of the latest global situation and tentative limited reopening schedules for each of our QA studio. Do note that these dates may change slightly as we continue to prepare and ensure a safe environment for our staff. Please also consider the possibility of studio closures again. Subsequent waves of the disease are a possibility and we may feel or need to stop some in-studio operations again.

As always, we will continue to reevaluate our position and advise of any change and progress. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you.

View post on LinkedIn.


June 11th, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Hi everyone,

Here’s a short update on the current studio and work status. I’ll be covering mostly the Seattle studio.

Seattle Studio

As some of you are aware, the Washington State’s Safe Plan applied Phase 1.5 last week, essentially allowing our local studio to reopen in a limited fashion. Since then, we’ve had multiple requests from some of our Seattle studio employees if they could come back to work, all coming from the same Hardware QA team that has been furloughed, as their work requires studio infrastructures to allow their work to happen.

Our original plan for this, and all, studios was to keep all work at home until July. We need to consider that government aid is limited, especially when considered against the Seattle region cost of living, and that some of our furloughed staff are hurting financially, and are actively contacting us to work.

We’ve taken the last two weeks to prepare sanitary and hygiene precautions and, now that we feel safe and ready, we have decided to re-open partially our Seattle studio, specifically for that lone team that hasn’t been working since we’ve closed down the studio. The team is of less than 40 people, which will be placed and spaced within a 400+ seats studio. In-studio work is on a voluntary basis, and our furloughed testers will be contacted and surveyed to assess if they are both actually willing and safely able to work in our studio.

To all our employees, I’d also like to take the moment to remind you all of the Relief Fund that we’ve set up for you. I’ve asked our local Seattle managers to look in your situations in regards to that, but please do raise your hand and ask for help if you need it. This fund was set up for you specifically for these types of situations. If you are hurting, we want to help you.

QA Production Plans & Timelines

Below is a recap of the types of work we plan to have in and outside the studios, and when we tentatively expect to partially reopen each QA studio. Please do consider that local situations and laws changes, and that these may change with them. For Seattle specifically, the team that will restart work is doing Hardware QA, as listed first in the Limited Studio Production list here.

Services affected
Keywords testing services

As always, we will continue to reevaluate our position and advise of any change and progress. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you.

View post on LinkedIn.


June 1st, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Dear friends,

Here’s a short update on the current studio and work status.

As always, please expect more news to come as the situation develops.

QA Production plans
Once we reopen, only a limited amount of work will be done within the studio.

  • We will continue to work from home globally until at least July. Until then, and at least until we receive the approval from various government guidance, work that we deliver will continue to be fully done from our homes. Please note that it may be later if restrictions imposed on us by local authorities aren’t lifted. If needed, we could decide to go beyond those restrictions, to make sure that we’re not putting our staff in harm’s way.
  • Only few select amounts of work will be allowed in-studio once we reopen. The QA services that will be done within and outside our studios are listed below. For the safety of our employees, and until further notice, our default operating model has to remain working from home.
Studio reopening timelines
With the above in mind, especially considering that we will continue to have the majority of work done at home, we are planning to progressively restart some in-studio production in July. Please note that any of these plans could be changed at any moment if we feel that the safety of our staff is not upheld, and as government-defined measures and dates change.
Furthermore, considering the current high demand for our services, and although we’ve started remote/at-home recruitment and trainings already, we’re also gradually opening up the option to our teams to use in-studio onboarding and training should they feel the need to use it.
Below is a recap of the latest global situation and tentative reopening plan for each of our QA studio.

As always, we will continue to reevaluate our position and advise again soon of any change and progress. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you.

View post on LinkedIn.


May 18th, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shares a video update.


May 4th, 2020 – Keywords Audio Services share a video update about the reopening of the Madrid studio.


May 1st, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Dear friends,

Here’s a short update on the current studio and work status. I’ll be covering:

  1. QA Studios overview and updates
  2. Studio reopening timelines and production plans

1. QA Studios overview and updates

  • 94% of our current workload is being taken care of with staff working from home. The 6% still remaining in studio are a portion of our Poland teams, who are also actively transitioning home.
  • Most local governments have extended their April and May reopening deadlines into late May and June.

Below is a recap of the latest global situation for each of our QA studio.

Studio update

2. Studio reopening timelines and production plans

To make sure we protect our employees as much as possible, and based on available information and trends, we have made 2 important decisions.

  1. We will continue to work from home at least until June. Until then, and at least until we receive the approval from various government guidance, work that we deliver will continue to be fully done from our homes. Please note that it may be later if restrictions imposed on us by local authorities aren’t lifted. If needed, we could decide to go beyond those restrictions, to make sure that we’re not putting our staff in harm’s way.
  2. Only few select amounts of work will be allowed in-studio once we reopen. The QA services that will be done within and outside our studios are listed below. For the safety of our employees, and until further notice, our default operating model has to remain working from home.
services update

We will reevaluate our position and advise again by the end of June. Hopefully, the global context will be better and safer by then. It may mean increasing the amount of work we do within our studios, but could also further extend these self-imposed deadlines.

