Gaming’s Big ‘Crunch’: Is the Industry’s Big Taboo a Real Problem?

Crunch time has become a bogeyman of the games industry, but is it really as bad as a lot of people online seem to think that it is?
Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red, Crunch
Cyberpunk 2077 is the latest AAA game to be delayed after an extended 'crunch' time, the industry's term for working beyond the usual norm ahead of launch day. | Source: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP
  • Crunch time has been talked about in a negative way a lot recently.
  • Opinions on the matter seem to be pretty divided.
  • While the social jury is out, data suggests it is a pointless relic of the past.

Developers have got a lot of flack for ‘crunch time’ recently. Working long hours to meet a deadline is not uncommon. Crunch has been a staple of software development, games included, for decades. But lately, big studios have been called out for the practice.

Rockstar found themselves the target of internet ire when it was reported that some of their team had 100-hour workweeks. Companies like Santa Monica Studios, Naughty Dog and Blizzard tried to defend crunch. Reddit wasn’t having any of it. Neither were members of the studio.

Crunch Time - Tweets
Despite a large amount of backlash from many online, there are those out there who see crunch as acceptable. | Source: Twitter

Opinion on Crunch is Mixed

When the topic of crunch is mentioned online it prompts mixed reactions. On a tweet about CDProjektRed’s delaying of Cyberpunk 2077, many defended the practice. Some said that ‘no-crunch’ was a journalistic invention. To many, it seems as if the practice is fine as long as people are properly compensated.

The other side of that coin is easily found on sites like Reddit. Several different posts relating to crunch time are filled with detractors. It seems like opinions are still divided on the matter. Both online and in the industry, with some companies, such as Bungie, decrying it while others stand by it.

A non-profit organization, Take This, detailed the dangers posed by these long, intense working hours. In their 2019 white paper, they said that crunch time was having an adverse effect on mental health. There is also some evidence that it has a negative impact on a developer’s output too.

So Is It Necessary?

While opinion on the matter is still mixed, data seems to suggest it is unnecessary. If it lowers productivity and has a negative impact on employees, why are we still doing it? It mostly seems like a case of resistance to change. Crunch has been part of software development for so long that it’s just accepted and expected.

Part of the reason is probably also negative fan reactions to delays. That seems to be changing slightly these days if reactions to the Final Fantasy VII Remake delay is anything to go by. While crunch is probably going to be part of the industry for a while, it seems like a pointless relic these days.

Samburaj Das edited this article for CCN.com. If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us.

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