A recent article about AAA developer Rockstar Games has got fans and developers worked up.
With the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2 barely two weeks away, the company behind the Grand Theft Auto franchise claims that their teams are pushing 100-hour work weeks in order to meet the launch deadline. As the article from Games Industry made the rounds, influencers, devs and fans began to sound off on what sounded like poor project management skills, and a reflection on the troubled game industry as a whole.
Kotaku has since followed up for some clarification and received some semblance of walk-back from Mr. Houser, who stated that they “No one, junior or senior, is ever forced to work hard…”
Of course, there’s no shortage of passionate developers and creators who put in long hours to breathe life into new games. However, it’s naïve to think that gamers aren’t familiar with the “crunch-culture” that arises in the closing weeks of any major gaming project. When faced with the possibility of a delayed game, there appeared to be two key options:
- Push the game back. For a game as big as Red Dead Redemption 2, with 11 days on the clock before its anticipated release, such a delay would undoubtedly cause mass grumblings and disappointment. However, if Final Fantasy XV was able to weather such a storm after hosting a massive launch event, I think Red Dead Redemption 2 could have done just fine.
- Increase productivity by upping man-hours. This appears to be the path that Rockstar took, as many companies have before.
No doubt the sting of this interview and subsequent rabble is only heightened by the recent Telltale fiasco, which saw a once promising studio shutter almost instantaneously, effectively tossing dozens of game developers out on the streets with no pay, health insurance, or means of earning a living in the cost-prohibitive Bay Area. The perception of a major company downplaying the needs of their employees and putting them through the ringer for the sake of getting a game out on time has seemingly rubbed much of the community the wrong way, and the conversation is continuing even now on Twitter.
While timely releases are obviously important, one can’t help but wonder where the balance lies between the needs of your customer base and the needs of your employees.
What do you think? Is “crunch-time” just a natural cycle of game development? Or should companies be taking more care in preserving work-life balance for their employees, even if it means delaying a game as highly anticipated as Red Dead Redemption 2?
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