(Bloomberg) -- Polish video game developer CD Projekt Red told employees on Monday that six-day work weeks will be mandatory leading up to the November release of the highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, reneging on an earlier promise to not force overtime on the project.
Red, a subsidiary of Poland’s biggest gaming company CD Projekt SA, has been criticized previously for engaging in “crunch,” an industry term for excessive overtime in game development. The practice often lasts for weeks and can stretch out for months or even years. CD Projekt Red co-chief executive officer Marcin Iwinski last year told gaming website Kotaku that the company would be avoiding mandatory crunch and was “committed” to allowing employees to work without overtime.
But an account from a CD Projekt Red employee recently as well as an email to staff earlier this week indicate that the company hasn’t lived up to its word. The employee, who asked not to be named discussing private information, said some staff had already been putting in nights and weekends for more than a year.
In the email, CD Projekt Red studio head Adam Badowski wrote that he was optimistic about the state of Cyberpunk 2077, which stars Keanu Reeves, and that they had just sent the game to be certified for release on Sony Corp.’s PlayStation and Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox. Now, he wrote, it was time to fix the game’s many lingering bugs and glitches.
“Starting today, the entire (development) studio is in overdrive,” Badowski wrote, elaborating that this meant “your typical amount of work and one day of the weekend.” The extra work would be paid, as required by Polish labor laws. Many other video game studios don’t pay for overtime.
“I take it upon myself to receive the full backlash for the decision,” he wrote. “I know this is in direct opposition to what we’ve said about crunch. It’s also in direct opposition to what I personally grew to believe a while back -- that crunch should never be the answer. But we’ve extended all other possible means of navigating the situation.”
In a post on Twitter Wednesday, Badowski said CD Projekt employees can continue to count on bonus payouts amounting to 10% of the company’s annual profit. This could prove to be a lucrative sum, as analysts estimate the Warsaw-based company’s net income will rise 11-fold to 2 billion zloty ($520 million) in 2020. CD Projekt had 1,079 employees at the end of June.
“It seems that most investors take into account that in a highly competitive industry where programmers and graphic designers are the main asset, the company has to offer high bonuses in order not to lose its staff and compensate any crunch,” said Tomasz Rodak, an analyst at BOS Bank.
CD Projekt’s Chief Financial Officier Piotr Nielubowicz responded to Bloomberg questions in an email saying that Cyberpunk’s Nov. 19 launch date won’t be changed, adding that the studio is working to eliminate most bugs at “the last straight,” -- the main reason it asked employees to work an extra day.
Shares in CD Projekt fell 3% to close at 418.4 zloty in Warsaw. Trigon analyst Kacper Kopron said in a research note that the news about crunch may weaken sentiment to stock, even as the risk of further postponement of Cyberpunk release is minimal.
Last year, Iwinski and Badowski told Kotaku that they were looking to make CD Projekt Red a more “humane” place to work.
“We are known for treating gamers with respect,” Iwinski said. “I actually would [like] for us to also be known for treating developers with respect.”
(Updated with bonus information in seventh paragraph.)
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