The immense success of Fortnite’s battle royale mode was a welcome surprise for Epic Games executives as it provided record profit and growth at a pace that had never been expected by anyone. But as it is increasingly common in the video game market, this growth beyond what was expected ended up not bringing good news to the developers of the game.
Several employees and former employees of the company revealed in an interview with Polygon (on condition of anonymity) about the culture of “crunch” (the English word used to indicate long working days without breaks or breaks) and the abusive work environment that the growth of the game ended up creating in Epic.
According to these officials, doing overtime to meet the company’s schedule was always something that existed, but it was rare and allowed these people to program. But with the sudden success of Fortnite , it eventually changed, making it normal for the company to require these people a working day between 70 and 100 hours a week – which meant that if these people wanted to have a weekend free to rest with the family, they would have to work between 14 and 20 hours a day (by comparison, the standard working day in the United States is 8 hours a day).
This new culture eventually made the work environment, once rather quiet, rather abusive, with employees continually complaining of stress and getting sick from overwork. And while the company did not force people to work on weekends, it had the culture to fire those who chose not to work overtime, which made employees feel compelled to work beyond the contract every day. And because of the seasonal content-launching scheme for Fortnite, which gets a major update every three months, many developers become desperate and go into depression because they have no prospect that this work will ever end.
Other decisions are taken by the studio to cope with the growth of the game also helped to create such a culture, such as a sudden increase in the number of employees – for example, the game support team went from day to night from 40 to 3,000 people, and the older employees needed, in addition to focusing on their own work (whose demand had increased greatly), assisting in the training and acclimatization of these new hires, which greatly increased the team’s stress.
Another common problem was the number of layoffs that occurred over the period, with a number of employees struggling to keep up the bills until the date of payment of bonuses for profit sharing – which, on account of much higher-than-expected profits, often came to be up to three times greater than the salaries themselves – then resigned for reasons of mental health and even physical.
A spokeswoman for Epic said that several of the issues cited are real, but that the company has been struggling to remedy them. She says working hours of 100 hours per week are quite rare and the company has created mechanisms to make them less and less recurrent.
Epic also claims that many of these problems cited by employees were due to the very fast and unexpected growth of Fortnite, which did not allow the company to prepare and gradually increase the team. To prevent employees from becoming more exhausted than they already are, the company has created a culture of guaranteeing all two mandatory annual vacation periods so they can rest and put their heads in place.