Again, for the few of you that haven’t engaged with us for work from home yet, please do so soon so we can put the necessary tools and infrastructure in place rapidly, and not create any undue delays for your projects. And, as always, we will keep you updated as the situation develops. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you. View post on LinkedIn.


April 29th, 2020 – Peter Gerson, Senior Player Support Manager, provides an update on Keywords Player Support services.


April 24th, 2020 – Keywords Audio Services announces in-studio recording will resume in one of our Milan studios.


April 20th, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared a video update.


April 10th, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Dear friends,

Here’s a short update on the current studio and work status. The first part shows the studio news and overviews. The second informs you on what we should expect and plan for in terms of timelines, and finally what it means for you in terms of production in what may become a “new normal”.

1. Update:

  • Delayed business reopening per latest official government decrees in Dublin.
  • We have sent appeals to the Singapore government to have technician and overall production support studio access, to help us support the current and any additional work from home.
  • Added the KES and Ottawa studios to the below overview.

Below is a recap of the latest global situation for each of our QA studio.

And the same for console manufacturer approvals.

*Sony has approved all Keywords studios to have any required Sony hardware at home as needed. This is not the case for all Sony partners and only applies to Keywords. Unless advised otherwise, you still need to seek approval for yourselves and for non-Keywords partners to Sony through DevNet.

We’re working under the assumption that our remaining opened studios, Poland and Tokyo, will also close imminently, and have been preparing accordingly for the last two months. Please note that, for the safety of our staff, we may decide to close down these studios ourselves before and despite the lack of government measures requiring us to. Also, and as seen in some of our studios already, please note that there may be a time where even IT and Tech support are prevented studio access which would limit WFH transition speed and capacity. If you do want WFH, you need to advise your main Keywords points of contact rapidly. Luckily, we’ve been working with a lot of you to transfer already most of our global workload at our testers’ homes.

2. Expected timelines

We are looking into multiple plans and scenarios.

Per health and business expert analysis and feedback, as well as growing governments’ direction, we are increasingly planning for the following, although more pessimistic, one:

  • We will gain back some studio accesses in June/July.
  • Some or most government measures will stay in place until a vaccine is widely distributed.
  • Wide access to a vaccine is currently projected for Q3/Q4 2021.

In practical terms, if these assumptions prove correct, this means that we should plan for:

  • Continuing to have a wide majority of work done at home until late 2021.
  • Only the “absolute must have” work would be done in-studio in the meantime, to both be able to respect government measures but also, and more importantly, to protect our employees.

I truly hope that this expert advice and scenario are wrong, but we highly prefer to be prepared for the worst case than being blind sighted by it.

3. Expected production

So, what does this mean for you?

The vast majority of the work we do with the vast majority of our partners would not fall under “absolute must have” work to be done in our studios.

It means, again, to please not plan this business context in terms of weeks, but to do so in terms of months or even quarters. It means that you shouldn’t plan for the various studios, including yours, to be fully operational in a few weeks, but to start having all work done at home if you haven’t already done so, and to have all necessary infrastructure and support ready accordingly.

Don’t get me wrong; Again, I truly hope everything will be back to normal in a few weeks’ time, but to plan for it would be risky right now.

In the following days and weeks, our team will continue to contact you so we can continue to move forward. I fully encourage to jump on board, and not risk missing the boat.

As always, we will keep you updated as the situation develops. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you. View post on Linkedin.


April 7th, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Dear friends,

Here’s a short update on the current studio and work status. As always, please expect more news to come as the situation develops.

As you’ll note below and as expected, multiple local governments are delaying business reopening. We are still expecting more of these and to go on further than what has been officially announced as of yet.

  • Singapore studio is closing down per government measures.
  • Delayed business reopenings per latest official government decrees in Dublin, St-Jerome, Montreal, Seattle and Mexico. Latest dates listed below.
  • Sony has approved all Keywords studios to have any required Sony hardware at home as needed.
    • *Important note: This is not the case for all Sony partners and only applies to Keywords. Unless advised otherwise, you still need to seek approval for yourselves and non-Keywords partners to Sony through DevNet.

Below is a recap of the latest global situation for each of our studio.

And the same for console manufacturer approvals.

We’re working under the assumption that our remaining opened studios, Poland and Tokyo, will also close imminently, and have been preparing accordingly for the last two months. Please note that, for the safety of our staff, we may decide to close down these studios ourselves before and despite the lack of government measures requiring us to. Also, and as seen in some of our studios already, please note that there may be a time where even IT and Tech support are prevented studio access which would limit WFH transition speed and capacity. If you do want WFH, you need to advise your main Keywords points of contact rapidly. Luckily, we’ve been working with a lot of you to transfer already most of our global workload at our testers’ homes.

