Recently the much-anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed from September to December and there has been a livid response. Shortly after the announcement of the delay one of the lead developers tweeted about receiving death threats which were not taken lightly by the team. On YouTube a large volume of videos was made directly criticizing CD Projekt Red for the delay and the 6-day weeks many developers now must work. Cyberpunk 2077 was not ready for the covid-19 pandemic and its effect, but it was not the only developer hit hard by recent events.
The latter half of 2020 has seen an avalanche of video game delays that have hit all corners of the game industry. Dying Light 2, Deathloop, Rainbow Six Quarantine, No More Heroes 3, and even Halo Infinite have all been victim to significant delays that have moved release dates far back. To many people this might seem like just another consequence of the covid-19 pandemic, but there might be another explanation for an industry wide tidal wave of date shifting. The issue that caused these delays could have been unrealistic development cycles and horrible time management which would only become by a global pandemic that slows down production.
It is no secret in the game industry that crunch time has dominated the industry in recent years. Crunch time is an accelerated period of work where people could easily work over 100 hours each week regardless of their health. Crunch time should ideally be used as a last resort to speed up development on critical tasks. Unfortunately, many companies have adopted crunch time as a standard practice to the detriment of their own staff. This rise in “crunch culture” has burned out developers that previously had passion and excitements for their jobs.
The hype that dominates big game releases in recent years has eclipsed reasonable development times in importance and that has led to a significant human toll in large game developers like EA and Activision-Blizzard. The reality of game development is that it takes time to make commercial masterpieces, so pumping out large games comes at the expense of the workers mental and physical health. This cycle of constant overworking has led to disasters such as the infamous “Anthem” from the once legendary studio Bioware. Some older players like the legendary Blizzard Entertainment (also known as Activison-Blizzard) are seeing former and current developers quit entirely to move to new studios often populated by other ex-Blizzard employees.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that perfectly represents large commercial games in recent years due to massive hype, unrealistic development cycles, and extensive crunch time. The development behind large commercial games clearly needs to change if situations faced by Cyberpunk developers have become universal issues. The game industry cannot continue to ignore these longstanding problems especially amidst a global pandemic that makes development of games even harder. Personally, I can wait one more year for a game if it means that the developers will not have to sacrifice their own health for weeks at a time.
Sources: https://www.businessinsider.com/video-game-development-problems-crunch-culture-ea-rockstar-epic-explained-2019-5, https://www.theverge.com/2020/10/27/21536662/cyberpunk-2077-cd-projekt-red-delay-december