As the hype surrounding Cyberpunk 2077 by developer CD Projekt Red increases as the launch nears, the studio is attempting to proactively engage with its staff to ensure that there is less “crunch” than was experienced in the creation of The Witcher 3.
For those not aware, the term “crunch” in the video game industry is a catch-all word that describes the often imminent pressure for workers on an upcoming game to spend hundred-hour work weeks to meet deadlines, destroying any notion of work-life balance, and often feeling afraid that refusal to work will lead to direct or indirect consequences within the industry.
In 2017, Cd Projeckt Red received numerous complaints from former employees regarding the unreasonably long hours they were forced to work, or felt pressured to work. Studio co-founder Marcin Iwiński and studio head Adam Badowski were quick to not only confirm that this had occurred, but also defended its implementation, stating that such pressure "creates innovation and makes it possible for us to say we've worked really hard on something, and we think it's worth your hard-earned cash."
This of course is absurd, fitting into the problem that is industry wide and recently reported at Riot Games, NetherRealm Studios, Rockstar Games, and the now bankrupt Telltale Games. All have had complaints from anonymous sources in each company, and for the most part each has pledged to do better apart from Telltale Games, which right up until its bankruptcy continued to declare that crunch was a good thing. Go figure.
Today, CD Projekt Red appears to be aiming to better itself in how it treats its employees, with Iwiński stating that the studio wants to be more “humane” in its approach, though it is unfortunate that “humane” was the best word they could use to treating your employees well.
While many studios today are feeling the backlash over the use of crunch, others too are looking to proactively prevent the issue from manifesting among its staff. Recently, John Hight at Blizzard Entertainment, executive producer and vice president for World of Warcraft, discussed in detail how their team actively works to avoid crunch.
Given how popular the trailers and gameplay have been so far for Cyberpunk 2077, time will tell how genuine Iwiński ends up being in his statement. Words are cheap, and so we will only know close to or after the launch of the game whether or not he valued the work-life balance of his employees enough to stay true to this commitment.
Cyberpunk 2077 does not yet have a firm release date, but one is expected to be announced in June, 2019.