As always, we will keep you updated as the situation develops. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you. View post on Linkedin


April 3rd, 2020 – Fabio Minazzi, Localization Service Line Director, shared an update from Milan.


April 2nd, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Dear friends,

The following message contains:

  1. Our updated production status,
  2. Our Work From Home (WFH) measure, and
  3. What to expect once we’re back operationally in-studio.

As always, please expect more news to come as the situation develops.

1. In-studio production status

Update:

  • Dublin: We closed our studio 4 days before government requirements. Government mandated reopening date is set to April 13th.
  • Mexico: The local government has now updated their mandated dates for reopening and lessened measures to April 19th and 30th.
  • India: We can now have our IT and Production Support technician have studio access.
  • As of yet, the majority of our global work is, or is being transitioned to, WFH.

Below is a recap of the global situation for each of our studio.

We’re working under the assumption that our remaining opened studios, Poland, Tokyo and Singapore, will also close imminently, and have been preparing accordingly for the last month. Luckily, we’ve been working with a lot of you to transfer already most of our global workload at our testers’ homes.

Also, please bear in mind that we expect most mandated reopening dates to be postponed further than what is officially mentioned by local governments, and that some safety measures, like distancing, will continue well past reopening. While we are already looking into expanding some of our studios and global footprint to accommodate some of these expected measures, it does mean that WFH requirements may go on for months, possibly for most of 2020. Considering this, I encourage those that may not have engaged with us yet in a WFH possibility, to have this discussion and to reconsider.

In regards to taking consoles home for work, Microsoft and Nintendo agrees under their listed conditions. Sony only agrees on WFH on a case-by-case basis for vendors like Keywords, and needs to be raised by our clients directly with Sony via DevNet tickets.

2. Work From Home measures

Please note that, should you have received it, this message has the same WFH clarifications as previously.

Those of you that requested projects to be transferred to a WFH model should have received a contract side-letter to read and sign. The basis of it is that you and your organization understand and accept the risks that this type of work brings. I want to be very transparent with you here – this way of working is risky. We cannot offer the same level of security if the work is done at the home of our employees. We don’t control that environment, we don’t control who our employees live with and what those other people may or may not do. We will, of course, do our best to educate our team and put in measures to limit the risks, but it is still a lot riskier than having the work done in our own studios. Up to a point that I need to advise you that, if you can’t accept the fact that there’s a higher likeliness that a leak or other type of security breach happens on your title under a WFH model, you should not consider WFH.

My recommendation is that, going forward into this situation, either:

  • You keep the work inside our studios, with a high level of security, but with the risk that if governments continue to slow or shut down our studios, work slows or shuts down as well, and work will be picked up again once our studios open back up at full capacity again,
  • Or, you move work to a WFH model, but accept the higher possibility that you will have leaks or other security breaches on your games.

Please understand, we are not trying to reduce our responsibilities under the MSAs and NDAs we have with you, but merely being clear that there are increased risks in WFH arrangements, and it’s the additional security risks which we need your team to acknowledge and accept with a view to sharing some of these risks between us.

We have a duty of confidentiality, our employees have a duty of confidentiality, but our employees should not take the burden of responsibility for a choice that is yours to take. We’ll take all the reasonable mitigating steps we need to but, the additional risk needs to be shared and shouldered together here. You need to understand that it is a risk you are taking. My team and I have a responsibility to protect our employees, our employees’ livelihood, and our company. We are not going to take a decision that puts any of them at risk.

Also, because government measures are taken rapidly and without notice around the world, please note that there may be a moment where we won’t be able to provide a WFH project transfer anymore. Where we could potentially be unable to even have an IT technician in our studio preparing these necessary connections and encryptions. If you want WFH, you need to advise your main Keywords points of contact now. Because of the fast-paced government measures being put in place, most of our studios are now working under the assumption that they will all shut down soon if not already. I strongly suggest you work under the same assumption so that you are as prepared as possible for what may come.

And again, even more so considering that this transfer can be time-consuming in some cases. We do have to dedicate large portions of our IT and Security teams to go through the process of securing and encrypting devices, as well as making sure that the right connections and tunnels are built.

View post on Linkedin

3. Coming back online

As stated above, we expect the studio closures to extend well past what has been officially mentioned by most governments. Also, we will need to plan for a reality where some of these measures will stay in place even once we reopen the studios. As examples, we should expect that social distancing and travel bans might stay as is for a while, both of which will have an impact on how we do our work and how we engage with you.

We have already started to plan how we will approach this, and what the new Keywords Studios will look like. We will do our best to communicate with you these requirements and their impacts, if any, either from government requirements, or what we decide ourselves is the best for our teams and employees.

As always, we will keep you updated as the situation develops. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you.


April 2nd, 2020 – Ashley Liu, Art Service Line Director, shared an update on Linkedin from China.

