Not an accident that CD Projekt Red posted a new Cyberpunk trailer to try and distract away from the news that they were being evil.
Yeah, crunch is two things when it comes to gaming: ubiquitous and evil. It’s the practice of encouraging, or sometimes outright forcing, workers at game development studios into unhealthy and unethical conditions in order to ship out a game. For a long time, it’s been accepted as part of the “process” for making games – and before someone tries to defend it on those merits, that in no way makes it right. Especially since it’s the rank and file workers who end up having to crunch, not the executives who pocket all of the rewards from that effort.
CD Projekt Red has a somewhat notorious history of crunch… the Witcher 3 was a gigantic expansive game that was done by working their developers raw because of poor project management and scope creep. Jason Schreier detailed what happened with the Witcher 3 in his fantastic book that I will never stop suggesting, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels. After their practices came to light, and there was a considerable backlash, and they pledged to change. Compared to a lot of other companies who make empty promises all the time, CDPR had seemingly held to that throughout the Cyberpunk 2077 development cycle.
Not anymore, though; originally broken by Schreier and then confirmed by CDPR’s studio head Adam Badowski, the company has now said that 6-day work weeks are mandatory between now and the game’s launch (and likely after) on November 19th. Because they’re in Poland, and not here in the US, the workers will be paid and compensated for the time. CDPR has also promised that 10% of the net profit for the year will be split as bonuses. None of this, however, makes up for the fact that this is enforced, and the choice that workers are now given is “do it” or “be unemployed.” Also, if you want to see a bunch of people that deserve to be punched in the face, go read some of the responses in the twitter announcement from CDPR justifying it.
Jim Sterling also has some thoughts on this…
The worst part about this whole thing is that the game is “done.” It’s been sent off to Sony and Microsoft for certification, this is all fixing bugs leading up to release. That’s a sign of bad project management, and bad management in general; they’re abusing their workforce to clean up a game to meet a deadline. Worse, there’s a whole ton of research that says any hours put in past around 7 or so in a given day drastically increases the amount of mistakes, defects, or effort that goes in. In short… crunch is counter-productive, especially in what they’re doing here.
Something that can, and has, changed. If they were ever serious about changing how they treat their workers, we’d be hearing how the release got pushed back a couple of weeks. It’s not on the Series X or PS5 (yet), and it’s most certainly going to sell well when it comes out. I don’t buy for a second that they’ve “exhausted every other option,” and I do believe when there are reports that some workers have been doing nights and weekends for over a year.
Also, on a particular note, for anyone who wants to defend behavior like this with arguments like “they could just quit” or “that’s how games are made,” please just stop reading this and go just get bent. Sub out the word bent for something far more profane as well, because I’m tired of the excusing and justifications for bad behavior. Changing a professional job isn’t an easy task, and it’s why the threats of crunch are so effective. Professionals have families, rent or mortgages, debt, and other things that capitalism makes a job required for. In the US, healthcare is almost always tied to employment, and it should be noted, it somewhat is in Poland as well (where CDPR is located).
My underlying ask here hasn’t changed… I’m not telling you not to buy Cyberpunk when it comes out (I haven’t even made up my mind if I will or won’t get it). Make that decision yourself… just understand that there are some real people being hurt to make it happen. Voting with our wallets can be effective, though in my experience, it just makes companies exploit fewer workers after layoffs until it all implodes. Workers absolutely should unionize, and the industry should be regulated into behaving better… yet our voices can carry weight as well. It’s not okay what they’re doing, and we should never let them forget it.