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Constant development means a perpetual push to crunch at Epic, say Fortnite devs

"If I take time off, the workload falls on other people, and no one wants to be that guy," one dev tells Polygon how crunch has become an unofficial requirement for QA at Epic Games.

“The biggest problem is that we’re patching all the time. The executives are focused on keeping Fortnite popular for as long as possible, especially with all the new competition that’s coming in.”

- An anonymous dev talks about Fortnite's constant push for new content, and the effect it has on developers

Polygon has published a story on how the sudden and ongoing success of Epic Games’ Fortnite Battle Royale led to significant, perpetual crunch for developers working in quality assurance, customer service, and production roles, to name just a few.

Developers from Epic, like many at other game studios that have been publicly called out for regular crunch, say that crunch is an unspoken requirement of the job, though never really an official mandate. The full story is an important read, though unfortunately not an unfamiliar one, for game developers and a reminder that sometimes the pressure to crunch isn't as black and white as an explicit rule.

Developers in QA, for instance, anonymously tell Polygon that Epic Games’ push to keep Fortnite’s momentum going and roll out patches all the time means that many teams exist under a near-constant pressure to crunch.

“The company gives us unlimited time off, but it’s almost impossible to take the time. If I take time off, the workload falls on other people, and no one wants to be that guy,” says one dev that says they work an average of 70 hours a week. 

For full-time staff, Polygon’s sources say the pot is sweetened by wages, bonuses, and benefits that make it easier to mentally justify constantly putting in excessive hours. For contracted staff, a source says management saw extra work as a requirement for limited-term contracts to be renewed. 

“All [management] wanted was people who are disposable,” a source discussing contract employees told Polygon. “The situation was, ‘Come in and do as many hours as we need you.’ They put the contractors in a situation where if they don’t do that overtime, they know they’re not coming back.”

Staff working in customer service told Polygon of similar issues after Fortnite’s sudden growth. In that case, a source says that Epic accelerated hiring to try to accommodate the sudden influx in support tickets, but it wasn’t an issue that could be fixed with the kind of sudden hiring spree that brought 50 new and untrained staff to the company in a single day.

A spokesperson from Epic Games did give several comments to Polygon on the studio’s crunch culture, noting that: “Extreme situations such as 100-hour work weeks are incredibly rare, and in those instances, we seek to immediately remedy them to avoid recurrence.” The spokesperson also notes that Epic has implemented mandatory time-off policies and is "aggressively growing the team, improving our planning process, and experimenting with approaches."

Polygon’s full story has more from the past and current developers working at Epic Games, including more comments on how the day-to-day at the company has changed since Fortnite Battle Royale’s launch, how developers say management and HR have done little to address those problems in the time since, and comments from Epic on the many issues devs brought up in the article. 

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