With less than two months to go before the release of Cyberpunk 2077 on 19th November, studio-wide overtime is being mandated on CD Projekt Red employees, according to a new report by Bloomberg. Citing an internal email, the team have been informed that they must work six-day weeks between now and release, as they try to troubleshoot as many bugs as possible for a day one patch.
CD Projekt Red’s Adam Badowski wrote that studio staff would be required to work “your typical amount of work and one day on the weekend”. He continues, “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.”
Update: Badowski has posted a statement confirming the “final sprint” and that “This is one of the hardest decisions [he’s] had to make,” though emphasising that employees will be paid for overtime.
— Adam Badowski (@AdamBadowski) September 30, 2020
The company has gone back and forth on the issue since reports emerged about excessive crunch time during the development of The Witcher 3, but mandatory crunch goes against promises by senior staff in recent times. Following criticism of this and with Cyberpunk 2077 looming, co-founder Marcin Iwiński told Kotaku in May 2019 that the company would be “more humane” in its approach to crunch time and that while the studio might ask employees to work overtime, it would not be mandatory. “If they need to take time off, they can take time off,” he said. “Nobody will be frowned upon if this will be requested.”
Still that didn’t rule out crunch as a way of getting the game finished. Following a delay from April to September, co-CEO Adam Kiciński stated in a Q&A conference call that, “We try to limit crunch as much as possible, but it is the final stage. We try to be reasonable in this regard, but yes. Unfortunately.”
Of course, the underlying issue is that crunch never went away and it seen as a necessary evil to get games finished throughout much of the industry. Even with crunch not being mandatory, there’s still peer pressure to put in overtime, to try and demonstrate that you’re a team player by forgoing time off. That can then be exacerbated if a game is delayed late in development, effectively adding more crunch time, and with many developers now working from home, the lines between work and relaxation are sure to have been blurred even further.
At the very least, Polish laws dictate that extra working hours must be paid to workers, so CD Projekt Red’s employees will and have been compensated for their overtime.