In May 2019, Cyberpunk 2077 developers CD Projekt Red promised staff that there would be no mandatory crunch as the game neared completion. A month later, the same promise was made. Now? A report says they’re being told it’s time to crunch.
In a move that will surprise few, least of all followers of the exploits of capitalism in the pandemic age, the studio’s previously volunteer-only crunch policy—itself an issue given the influence of peer pressure and expectations—has now reportedly become mandatory, as CDPR rush to get the game’s bugs squished before Cyberpunk’s scheduled release date in November.
Crunch is a term used to describe “extended periods of overtime that can last for weeks or months on end”, and usually comes towards the back end of a game’s development. Once almost universal across the industry, in recent years it has become rightly criticised as an exploitative and anti-worker business practice.
According to Bloomberg, the change in policy was sent to staff in an email, and means everyone was now expected to be completing “your typical amount of work and one day of the weekend.” That extra work will, at least in this case, be paid (many other studios do not pay extra for periods of crunch).
Addressing the fact this goes directly against promises made only a year ago, studio head Adam Badowski writes in the email:
I take it upon myself to receive the full backlash for the decision. I know this is in direct opposition to what we’ve said about crunch. It’s also in direct opposition to what I personally grew to believe a while back — that crunch should never be the answer. But we’ve extended all other possible means of navigating the situation.
One of the assumed reasons CDPR went so public with those promises last year was to assure staff that the studio was a more “humane” place to work compared to other developers. To make that pledge then break it is...yeah.