Blizzard employees say "mismanagement" is leading to Diablo IV delays and crunch time

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,715   +1,162
Staff member
Highly anticipated: As expected, Blizzard took time at The Game Awards 2022 to announce a Diablo IV release date and begin pre-orders. The eagerly anticipated title is slated to launch in June. However, some Blizzard employees think the release window might be too optimistic.

On Thursday, several anonymous Activision Blizzard employees told The Washington Post that Diablo IV's June release date seems unlikely unless they cut parts of the game or there is a massive crunch period. The sources say that the title has already faced several unannounced delays. This claim bears some weight considering that leaks in November indicated the game would arrive in April 2023.

A two-month delay on a game already in its beta phase seems reasonable — the extra time should give developers a chance to put the finishing touches and final polish on the title. Still, WaPo's sources paint a bleaker picture, complaining of mismanagement, high turnover, and the possibility of some heavy crunch for "paltry" rewards.

Crunch is generally voluntary overtime work consisting of extended hours and weekend work for higher pay, usually 1.5x an employee's standard wage. Game companies also incentivize crunch time by offering other rewards on top of the higher pay rate. The incentives can include bonuses for getting the game out on time, stock options, and even a cut of the initial sales.

While crunch has almost always been a part of game development, it has gotten a bad rap in recent years because of some companies making it mandatory or not offering "fair" compensation. A couple of years ago, CD Projekt Red received some flak for requiring its Cyberpunk 2077 developers to work six-day work weeks during crunch time when it had promised no mandatory overtime.

The anonymous employees say Diablo IV might be too far behind for a June release to be reasonable. They pointed to an example of a team for a specific, but unnamed, portion of the project of about 20 developers losing nearly half of its members within one year. The insiders said the employees left to find "more competitive wages and better work conditions" at other companies but failed to mention whether Blizzard replaced the missing staff.

Blizzard would not comment on attrition, but a spokesman indicated that production was on schedule and going smoothly.

"As you may know, game development in general, and 'Diablo IV' specifically, follows an iterative process where the scope evolves over time," Blizzard Spokesman Andrew Reynolds stated. "Production on the game is going extremely well. Overtime is voluntary and limited to specific teams. We regularly survey the team on their professional well-being, and the latest results are the most positive they've been in years."

Blizzard's stance is that overtime is strictly voluntary. It has offered various incentives to entice employees to put in extra hours that go beyond overtime pay. For example, any employee who puts in a 10-hour workday or more receives a $25 DoorDash voucher to cover some take out while working. The company also offered profit-sharing bonuses, including doubling employee stock shares after the game releases and stock payouts ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 based on position and seniority. Some employees think these incentives are "unnecessary and destructive."

"They incentivize leadership to cut corners, compromise, and ship products that are not ready to be released instead of doing what is best for long-term value creation," said one of the insiders. "It's really just a way for the company to, without mandating crunch, make people want to work much, much longer hours, and stress themselves out, and burn themselves out to save the company money and get it out quicker."

Regardless of what the insiders think, Blizzard is now on record with a June 6, 2023, release date. Crunch or no crunch, if Diablo IV misses that deadline, fans might be forgiving, but investors won't.

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Ohnooze

Posts: 442   +819
Oh crap....Blizzard whatever you do, don't ask anyone to work overtime. It's considered slave labor...just don't do it.
 

sorten

Posts: 182   +296
TechSpot Elite
Oh crap....Blizzard whatever you do, don't ask anyone to work overtime. It's considered slave labor...just don't do it.
When you think overtime, I assume you're thinking light overtime like 60 or 70 hours per week. That's nothing compared to crunch time in the gaming industry.
 

Watzupken

Posts: 759   +642
Looking at Diablo 3, I am not expecting this to be any good. I sense they will be adding some features behind paywalls. In D3, to add more character slots means that you need to buy the DLCs. And despite the seasons that they will force you to build new character(s) of the season, you just have fixed slots and storage. Plus, the game requires an active internet connection and the server to be up before you can play.
 

emmzo

Posts: 808   +1,244
D3 was a complete letdown. I have only started mildly enjoying it with the Necro expansion. They needed years, years to make it decent, but people kept playing even though it sucked, because... Blizzard. I don't really get it, with so many clones out there making a better job, for instance a free game like Lost Ark, which is much more engaging and satisfying and again, free.
 
So basically they'll just release a public beta in June that people will need to pay for. That seems about on par with most games these days.

Thats what Blizzard is doing for ages.

They have done it exactly that way with D2 and D3.

Both precedessors have received a lot of fixes before the community began to love them.

D3 was broken until they released the paid DLC for it. D2 also.

Thats Blizzard style - > release unfinished games and fix them with paid DLC.

It is common knowledge that Blizzard games are unfished and then patched over the years.
 
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Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,327   +853
Voluntary paid overtime for 150% salary = slave labor? Alright then, I’ve heard enough.
Yeah that's pretty decent terms honestly. Industry standard for toxic companies is no compensation for working 10-20 hours extra a week. Like an Elon company...
 

Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,327   +853
There is no such thing as voluntary overtime. You either do what they tell you that needs to be done or you are looking for a new job.
And it's an employees market nowadays. Just leave crap companies. Just go looking for that new job. Life is too short to be so qualified working for this garbage.

"You either do what they tell you that needs to be done or you are looking for a new job."
Don't threaten me with a good time
 

Puiu

Posts: 5,953   +4,994
TechSpot Elite
And it's an employees market nowadays. Just leave crap companies. Just go looking for that new job. Life is too short to be so qualified working for this garbage.

"You either do what they tell you that needs to be done or you are looking for a new job."
Don't threaten me with a good time
If only it were that simple. Most people can't afford to look for a new job, especially in the gaming sector.
 

Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,327   +853
If only it were that simple. Most people can't afford to look for a new job, especially in the gaming sector.
Can't afford? Companies like Blizzard literally leverage the fact people are willing to work shitty conditions to be part of games companies NOT because they can't find jobs in other sectors that don't treat them like garbage. The gaming programmer dream is working for AAA studios but as covid has reminded society, work life balance is important. There's more to life than spending 60 hours a week working for a company that treats you like crap.

There are HUGE issues for employers nowadays with churn of staff and newer generations not tolerating bad workplace conditions. There's a trend for employment mobility. People aren't afraid of packing up and finding a better workplace. And covid society has only amplified this trend.
 

Puiu

Posts: 5,953   +4,994
TechSpot Elite
Can't afford? Companies like Blizzard literally leverage the fact people are willing to work shitty conditions to be part of games companies NOT because they can't find jobs in other sectors that don't treat them like garbage. The gaming programmer dream is working for AAA studios but as covid has reminded society, work life balance is important. There's more to life than spending 60 hours a week working for a company that treats you like crap.

There are HUGE issues for employers nowadays with churn of staff and newer generations not tolerating bad workplace conditions. There's a trend for employment mobility. People aren't afraid of packing up and finding a better workplace. And covid society has only amplified this trend.
I know the trend of employment mobility very well. It still doesn't mean that many can do it. Those who can are limited in numbers, especially after a certain age.

For example, having kids changes your perspective in life. People agree to these horrible jobs just so that they can get a bit more money.

And I know so many programmers that just don't have in them to quit their jobs. It's a personality thing.