1. What is Crunch in the Game Development Industry?
  2. Common Causes of Crunch in the Game Development
  3. Poor Time Management
  4. Large Scope of the Game
  5. Creative or Technical Change
  6. Overpromising During the Game Promotion
  7. Employees are Early-Career Workers
  8. The Consequences of Crunch Time in Game Development
  9. Game Development Crunch Time Preventive Measures Applied by Pingle Studio
  10. Consider Pingle Studio Your Trusted Partner
  11. Final Thoughts

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Game development crunch has been accepted as a part of the process and normalized for years. It is only with recent controversies and developers speaking up that crunch in game development stopped being viewed as natural as more and more studios move away from the practice.

With a lot of pressure to meet the deadline of a project, the game development team lives under constant stress. Some reports even mention people practically living on the job. This has drastic consequences on their mental health, as well as the quality of the final product. So, what can you do to prevent the need for crunch? Let’s take a closer look at the problem.

What is Crunch in the Game Development Industry?

Crunch time in game development refers to prolonged hours a game development team works (more than 50 hours a week), usually to meet a release deadline, often without any overtime payment.

The crunch culture has become so prevalent that there are dozens of examples of games completed with crunch. One of the recent examples is the development of Cyberpunk 2077. The game has been delayed several times, and CD Projekt Red management has promised that they will not resort to crunch time, and yet, at the end of the day, the developers had to work overtime to complete the project.

What’s more, this strategy does not necessarily improve the quality of the crunch game. Even in our example, Cyberpunk was full of bugs on the release.

Common Causes of Crunch in the Game Development

Poor Time Management

The first major reason behind the need for game development crunch time is the lack of managerial oversight over the development timetable. The deadline set up for the game release in most cases is rather strict, but the road to it is often uncertain and flexible.

To avoid crunch time, a timeline with clear goals needs to be set up. Furthermore, there should be some leeway if the development timeline has to be shifted due to unforeseen issues.

In most cases, time management is the responsibility of the project manager. However, they often have too much on their plate already, so one of the potential solutions would be setting up a separate management position that would control the schedule.

Large Scope of the Game

Developers always aim to bring new, better experiences to their players. With so many different titles on the market, this requires more and more time and resources. This especially concerns epic open-world experiences, which are as popular as ever right now.

With the enormous scope of work and a strict deadline, the development process is often rushed, and the video game development crunch becomes inevitable. An obvious way to avoid the crunch, in this case, is to abandon your ambitions, but that is not a viable solution if you want to attract more audiences.

The only way to find how to avoid video game development crunch is strict and thorough time and resource management. For that, you need to have someone experienced in the process to identify the major challenges you might face.

Creative or Technical Change

You may be surprised by how different the games you know and love looked at the early stages of their development process. The changes in the creative direction and the changes in the technology developer uses are inevitable, but they might have some consequences on the development timeline.

Video game development crunch time that results from this issue is difficult to avoid, as it is almost impossible to predict. Abandoning the idea that might drastically improve your game is much worse than shifting the timeline to include it.

The only way to avoid video game design crunch time because of this reason is to avoid setting up a deadline at all. This is often challenging, as the release date is set up by the publisher, and even if they agree with you and decide to move it, the target audience might be disappointed. However, some companies still do it, like Team Cherry that develops the sequel for their successful indie darling Hollow Knight.

Overpromising During the Game Promotion

In certain cases, the initial plans for the game don’t pan out. There are various potential reasons behind it – features can become too difficult to implement, may not suit the game’s overall style, or can make a game impossible to optimize for target platforms.

However, if you’ve already announced certain features during the initial marketing of your game, your target audience will hold you on to your word. The gaming culture can be somewhat toxic, so even if your game is up to par but lacks the elements you’ve promised, you may get crucified by the community.

This is why marketing is as essential a part of game creation as development. You want to balance attracting your potential target audience with expectation management. One part of your team should not suffer the video game development industry crunch due to another part overselling the product.

Employees are Early-Career Workers

Video game development is one of the most popular career choices among young programmers. Many of them come into the industry with a love of games and an idealized view of the process.

Unfortunately, some studios take advantage of the naivety of the early-career workers. With promises of valuable experience and future opportunities, they manipulate the developers to work unpaid overtime in poor conditions.

This is one of the reasons why it is often argued that video game developers should unionize. If the companies take advantage of the vulnerable party, there should be an organization that protects workers from them.

The Consequences of Crunch Time in Game Development

It is often argued that crunch time is ruining game development. But what exactly does it do to the industry? Let’s take a look at some major consequences of crunch time in game development.

The first thing that needs mentioning is the mental state of the developers. Game development crunch conditions keep them in a constant state of stress. From there, it’s a straight road towards burnout and depression.

Secondly, crunch time obviously affects the work-life balance of the workers. People spend days on end with their coworkers and don’t see their families for weeks. While this brings the development team closer together, it is not a healthy lifestyle.

In addition, this unhealthy work environment often impacts the productivity of the development team. In order to maintain a high level of motivation and drive, you need to have an appropriate amount of time for rest and away from your work. Thus, long crunch periods really decrease the efficiency of the team.

Another consequence of the reduced mental capacity the developers get due to crunch is that it makes them more prone to errors. This may result in a subpar final product filled with bugs.

The unfortunate thing about these is that any developer that cares about their job cannot say no to the request of crunch time from the higher-ups. People are forced to sacrifice their well-being for the success of the project. That’s why the whole crunch culture needs to be changed to make the industry sustainable.

Game Development Crunch Time Preventive Measures Applied by Pingle Studio

Fortunately, more and more studios move on from the development cycle that involves crunch. For example, Hades, the hit action-roguelike of 2020, was developed by Supergiant Games completely without crunch.

Pingle Studio is among the companies that avoid subjecting their employees to crunch time. But how can game developers avoid crunch time? Our key tool in this regard is our expertise.

Developers and designers at Pingle Studio have  15+ years of experience in the industry, so when we first get introduced to a project, we can identify the challenges we might face and determine a realistic timeline for their solution. We thoroughly plan our development cycle, which helps our team stay on the timeline and avoid the potential crunch.

Consider Pingle Studio Your Trusted Partner

Pingle Studio is a team of talented and experienced designers, developers, and artists. We’ve worked on the development, co-development, porting, and optimization of many successful projects.

Some of the most notable challenges we’ve worked on include porting an indie horror game Hello Neighbor to mobile, co-developing an explosive 3D shooter Rocket Arena, co-developing and optimizing a beautiful and unique Lost Ember, and more.

We’ve cooperated with studios and publishers of all sizes and expertise, so we’re ready to face any challenge you might have for us. Your ideas and creative decisions are important to us, so you can be sure that your game will look and feel exactly like you want it to.

If you want to avoid crunch time but don’t know what to do, consider partnering with Pingle Studio. Our experience in game design and adaptability to new situations and challenges will help you successfully bring your vision to players without subjecting the developers to needless stress.

Final Thoughts

While crunch culture is widespread, it is still incredibly damaging and toxic. It impacts the developer’s well-being and throws work-life balance out the window. So, the sooner we move on from it, the better it will be for the whole industry and each individual working in it.