Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red declared mandatory 6-day work weeks leading up to the game’s November launch date.
CDPR’s studio head Adam Badowski notified employees about their new work hours on Sept. 28, according to a report by Bloomberg. This is a complete turnabout from CDPR’s statements last year, when co-founder and joint CEO Marcin Iwiński promised that the company wouldn’t force its workers to crunch.
“Crunch” is industry jargon for the excessive overtime that workers go through leading up to a title’s release. While it is common practice in all software development, it is particularly ubiquitous and brutal in the games industry. Several top-tier game studios have made teams work 70-100 hours a week for upwards of 6 months.
In 2004, Erin Hoffman wrote an anonymous LiveJournal post detailing her fiancé’s troubling work hours at Electronic Arts, which were listed from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week. The infamous “EA Spouse” post went viral and eventually led to three class-action lawsuits against Electronic Arts.
More recently, Rockstar Games co-founder Dan Houser came under harsh criticism in 2018 when he said the Red Dead Redemption 2 team was working 100 hours a week. He later clarified the 100 hours only referred to himself and a small cohort and that Rockstar wasn’t mandating or asking that of anybody. However, in 2010, another anonymous later from spouses of Rockstar employees accused the company of encouraging crunch culture.
Though crunch continues to remain standard in game studios, there is no evidence to suggest it actually improves product development. A study on productivity from Stanford professor John Pencavel found no difference in productivity between people working 55 hours a week and people working 70.
The negative effects of crunch, however, have been well-known for years now. Not only does it sap morale and harm mental health, it causes serious physical consequences, from constant sleep deprivation to high stress. Critics have claimed that the normalization of crunch in the game industry is the result of poor management and disregard for workers’ rights.
In response to journalist Jason Schreier’s report in CDPR’s latest crunch mandate, Badowski said that 10 percent of CDPR’s annual profit will be “split directly among the team.”
If you enjoyed this story, check out In The Know’s article on how Cyberpunk 2077 will feature a shorter campaign than The Witcher 3’s because of low completion rates.
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