(image credit: CD Projekt Red)
Cyberpunk 2077 is easily one of the most highly anticipated games of 2020, from its promising premise of an open world RPG in a dark, dystopian future to its star-studded celebrity cameos featuring a smouldering Keanu Reeves. Originally announced to come out on April 16th, fans have eagerly been waiting to get their hands on a copy. However, due to the fact that the current-gen consoles aren’t powerful enough to run the game properly, the studio behind the title, CD Projekt Red (most notably known as the creators of the Witcher series), has delayed its release by 9 months and settled on the new date, September 17th.
The delay has been met with mixed responses on Twitter, ranging from complaints on the extended wait time to reluctant acceptance for the sake of a better game and more time for the developers to make finishing touches without rushing. Given the circumstances, a 9 month delay didn’t sound so bad in comparison to an unpolished product and overworked developers.
However, since the CEO of CD Projekt Red, Adam Kiciński, announced the studio would still need crunch to complete the game despite the delay, people have been rightfully upset about the inevitable exploitation of thousands of developers.
Crunch, in regards to the games industry, refers to unpaid overtime which takes place at a point when the development team is thought to be failing to reach milestones needed to launch a title on schedule. Due to how ambitious video games can be, crunch has become the norm in the games industry, ranging from a couple extra hours a week or a mandatory Saturday work day to, at worst, unethically long 100-hour work weeks and stress-induced PTSD or other exacerbated symptoms of mental illness.
The fact that despite the delay, the dev team at CD Projekt Red will still be forced to crunch, is an incredibly startling display of just how broken the games industry really is. In response to criticism, executives of the studio have justified crunch by saying it is a necessary, albeit unfortunate, part of triple A development. This, however, simply isn’t the case. Indie game studios have been able to release titles without the backbreaking crunch expected of triple A, and while indie titles often take much longer to produce due to smaller budgets and staffs, they’re still able to create compelling games without angering fans by being transparent about their work process. It is absolutely possible to deliver a high-quality product without jeopardizing the health and wellness of your employees, it is just a matter of priorities.
While it’s unlikely major, money-driven studios will pull a complete 180 and be kinder to their teams after a couple angry tweets, one good thing to come out of the mess that is Cyberpunk 2077 is the fact that many gamers have been vocal about their disdain for crunch in a manner that hasn’t been seen before. We are beginning to see a deeper understanding of the development process on the player’s part, and this is the first step needed to begin making positive changes in the project management of games. Bringing awareness to the injustice of crunch is sure to eventually make studio executives truly listen to the needs of their workers. When possible, share what your favourite game devs have said about their working conditions and bring the abuses of the industry to light. Make threads, retweet, or share articles, and do what you can to make noise that can’t be ignored. Crunch is a formidable final boss, but our collective action can bring it down.