Relaxing Restrictions – at the end of last week, for the first time, during one of our daily government office inspections, the official said we could slowly let our WFH staff back into the office. He still cautioned us against a massive influx and asked us to trickle in the team gradually. The inspections will continue and we are not out of the woods yet. Two-thirds of the provinces have start dates for schools. Although Beijing is not on the list, we know we will hear about it soon. To our friends all over the world who are at the beginning or in the middle of this pandemic, please know that we are here for you and there will be an end. As China turns outwards to assist others in need, Keywords China is also playing its part. We are proud to have sent 41000 masks, 832 bottles of sanitizers, and 1104 bags of disinfectant wipes to other studios worldwide and we hope to do more.

Supplies shipped from Keywords China

March 31st, 2020 – Manvendra Shukul, shares an update on Lakshya


March 27th, 2020 – Tom Slattery, Studio Head LA

Our Burbank studio is closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but Keywords Studios remains fully operational for English voiceover recording projects, large and small. Our secure and flexible infrastructure has allowed us to continue recording via remote sessions with a network of hundreds of actors, directors, and engineers working safely from their homes from the very first day of the California stay-at-home order. We are happy to be able to continue supporting our clients and the LA voice acting community during these difficult times.


March 26th, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Dear friends,

The following message contains:

  1. Our updated production status,
  2. Our Work From Home (WFH) measure, and
  3. What to expect once we’re back operationally in-studio.

As always, please expect more news to come as the situation develops.

1. In-studio production status

Update:

  • Mexico: We closed our studio per government requirements. As of yet, the government has not advised on when they will soften their measures.
  • Dublin: While Ireland has not forced non-essential businesses to close, they’ve requested companies to look into WFH as much as possible. It is our belief that they will enforce that legally very soon so, for the sake of compliance, being ready, and doing the right thing for our staff, we will be closing work done inside our studio by the end of the week, tomorrow. We are in the process of moving all that we can to a WFH model.
  • Poland, Tokyo and Singapore: We’ve distanced staff from one another and have started moving projects to WFH. It is our belief that government measures will be applied soon for these locations as well.

Below is a recap of the global situation for each of our studio.

As mentioned before, please bear in mind that we expect most mandated reopening dates to be postponed further than what is officially mentioned by local governments.

In regards to bringing consoles home for work, Microsoft and Nintendo agrees under their listed conditions. Sony only agrees on WFH on a case-by-case basis for vendors like Keywords, and needs to be raised by our clients directly with Sony via DevNet tickets.

Again, my expectations are that we will be progressively forced to have most, if not all, of our staff at home. We’ve been at least operating under that assumption for the last 3 weeks and are preparing as such.

As of today, because of either direct or indirect government measures, or decisions and preparations we’ve taken on our own, our global in-studio capacity in FQA has been reduced to 20% of what we’d normally be able to deliver, and 40% in LQA – soon to be 20% in LQA once our Dublin studio closes. Measures being put in place will likely continue to decrease that capacity as time advances. Luckily, we’ve been working with a lot of you to transfer a lot of that work at our testers’ homes already.

2. Work From Home measures

Please note that, should you have received it, this message has the same WFH clarifications as previously.

Those of you that requested projects to be transferred to a WFH model should have received a contract side-letter to read and sign. The basis of it is that you and your organization understand and accept the risks that this type of work brings. I want to be very transparent with you here – this way of working is risky. We cannot offer the same level of security if the work is done at the home of our employees. We don’t control that environment, we don’t control who our employees live with and what those other people may or may not do. We will, of course, do our best to educate our team and put in measures to limit the risks, but it is still a lot riskier than having the work done in our own studios. Up to a point that I need to advise you that, if you can’t accept the fact that there’s a higher likeliness that a leak or other type of security breach happens on your title under a WFH model, you should not consider WFH.

My recommendation is that, going forward into this situation, either:

  • You keep the work inside our studios, with a high level of security, but with the risk that if governments continue to slow or shut down our studios, work slows or shuts down as well, and work will be picked up again once our studios open back up at full capacity again,
  • Or, you move work to a WFH model, but accept the higher possibility that you will have leaks or other security breaches on your games.

Please understand, we are not trying to reduce our responsibilities under the MSAs and NDAs we have with you, but merely being clear that there are increased risks in WFH arrangements, and it’s the additional security risks which we need your team to acknowledge and accept with a view to sharing some of these risks between us.

We have a duty of confidentiality, our employees have a duty of confidentiality, but our employees should not take the burden of responsibility for a choice that is yours to take. We’ll take all the reasonable mitigating steps we need to but, the additional risk needs to be shared and shouldered together here. You need to understand that it is a risk you are taking. My team and I have a responsibility to protect our employees, our employees’ livelihood, and our company. We are not going to take a decision that puts any of them at risk.

Also, because government measures are taken rapidly and without notice around the world, please note that there may be a moment where we won’t be able to provide a WFH project transfer anymore. Where we could potentially be unable to even have an IT technician in our studio preparing these necessary connections and encryptions. If you want WFH, you need to advise your main Keywords points of contact now. Because of the fast-paced government measures being put in place, most of our studios are now working under the assumption that they will all shut down soon if not already. I strongly suggest you work under the same assumption so that you are as prepared as possible for what may come.

