This Week In The Business: Do AAA Games Require Crunch?

Image: Ubisoft

"Rockstar is a good company to work for. When it's not crunch, it's not a bad place at all. The money's alright, there's a bonus at the end of the year. It's just that crunch practically kills people." — A former Rockstar Lincoln QA tester believes a good company to work for will, from time to time, practically kill its employees.

QUOTE | "It felt like they just wanted us constantly afraid to keep us in line." — A former Rockstar San Diego employee is one of several former Rockstar developers discussing oppressive working conditions at the company.

STAT | $US538 ($759) million — Estimated 2018 royalty payments for Rockstar games, according to BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson. Johnson believes Rockstar co-founders Sam and Doug Houser will receive more than half of those payments.

QUOTE | "There is not a pervasive pattern of sustained unreasonable overtime" — Rockstar head of publishing Jennifer Kolbe defends the company's practices after recent reports detailed a pervasive pattern of sustained unreasonable overtime at Rockstar.

QUOTE | "Therein lies one of the greatest obstacles between where we are today, and a future where games companies act on their purported values of treating people like their most important asset: Pride. On the whole, executives in our industry have a grand inability to admit the imperfections of the companies they run." — Former Raven Software producer and current consultant Keith Fuller says studios can't improve conditions if management doesn't recognise there's a problem to fix in the first place.

QUOTE | "While we can always do better, I can tell you hand on heart that [Assassin's Creed Odyssey] hasn't required a massive crunch, like maybe some of the triple-As from five or ten years ago." — Ubisoft Quebec managing director Patrick Klaus said one of this season's other big open-world games was built without burning out its creators.

QUOTE | "If we commit to respecting the time, livelihood, and continued growth of our teams, we will not only avoid crunch but rule out its existence entirely." — Criterion Games VP and GM Matt Webster offers advice on how to make AAA games without crunch.

STAT | 37 per cent — According to the NPD Group, launch month sales of Spider-Man on the PS4 were 37 per cent higher than launch month sales for all Spider-Man games released since 1995 combined.

QUOTE | "The companies I worked at were, let's put it this way, a lot of similar-looking individuals. [There are] a lot of beards at Phoenix Labs." — Phoenix Labs co-founder (and alum of BioWare and Riot Games) Jesse Houston says a simple attitude change helped the company increase diversity in its ranks, and adds Dauntless is benefiting as a result.

QUOTE | "We actually ask our team what makes them happy about working at Playground Games in our annual surveys. Last year, the top five responses to this question were, one: openness, honesty and transparency, two: compassion, three: respect for employees, four: the studio environment, and five: trusting of employees. That's a nice top five to have." — Playground Games studio director Gavin Raeburn offers a bit of the mindset that helped make the Forza Horizon 4 developer one of the honourees in GamesIndustry.biz's UK Best Places to Work 2018.

QUOTE | "There is no place in esports for cheats like Kumawat and, at a personal level, I hope we never see him back in CS:GO or any other game again." — ESIC integrity commissioner Ian Smith talks about Nikhil 'forsaken' Kumawat, former OpTic India Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team member, who was caught cheating last week during a competition at Extremesland Asia. The ESIC gave Kumawat, who had a prior cheating offence on his record, a five-year ban.


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