"[Crunch] Is Killing People. Something Has to Change"

"[Crunch] Is Killing People. Something Has to Change"

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Once again, gaming headlines are dominated by the industry's shabby treatment of its workers.

My first instinct was to headline this column "Buncha Crunch." But then I realized I'd already used that one, even if it was for this column's previous life on another site. It's depressing that the games industry is so bad about pumping out the same crunch-related horror story multiple times a year that we could reuse a headline like that twice in six months.

Fortunately, there's a dash of hope on the horizon, as this week's exposé of working conditions at Epic Games since the launch of Fortnite was joined by sentiments from a number of individuals and studios who understand the industry needs to be better on this matter.

QUOTE | "If Steam committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached, Epic would hastily organize a retreat from exclusives (while honoring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam." - Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney says the company would drop its controversial deals to keep games off Steam if Valve just treated developers better.

QUOTE | "It's killing people. Something has to change. I can't see how we can go on like this for another year... The workload is just endless." - An Epic Games developer was among a dozen who spoke to Polygon about extreme crunch at the studio since the success of Fortnite Battle Royale.

QUOTE | "If we're going to crunch early for something, we made them team-wide. Everything can benefit from getting more done. If the artists were on schedule, then they crunched and they got ahead." - In 2009, long before the success of Fortnite Battle Royale, Gears of War 2 producer Rod Ferguson talks about the virtues of crunch at Epic Games, which he said was absolutely necessary to make a great game.

QUOTE | "The thought was, 'Hey we kind of have something that's blowing up here, do we want to start trying to drop more content?' But I think you look at quality of life for the team. We don't want to overwork the team and drop the quality of the assets we're putting out." - Respawn Entertainment CEO Vince Zampella says the company has prioritized the health of its employees over the content release schedule for its Fortnite competitor Apex Legends.

QUOTE | "We have been prioritising things like bug fixes, stability and game flow over the new features of Act 1. We set aside time for this work, but the reality is there are more things to fix and improve than we planned for. While this is the best thing to do for the game, it means some items from the calendar will be delayed." - BioWare explains why some of the post-release content for its recently released Anthem is being pushed back. The company recently came under fire for its history of crunch conditions, and as a result admitted its historical crunch problems and pledged to improve on them going forward.

QUOTE |"When it first happens, it's really empowering because you're letting all the excess details of your work life disappear and you're focusing in on the core problems." - BioWare co-founder Trent Oster's comments to the CBC on the short-term benefits of crunch can be read as defining family, friends, and health as "the excess details of your work life" while defining one's job as "the core problems."

QUOTE | "This is just an opportunity to work on projects as personal to me as the good ol' days of the '90s and early '00s. In that time, work wasn't work for me at all. I didn't think of the work I was doing then to be anything but a labor of love. It was the most fun. I would prefer to be working on one of my games than going on vacation. I was a little bit of a workaholic, because I loved it." - Former BioWare creative director James Ohlen says his new Wizards of the Coast Austin studio is "an opportunity to return to those personal projects." (He added he is no longer a workaholic and wants his developers to be able to have a family life, but also said he wants to model the studio's culture after BioWare.)

Anthem has delayed some of its upcoming content. | BioWare/EA

QUOTE | "A lot of business leaders feel [sustainable working hours] are a luxury. They feel that once you make it, then you can afford to work 9-to-5. But to me, I don't think I could even get to where it's sustainable if I didn't work 9-to-5, because I see this as running a marathon." - Kitfox Games co-founder Tanya X. Short explains that she prioritizes people over projects at the Boyfriend Dungeon studio.

QUOTE | "You have to be looking at the long game—we need these people to be more than happy to do four, five, six-plus of these titles and you can only do that by making sure they're looked after and you're not putting on that pressure that's unsustainable to do year after year." - Codemasters Brimingham studio head Ian Flatt talks about trying to keep pressure from escalating and encouraging people "to protect their lunch breaks" at the F1 racing series developer.

QUOTE | "If you get what you expected, it always gets boring. Usually when I play games, if I play three hours and after that I can extrapolate the next ten, I get really bored. So that's why we do it. We don't want people to extrapolate anything, everything should be a surprise." - Former Playdead CEO and co-founder Dino Patti talks about the thought process behind Inside's conclusion.

QUOTE | "As a general rule, we're always working on new hardware and we will announce it when we are able to sell it. But we have no plans to announce that at this year's E3 in June." - Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa responds to reports of a smaller, cheaper Switch in the works.

QUOTE | "When I think about the potential of this new marketplace, we have to be open to the idea that we can welcome more people into our hobby... This isn't about trying to convince them that they're gamers, or converting them and pulling them to where we are. I think it's incumbent on us to meet them where they are, with what we know how to do." - Amy Hennig sees big things in the future for games and streaming, provided the industry has a bit of humility in how it approaches the opportunity.

QUOTE |"The immersive simulation is not the kind of game where if you keep moving forward, like a shark, you'll eventually win. It's not the kind of genre where you just solve a puzzle the designer created for you, or kill everything that moves and you win. It's a genre where you have to decide what to do, you have to choose how to interact with the world." - Warren Spector believes part of the reason for immersive sims' struggle to achieve mainstream success is that they require the audience to work.

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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