And again, even more so considering that this transfer can be time-consuming in some cases. We do have to dedicate large portions of our IT and Security teams to go through the process of securing and encrypting devices, as well as making sure that the right connections and tunnels are built.

3. Coming back online

As stated previously, we expect the studio closures to extend past what has been officially mentioned by most governments. Also, we will need to plan for a reality where some of these measures will stay in place even once we reopen the studios. As examples, we should expect that social distancing and travel bans might stay as is for a while, both of which will have an impact on how we do our work and how we engage with you.

We have already started to plan how we will approach this, and what the new Keywords Studios will look like. We will do our best to communicate with you these requirements and their impacts, if any, either from government requirements, or what we decide ourselves is the best for our teams and employees.

As always, we will keep you updated as the situation develops. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you.


March 25th, 2020 – Andrew Day, CEO, shared a message sent to our clients.

Open letter to clients on Covid-19 working arrangements at Keywords

I am writing to update you on the measures we have been implementing across the Keywords Studios group in the face of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The situation is evolving at speed around the world and we continue to work rapidly to take all necessary actions to protect our people and our communities, doing everything possible to respond to government and health authority mandates and recommendations. In the majority of territories the best solution for our people, and for the continuation of our clients’ projects, is to move to a ‘work from home’ (WFH) operating model. I am encouraged to report that with the consent of our clients, supported by a huge team effort, we have already moved more than 4,500 people to WFH arrangements and are actively continuing this process to migrate our staff where possible and where we have client consent.

Where we continue to provide services in our facilities in affected areas we are rigorously following the local governments’ and health authorities’ guidelines for social distancing and hygiene to ensure we provide a safe working environment for our staff. We have moved to varying shift patterns of working, which again has been done in consultation with our clients, as well as transitioning other functions and projects that can move to WFH arrangements to create extra space in the offices. I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that at no point have we, nor would we, put any pressure on our colleagues to work if they felt uncomfortable with the situation. Likewise, we have not provided any incentives for attendance. As you may imagine, in some locations we have experienced declining attendance as a result, further emphasising the need to work from home wherever possible. 

I would like to thank you for your support and understanding with the action we have taken and am asking for your continued co-operation as we seek to migrate more of your projects to WFH. 

I’m sure you will fully appreciate the fact that some measures to slow the spread of the virus, such as the sudden lockdown of cities, are hard to anticipate in terms of timing. While we have so far managed well in the face of such shutdowns in China, The Philippines, Italy and Canada, we urge you to engage with us to move to WFH as soon as possible. This will help avoid a situation where such shutdowns prevent us from making WFH arrangements for your projects. 

This is a difficult time for everyone around the world, both in business and personally, and I want to take the opportunity to send you my very best wishes in dealing with the challenges ahead. I very much look forward to seeing you at future industry events when normality is restored. View post.


March 25th, 2020 – Lakshya shared a message from their CEO, Manvendra Shukul


March 24th, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Dear friends,

Please note that, should you have received it, this message has the same WFH clarifications as yesterday’s message, but contains new updates regarding our current production capacity. Please expect more news to come as the situation develops.

Updated status:

  • Our Montreal and St-Jerome studios are closing down today temporarily per government measures. Current official reopening date is set to April 13th.
  • Our Seattle studio is closing down temporarily from tomorrow per government measures. Current official reopening date is set to April 13th.
  • Our India studio closed last Sunday per government measures. Current official reopening date is set to April 14th.
  • Our Milan studio closed weeks ago. No news on when the studio will reopen.

Also, please bear in mind that I expect some, if not all, of these government-mandated reopening dates to be postponed further than what is officially mentioned by each government.

Console-wise:

  • Microsoft agrees for WFH under conditions.
  • Nintendo now also agrees for WFH under conditions.
  • Sony only agrees on WFH on a case-by-case basis for vendors like Keywords, and needs to be raised by our clients directly with Sony via DevNet tickets.

My expectations are that we will be progressively forced to have most, if not all, of our staff at home. We’ve been at least operating under that assumption for the last 2 weeks and are preparing as such.

As of today, because of either direct or indirect government measures, our global in-studio capacity in FQA has been reduced to 25% of what we’d normally be able to deliver, and 50% in LQA. Measures being put in place will likely continue to decrease that capacity as time advances. Luckily, we’ve been working with a lot of you to transfer a lot of that work at our testers’ homes already.

Which brings me to the next subject, clarifying our position on WFH measures.

Those of you that requested projects to be transferred to a WFH model should have received a contract side-letter to read and sign. The basis of it is that you and your organization understand and accept the risks that this type of work brings. I want to be very transparent with you here – this way of working is risky. We cannot offer the same level of security if the work is done at the home of our employees. We don’t control that environment, we don’t control who our employees live with and what those other people may or may not do. We will, of course, do our best to educate our team and put in measures to limit the risks, but it is still a lot riskier than having the work done in our own studios. Up to a point that I need to advise you that, if you can’t accept the fact that there’s a higher likeliness that a leak or other type of security breach happens on your title under a WFH model, you should not consider WFH.

