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Has Cyberpunk 2077 Dev Lost Its Reputation as ‘Gaming’s Good Guy’?

Published September 30, 2020 11:38 AM
Thomas Bardwell
Published September 30, 2020 11:38 AM
  • A new report reveals that Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red has introduced a mandatory ‘crunch’ six-day work week for employees.
  • The news runs contrary to previous promises from the studio that it is aiming to create a more ‘humane’ workplace with a non-obligatory crunch policy.
  • The report also claims some employees have been working under crunch conditions for over a year.

Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red has been exempt from the controversy associated with many other big-name studios, cultivating a reputation as the gaming industry’s good guy.

Chunky expansions that are akin to games in length and scope, a fair pre-order model, excellent games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, honest communication, support for the majority platforms under the sun – CD Projekt is a breath of fresh air.

Cyberpunk 2077
CD Projekt Red introduces mandatory crunch in the final weeks of Cyberpunk 2077 development. | Source: CD Projekt Red

A new report from Bloomberg News throws some serious shade on CD Projekt Red’s reputation , though.

It claims that despite assurances it would complete Cyberpunk 2077’s without crunch – the industry’s all-too-ubiquitous periods of intense, grueling overtime – the studio is implementing mandatory crunch in the run-up to the game’s release in November.

As recently as last year and on multiple occasions, CD Projekt Red co-founder Marcin Iwiński asserted that Cyberpunk 2077’s development cycle would be free of mandatory crunch  with a ‘non-obligatory crunch policy.’ Iwiński pointed to a desire to create a more ‘humane’ work environment and took a public stand to ‘treat people with respect.’

Mandatory Crunch Instated at CD Projekt Red

Bloomberg reports that CD Projekt Red studio head Adam Badowski sent an email out to employees on Monday informing them of a change to the policy. Per the email, the studio is now in ‘overdrive’ to polish bugs and issues and expects Cyberpunk 2077 developers to work six-day weeks, framed as ‘your typical amount of work and one day of the weekend.’

Badowski also noted 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.”

The CD Projekt Red studio head took to Twitter in the wake of the report with the following statement :

“These last 6 weeks are our final sprint on a project we’ve all spent much of our lives on. 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.”

Cyberpunk 2077
Crunching employees will be ‘well compensated’ for six-day work weeks. | Source: Twitter 

Delay to Reduce Human Cost

More worryingly, the report highlights an account from an anonymous CD Projekt Red employee who revealed that teams have already been working excessively long hours for over a year, spilling over into nights as well as weekends.

A studio implementing crunch in the final furious months of a game’s development doesn’t come as a shock. Even CD Projekt Red is no stranger to crunch. The issue lies in back-peddling on previous commitments to creating a better workplace for developers.

The hype and anticipation for Cyberpunk 2077 are such that CD Projekt Red will be wary of delaying it yet again, but given the human cost, few fans would fault the studio for prioritizing its employees’ welfare.