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Cyberpunk 2077 devs backtrack on 'no mandatory crunch' stance

Crunching ahead of the November launch

For all their talk about not making staff work 'crunch' overtime on Cyberpunk 2077, it seems CD Projekt Red staff are facing a stretch of crunch ahead of the RPG's November launch. A supposed internal CDPR e-mail passed to Bloomberg told the dev team they are now expected to work an extra day each week, which will be paid, while acknowledging that this is "in direct opposition to what we've said about crunch."

Bloomberg say they have been passed an internal e-mail from studio head Adam Badowski by an employee who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.

"Starting today, the entire (development) studio is in overdrive," Badowski supposedly wrote in Monday's message, specifying this means working "your typical amount of work and one day of the weekend." Bloomberg say he expressed optimism about the game but it was time to focus on fixing bugs and glitches. Which requires extra work from the dev team. Apparently this is at least paid time, thanks to local labour laws, unlike at studios in many countries.

"I take it upon myself to receive the full backlash for the decision," Badowski wrote. "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."

Bloomberg say the employee told them some people had already been putting in nights and weekends for more than a year, though the scale and cause of that is unclear. CDPR's stance on crunch has been flimsy. They've said publicly several times that they're against mandatory crunch. CDPR co-founder Marcin Iwiński told Kotaku last year that, much like their reputation for being good to customers, "I actually would [like] for us to also be known for treating developers with respect." Yet earlier this year, the company conceded in an investor call that they would need to crunch "to some degree" to meet the then-planned September launch. Now here's this.

Update: Badowski has posted a statement on Twitter.

"These last 6 weeks are our final sprint on a project we've all spent much of our lives on," he said. "Something we care for deeply. The majority of the team understands that push, especially in light of the fact that we've just sent the game to cert and every day brings us visibly closer to shipping a game we want to be proud of. This is one of the hardest decisions I've had to make, but everyone is well compensated for every extra hour they put in. And, like in recent years, 10% of the annual profit our company generates in 2020 will be split directly among the team."

I see that cheeky wee "the majority of the team" there.

Crunch is widely disliked and derided for, y'know, being miserable. Excessive overtime wears down and burns out people, causing great physical, mental, and social harm to meet release dates. It's one of the reasons some are pushing to unionise the games industry. The latest Game Developers Conference survey, one of the few large-ish gauges of industry trends, found 54% of the 4000-odd respondents think the industry should unionise - though only 23% emphatically believed yes, this will actually happen.

Cyberpunk 2077 is due to launch November 19th. After that, they expect to release some free wee content updates, paid expansions, and whatever the multiplayer Cyberpunk is.

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Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice has been playing video games since SkiFree and writing about them since 2009, with nine years at RPS. She enjoys immersive sims, roguelikelikes, chunky revolvers, weird little spooky indies, mods, walking simulators, and finding joy in details. Alice lives, swims, and cycles in Scotland.