My recommendation is that, going forward into this situation, either:

  • You keep the work inside our studios, with a high level of security, but with the risk that if governments continue to slow or shut down our studios, work slows or shuts down as well, and work will be picked up again once our studios open back up at full capacity again,
  • Or, you move work to a WFH model, but accept the higher possibility that you will have leaks or other security breaches on your games.

Please understand, we are not trying to reduce our responsibilities under the MSAs and NDAs we have with you, but merely being clear that there are increased risks in WFH arrangements, and it’s the additional security risks which we need your team to acknowledge and accept with a view to sharing some of these risks between us.

We have a duty of confidentiality, our employees have a duty of confidentiality, but our employees should not take the burden of responsibility for a choice that is yours to take. We’ll take all the reasonable mitigating steps we need to but, the additional risk needs to be shared and shouldered together here. You need to understand that it is a risk you are taking. My team and I have a responsibility to protect our employees, our employees’ livelihood, and our company. We are not going to take a decision that puts any of them at risk.

Also, because government measures are taken rapidly and without notice around the world, please note that there may be a moment where we won’t be able to provide a WFH project transfer anymore. Where we could potentially be unable to even have an IT technician in our studio preparing these necessary connections and encryptions. If you want WFH, you need to advise your main Keywords points of contact now. Because of the fast-paced government measures being put in place, most of our studios are now working under the assumption that they will be shut down by the end of the week. I strongly suggest you work under the same assumption so that you are as prepared as possible for what may come.

And again, even more so considering that this transfer can be time-consuming in some cases. We do have to dedicate large portions of our IT and Security teams to go through the process of securing and encrypting devices, as well as making sure that the right connections and tunnels are built.

We will do our best to keep you all updated as the situation develops. As always, if you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you.


March 23rd, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Dear friends,

I’m contacting you again today to both update you on our current production capacity, and to clarify our position on “Work From Home” (WFH) measures. As always, please expect more news to come as the situation develops.

Updated status:

  • As of Sunday night, the India government has put up measures that requires us to close our Delhi studio. We are in the process of transferring employees to a work from home for the clients that requested as such.
  • The Quebec (Canada) government is increasing the suggested distance from one employee to another, from the originally requested 1 meters, to now 2 meters. We are adapting our operations again, but please understand that this will limit our capacity and work we can deliver daily within our Montreal and St-Jerome studios.
  • The Quebec (Canada) government has extended the original timeline of measures from an original 2 weeks, to now 6 weeks – to early May.
  • In regards to hardware being sent home,
    • Microsoft had agreed for WFH under conditions for Xbox 2 weeks ago.
    • While Nintendo is providing information on how to do WFH for Switch, they have not provided a clear approval for it.
    • We’re still waiting on any official news from Sony. We are chasing our contacts.

My expectations are that we will be progressively forced to have most, if not all, of our staff at home. We’ve been at least operating under that assumption for the last 2 weeks and are preparing as such.

As of today, because of either direct or indirect government measures, our global in-studio capacity in FQA has been reduced to 60% of what we’d normally be able to deliver, and 70% in LQA. Measures being put in place will likely continue to decrease that capacity as time advances. Luckily, we’ve been working with a lot of you to transfer a lot of that work at our testers’ homes already.

Which brings me to the next subject, clarifying our position on WFH measures.

Those of you that requested projects to be transferred to a WFH model should have received a contract side-letter to read and sign. The basis of it is that you and your organization understand and accept the risks that this type of work brings. I want to be very transparent with you here – this way of working is risky. We cannot offer the same level of security if the work is done at the home of our employees. We don’t control that environment, we don’t control who our employees live with and what those other people may or may not do. We will, of course, do our best to educate our team and put in measures to limit the risks, but it is still a lot riskier than having the work done in our own studios. Up to a point that I need to advise you that, if you can’t accept the fact that there’s a higher likeliness that a leak or other type of security breach happens on your title under a WFH model, you should not consider WFH.

My recommendation is that, going forward into this situation, either:

  • You keep the work inside our studios, with a high level of security, but with the risk that if governments continue to slow or shut down our studios, work slows or shuts down as well, and work will be picked up again once our studios open back up at full capacity again,
  • Or, you move work to a WFH model, but accept the higher possibility that you will have leaks or other security breaches on your games.

Please understand, we are not trying to reduce our responsibilities under the MSAs and NDAs we have with you, but merely being clear that there are increased risks in WFH arrangements, and it’s the additional security risks which we need your team to acknowledge and accept with a view to sharing some of these risks between us.

