Although video games are often seen as a fun source of entertainment for us consumers, many are unfamiliar with the tremendous effort and time developers put into games to deliver a quality product. However, CD Projekt Red, the studio behind The Witcher franchise and the upcoming game Cyberpunk 2077, spoke out about recent game development issues, specifically the toll it takes on the health and wellness of game developers.
Given that CD Projekt Red is known for its games that feature massive content, the company has earned a reputation of instilling a “crunch culture” with its employees, asking them to work outside of their usual working hours for certain amounts of time. While crunch culture is not new in the video game industry, the studio’s co-founder Marcin Iwinski spoke out and acknowledged the issue. He explained that while the studio has been known for treating its players with respect, it is also trying to achieve the same with its developers.
Iwinski revealed that one of the ways the studio plans to achieve this goal is by implementing a “non-obligatory crunch policy” at CD Projekt Red. Although he clarifies that this policy is not new in the studio, he is planning to push for it even harder, especially during Cyberpunk 2077’s development, and would like developers to know that even if the studio requests them to work on nights and the weekends, it is not mandatory.
Of course, any employee would know that working beyond specified work hours at the request of their superiors is not really mandatory in most cases. However, it is likely that some employees wouldn’t have the urge to say no, for there is always that fear of not contributing enough and possibly getting fired.
Iwinski acknowledges this predicament but explained that by making a public statement, he is hoping that developers in the studio would feel more comfortable in refusing requests of longer work hours if they do not want to. “I think this is the commitment we’re ready to make today, and we’ll be listening to people,” Iwinski said. “We definitely open a lot of lines of dialogue here, and we’d like to start with that.”
Developer burnout, especially with triple-A developers and publishers is not new in the industry. Most recently, BioWare was slammed when an expository article revealed the rushed development of Anthem, resulting in burnouts of some employees, with some forced to take leaves for stress-related reasons.
CD Projekt Red’s dedication to its developers is definitely a commendable effort on the part of the studio. Of course, the happiness and well-being of employees should always be a priority for employers. However, we should also understand that studios are businesses and must meet deadlines and quotas to survive in a highly-competitive industry. The important takeaway in CD Projekt Red’s public statement is its willingness to open dialogue and work with developers to find a compromise that would satisfy both parties and ensure a harmonious relationship for the long term.
Cyberpunk 2077 is in development for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and next-gen platforms.