One topic that many developers are currently discussing is ‘crunch’, a time in video game development when employees perform a final push to try to get a game finished. This is often described as a period of demanding work, often resulting in employees working considerable hours of overtime. While this concept has been a part of the video game development for years, it’s something that has been explored in far more detail recently, with employees of large video game companies revealing the negative impacts it can have on personal wellbeing and health. In an interview with IGN this week, Nintendo of America President, Doug Bowser, commented on crunch and the delay of the new Animal Crossing instalment.
“For us, one of our key tenants is that we bring smiles to people’s faces, and we talk about that all the time. It’s our vision. Or our mission, I should say. For us, that applies to our own employees. We need to make sure that our employees have good work-life balance.One of those examples is, we will not bring a game to market before it’s ready. We just talked about one example [in Animal Crossing’s delay]. It’s really important that we have that balance in our world. It’s actually something we’re proud of.”
This statement makes it seem pretty clear where Nintendo currently stands on crunch. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is now scheduled to release on March 20th 2020, which is a little later than its originally planned 2019 launch date. In the Nintendo Direct earlier this week, Nintendo’s Deputy General Manager, Yoshiaki Koizumi, stated that the title had been delayed to ensure the game is the best it can be. This perfectly demonstrates Nintendo’s stance on not bringing a game to market before its ready, while hopefully easing the pressure on its staff.
No one likes to hear that one of their most anticipated titles has been delayed, however, the majority of the gaming community have responded positively to Nintendo’s comments on crunch and the subsequent Animal Crossing delay. Many fans have echoed the importance of staff being treated fairly and have called for more developers to operate under these conditions. In addition to wanting a healthy work-life balance for the dev team, people have also mentioned that they’d rather wait for a finished game that doesn’t feel rushed – a concern that has recently arisen amongst Pokémon fans, following an announcement that upcoming titles Pokémon Sword & Shield will only support the new Galar region Pokédex.
We hope to see more open conversations regarding crunch in the future. In the past few years, we’ve learnt more about what goes on behind the scenes of game development and the shocking conditions that some devs have faced. Ensuring a good work-life balance for staff can only be a good thing, and will likely have further positive impacts on the games they are making.