Given the game's incredible success and the studio's keenness on keeping things fresh and entertaining for players, this should come as no surprise. But there have been widespread concerns over working environments, more so in the gaming industry now, with entities such as Game Workers Unite urging industry workers to protect their rights by unionizing.
Polygon recently interviewed a section of current and former Epic employees, who all insisted on remaining anonymous as they fear a backlash from the company or other potential employers in the gaming industry - plus Epic reportedly requires all of its workers to sign a nondisclosure agreement that puts a lid on most of its affairs.
The report highlights a culture of pressure and fear in which overtime is not mandatory but actively encouraged. The long hours have unsurprisingly led to health issues among employees and, despite having the option of "unlimited time off," Fortnite devs hardly go for it as their workload will become someone else's responsibility and no one wants to be the one to have someone else work harder.
“I work an average 70 hours a week,” one employee revealed. “There’s probably at least 50 or even 100 other people at Epic working those hours. I know people who pull 100-hour weeks. The company gives us unlimited time off, but it’s almost impossible to take the time. If I take time off, the workload falls on other people, and no one wants to be that guy.
“The biggest problem is that we’re patching all the time. The executives are focused on keeping Fortnite popular for as long as possible, especially with all the new competition that’s coming in.”
The report also claims that Epic prefers hiring people who are "disposable" and employees who refused to work long hours were quickly replaced. While the hard work and the long hours aren't forced on anyone, there's a certain measure of guilt that comes with taking a day off.
“The executives keep reacting and changing things,” Polygon's source claims. “Everything has to be done immediately. We’re not allowed to spend time on anything. If something breaks — a weapon, say — then we can’t just turn it off and fix it with the next patch. It has to be fixed immediately, and all the while, we’re still working on next week’s patch. It’s brutal.
“I hardly sleep. I’m grumpy at home. I have no energy to go out. Getting a weekend away from work is a major achievement. If I take a Saturday off, I feel guilty. I’m not being forced to work this way, but if I don’t, then the job won’t get done.”
An Epic spokesman has also spoken to the aforementioned publication in an email interview, admitting that a lot of hard work is being put into the game, however, 100-hour work weeks don't come very often.
“People are working very hard on Fortnite and other Epic efforts,” he says. “Extreme situations such as 100-hour work weeks are incredibly rare, and in those instances, we seek to immediately remedy them to avoid recurrence.”