We have a duty of confidentiality, our employees have a duty of confidentiality, but our employees should not take the burden of responsibility for a choice that is yours to take. We’ll take all the reasonable mitigating steps we need to but, the additional risk needs to be shared and shouldered together here. You need to understand that it is a risk you are taking. My team and I have a responsibility to protect our employees, our employees’ livelihood, and our company. We are not going to take a decision that puts any of them at risk.

Also, because government measures are taken rapidly and without notice around the world, please note that there may be a moment where we won’t be able to provide a WFH project transfer anymore. Where we could potentially be unable to even have an IT technician in our studio preparing these necessary connections and encryptions. If you want WFH, you need to advise your main Keywords points of contact now. Because of the fast-paced government measures being put in place, most of our studios are now working under the assumption that they will be shut down by the end of the week. I strongly suggest you work under the same assumption so that you are as prepared as possible for what may come.

And again, even more so considering that this transfer can be time-consuming in some cases. We do have to dedicate large portions of our IT and Security teams to go through the process of securing and encrypting devices, as well as making sure that the right connections and tunnels are built.

We will do our best to keep you all updated as the situation develops. As always, if you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you.


March 19th, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Dear friends,

I didn’t think I’d write you this soon to give you an update, but it does seem that the situation is indeed evolving quite rapidly. If not the disease itself, at least the governmental measures around them, how people act and react, and how it’s affecting us and the gaming industry. Please expect more news to come as the situation develops.

As you may already know, Asian, European and North American travel bans and quarantine measures are expanding across the world. Currently, because of either direct or indirect government measures, our global capacity in FQA has been reduced to 80% of what we’d normally be able to deliver, and 90% in LQA. As such, we’ve taken the temporary decision to limit the amount of new business coming in, so we can protect the current work that we do for you as much as possible.

As advised through my previous message, we’ve taken measures internally to both increase the safety of our staff, but also to increase the solidity of our business continuity plan. This include shift time management, and increased global studio space and capacities. These measures, apart from helping us bring back our work capabilities to more normal levels on the short-term, could allow us to grow further and faster than usual once the global measures soften on the mid-term, should you need us to.

One of these current measures is allowing a portion of our staff to work from home. We’ve already started with most of you that requested it specifically. Please take in consideration that this is an option that may not be possible, or not recommended, in some cases. But if it is something you want us to review with you, please engage with us directly about it. Projects that would be prioritized for this type of work would include:

  1. Low security risk titles, like live work on already released games.
  2. Low security risk platforms, like on PC or mobile.
  3. Projects for which you can provide us with support for WFH setup.

Including software, hardware, infrastructure, VPN tunneling and security/encryption support.

Please also do take in consideration that this process can be time-consuming in some cases. We do have to dedicate portions of our IT and Security teams to go through the process of securing and encrypting devices, as well as making sure that the right connections and tunnels are built.

We will do our best to keep you all updated as the situation develops. As always, if you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll happily get back to you.


March 18th, 2020 – Ashley Liu, Art Service Line Director, shared an update on Linkedin from China.


March 13th, 2020 – Mathieu Lachance, Testing Service Line Director, shared an update sent to partners.

Dear friends,

As our partner, we want to make you aware of how we’re handling the coronavirus situation within Keywords’ QA studios, in order to minimize business interruption and to safeguard our employees. Please bear in mind that both the situations and the measures taken are evolving rapidly per new context and new government guidelines. We will try our best to keep you aware of what’s happening.

Below, are:

  1. What we ask of you, to help us help you,
  2. What measures we have or are likely to take that may affect the work we do for you,
  3. And what other internal measures we’re applying to manage the current situation.

1. Help us help you

Because of the current global business context, many of our clients are already requesting more work than previously communicated and committed to. We may have options across our studios to take on more work and are delighted to do so but, as usual, the earlier you can commit to these plans, the easier it for us to plan and secure that capacity for you.  We are very willing to place our resources at your disposal as part of your business continuity plans so please do involve us in those discussions at your earliest convenience.

Bear in mind though that we will be prioritizing projects per the following order:

  1. Our staff. We will look into anything that allows the long-term protection of our employees.
  2. Our existing clients. We are prioritizing current project security before adding anything new.
  3. New clients. We will do our best to help you out if the current business context doesn’t allow you or your chosen vendors to produce work. Please do understand though, that we have committed ourselves to current and long-term partners already. Also, per the above points, should we take any new work, we will highly prioritize long-term projects, to allow the long-term protection of our employees

To both meet this need from you but also to minimize business continuity risks, we are already growing our Ottawa, Poland, India and Mexico studios further this year. We are also exploring opening up additional locations and looking into new business models. These will add further capacity to our secure testing facilities in Montreal, St-Jerome, Seattle, Ottawa, Mexico City, Dublin, Milan, Katowice, New Delhi, Singapore and Tokyo. These facilities and approaches provide us with a unique network which we can use to provide multiple back-ups for our functional and localization testing projects conducted on your behalf. We would encourage you to engage with us in establishing small testing cells in a number of our studios such that projects would be easier to transfer across locations when and if needed.

