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A hot potato: Crunch time among game developers has been something of a hot button issue over the last few years. CD Projekt Red has said on numerous occasions that it would not force developers to work crunch hours. With the Cyberpunk 2077 deadline looming, now its studio head is saying the company has no choice.
Initially slated for an April 16, 2020 release, CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077 has suffered two delays. The first pushed the game out to September 17 of this year, and the second seemed to finalize the release date as November 19. With slightly over a month and a half to go until that final due date, CDPR is reportedly finding the need to require crunch time.
Bloomberg reports that the developer has mandated that all staff work six days per week until release. Requiring employees to work overtime during the run-up to launch is not an uncommon practice for game developers. However, it is something that CD Project Red said it would never do.
In May of last year that CDPR co-founder Marcin Iwiński said that the company has a "non-obligatory crunch policy." There are times when extra hours are needed, but Iwiński made it pretty clear that crunch would not be forced.
"We want to be more humane and treat people with respect," Iwiński told Kotaku. "If they need to take time off, they can take time off. Nobody will be frowned upon if this will be requested." A month later, in another interview with Kotaku, Iwiński again promised that employees working on Cyberpunk would not be required to work overtime "no matter what."
However, in January of this year, the tune began to change. In an investor call, studio heads discussing the delay of Cyberpunk 2077 mentioned the necessity of crunch. When asked if employees would be "required to put in crunch hours," CEO Adam Kicinski said they would.
"We try to limit crunch as much as possible, but it is the final stage," said Kicinski, while adding, "We try to be reasonable in this regard, but yes. Unfortunately."
Bloomberg obtained an email from Cyberpunk game director and studio head Adam Badowski. In it, Badowski claimed that due to the bugs and glitches that are still in the game, the company has no choice but to shift into "overdrive."
"Starting today, the entire studio is in overdrive, [meaning] your typical amount of work and one day of the weekend," Badowski's email read.
Badowski indicated that he was well aware of what the company had said on multiple occasions and is willing to take full responsibility for the broken promise.
"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."
It is not all bad news, however. For one, CDPR is based in Warsaw, Poland, and is required by law to provide overtime pay. It's worth noting that overtime occurring at night and on Sunday requires 100-percent remuneration (double time). Additionally, Badowski posted a tweet earlier today, noting that employees could still count on receiving bonuses equaling 10 percent of the company's annual profit.
That is no small sum. Analysts project CD Projekt Red to rake in over $520 million this year, which could equate to bonuses into the tens of thousands of dollars. So on top of overtime pay, employees will be seeing large lump-sum payouts for the inconveniences they suffered during the crunch.