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People Make Games' latest video delves into how devs "buy crunch overseas"

Outsourcing doesn't solve crunch

There have been a lot of reports into crunch culture at game studios over the past few years, but those stories have often excluded mention of work outsourcing studios. These are companies with names you won't know, but which are often responsible for a lot of the art, testing and other duties on blockbuster games.

In their latest video, YouTube channel People Make Games spoke to 19 current and former developers at two outsourcing studios in Southeast Asia about the work they do, and the ways in which crunch is being shipped overseas.

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The video focuses on a handful of examples, including CD Projekt Red's outsourcing of work on Cyberpunk 2077, and Activision Blizzard's outsourcing of work on WarCraft 3: Reforged. It takes pains to underline that these are just examples of a more widespread practice, however. Outsourcing happens on nearly every major mainstream videogame.

Specifically, People Make Games spoke to developers at Lemon Sky in Malaysia and Brandoville in Indonesia. Employees from both spoke about working 70 hour weeks, staying at their desk till 5am, often sleeping in the office, and not being paid any overtime. They describe a culture where this was expected of them by the company, and often explicitly demanded by their bosses.

Outsourcing itself is not the issue here. The issue is the exploitation of workers happening at the companies doing the outsourced work.

If you want to read more about outsourcing, I'd recommend this article from The Outline back in 2018, which talks with Chinese studios who worked on Horizon: Zero Dawn. It's not an article about crunch - staff report happy working conditions, and paid or compensated overtime - but it's further insight into the essential work these employees are doing.

People Make Games is the work of Anni Sayers and Chris Bratt, and you can support their videos on Patreon. Also they sometimes release videos by some guy called Quinns.

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