We also do suggest that to minimize in-studio staff needs and risks on your projects, to look into some of our less internal staff-reliant options like QA automation, as well as our Global Beta Test Network which includes 20,000+ at-home participants. Our teams will be happy to answer any questions you may have about these 2 services we offer.

Please take into consideration that hiring and training staff takes time, so does building out new spaces and infrastructure, or going through the process of establishing new studios. The sooner you advise us of your needs, the more definitive we can be in answering those needs.

2. Measures that may affect you  

We’re taking a number of measures in our QA studios across the world. We understand that some of the below may affect you. Please do understand that in QA, as in all of our services, our main priority is our staff and their wellbeing affects the services we provide to you. By working to keep our staff safe and well we are taking the right steps to ensure business continuity for your projects. Here are some of the measures we are taking.

  • Moving to set shift times to minimize the risks of contact our staff has through:
    • Off-peak times transit travel
    • Increasing the amount of space between testers
    • Minimizing the amount of staff in our studios simultaneously
  • Unless exceptional, all non-essential business travel is restricted, including:
    • Keywords QA staff travel from one studio to another.
    • Keywords QA staff travel to client studios.

Should you wish to visit us in any of our QA studios, please discuss arrangements with us well ahead of the intended visit date.

3. Other Internal measures

Here are other measure we are taking internally. Please note that they can differ slightly from one studio to another based on environmental context and local laws, and that some of these will change as the situation evolves and as local governments pass new guidelines and regulations.

  • Multiple teams that can work from home efficiently will do so as much as possible. This includes, but is not limited to, functions in Finance, HR, Recruitment, and others.
  • All staff that travelled internationally to higher risk areas are being requested to work exclusively from home for at least 2 weeks.
  • allocated throughout our studios, at each entry point, each QA room, and each meeting room.
  • We have implemented a “No handshake” policy.
  • Work station cleaning and sanitation policies both before and after each work shift have been introduced.
  • Any employees showing symptoms are strictly forbidden access to our premises and are requested to seek medical advice, testing and treatment.

We trust that you appreciate what we are doing, and understand that these measures are designed to support you and your projects as well as our staff. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and, as always, we’ll happily get back to you.


March 12th, 2020 – Andrew Day, CEO, shared a message sent to our clients.

How Keywords Studios is responding to the threat of COVID-19

At Keywords, we have been managing the impacts of coronavirus outbreaks in China and Italy in our studios located in 5 cities across China and in our studios in Milan and Rome. We have also taken measures to mitigate the effects of the virus throughout our operations in over 50 studios worldwide. Throughout this process, our first priority has been the wellbeing of our employees, our partners’ employees and our communities, and we have been working to help our people stay safe and keep them available to work on your projects.

Our extensive network of wholly owned secure facilities around the world provides a unique opportunity for us to work with you to establish business continuity operations for the services we provide to you across the whole game lifecycle, be that game development, marketing, art outsourcing, QA services, localisation, audio or customer support. I would encourage you to engage with our senior management in each discipline to explore ways in which we can set up teams for you in multiple locations such that if work is interrupted in a location, work can continue elsewhere minimising disruption to your schedules. Given our global footprint I would also encourage you to build Keywords into your internal contingency planning. Many of our clients maintain internal teams as well as using external services, and with some forward thinking and planning, we can support you in the event that your own facilities need to close as part of your own proactive or government mandated efforts to contain the virus.

Many of the measures we have implemented will be invisible to you but, learning from our experiences in China and Italy, and in order to protect our people, our studios and our clients, we will be taking further proactive measures and are seeking your support and understanding as we do so.

It has become accepted wisdom that increasing the space between co-workers in the workplace to more than one metre helps prevent the spread of the virus. To achieve this, some of our studios will be implementing time shifted working patterns. In addition to reducing the occupancy density within the studios themselves, this measure will mean that many of our employees will be travelling to and from work outside of the normal peak times and therefore will be less exposed to crowded mass transit and even elevators in the buildings. Chosen shift patterns will vary by location but in general two shifts between 7am and 3pm and 3pm and 11pm will allow us to significantly reduce our occupational density.

Home working is another measure which is being encouraged by authorities. At Keywords we have many years’ experience of successfully operating remote working models in fields such as localisation, customer support and art with an excellent record of managing security and productivity within these activities. Where possible, we may seek your support to introduce limited remote working operations as a further business continuity planning effort.

Like most organisations we are actively reducing our travel at this time. This might, unfortunately, lead to some rescheduling of meetings we have planned with you. We will of course redouble our efforts to keep you apprised of project progress and also keep you informed of COVID-19 measures as they are being implemented. We will also be exploring with you how else we could support you across all disciplines and around the world as we work our way through these difficult times together.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your partnership and look forward to supporting your needs moving forward. View post


February 28th, 2020 – Ashley Liu, Art Service Line Director, shared an update on Linkedin from China.


February 25th, 2020 – Ashley Liu, Art Service Line Director, shared an update on Linkedin from China.

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