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Ex-NetherRealm devs: crunch and exploiting contractors was the studio norm

Developers discuss crunch and on how contracted employees can be exploited by game development studios.

Developers that had previously worked at Mortal Kombat 11 developer NetherRealm Studios took to Twitter to talk about their experiences at the studio last week, a discussion prompted by Polygon’s story on similar crunch issues at Fortnite developer Epic Games.

There’s a great deal of overlap between the concerns raised by some of the ex-NetherRealm devs and those that brought up by the anonymous Epic employees that spoke to Polygon, including some on crunch and on how contracted employees can be exploited by game development studios.

A story for PC Gamer fleshes out some of those stories, with developers telling the publication about toxic workplace behaviors, months-long periods of crunch,  and issues faced by both contracted and full-time developers at the studio. We attempted to reach out to the studio, but NetherRealm did not respond to a request for comment. 

Rebecca Rothschild, a former QA analyst with the studio from 2014 to 2016, tells PC Gamer of periods of time where she was working 90-100 weeks during the development of both Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2.

"We were second class citizens, and that was made clear in many little ways," she tells PC Gamer. "This money's great but if I have no life and am working myself to death, what good does this money really do me?"

Another former NetherRealm developer, Beck Hallstedt, pointed out on Twitter that at $11-$12 per hour, contractors relied on the time-and-a-half pay from overtime and crunch to make rent.

Isaac Torres, another former QA tester that spoke with PC Gamer, had a similar experience with crunch, saying “I crunched for about 4 months straight… I was regularly doing 90-100 hour weeks and worked every single day." 

"The developers at NetherRealm are some of the best in the world,” says Torres. “They deserve to work on a game that has a schedule that actually fits within a reasonable amount of time instead of crunching a year’s worth of work into 6 months."

The full PC Gamer story has more from these developers and some anonymous others on their time at NetherRealm, both on the topic of crunch and other issues faced at the company.

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