CD Projekt Red announced on October 5th via the official Cyberpunk Twitter account that the game has gone gold, meaning it is complete, ready for certification and publication on November 19th.

However, in the wake of this announcement, a number of people raised their concerns over CDPR’s recent use of crunch hours to work on Cyberpunk despite their promises not to resort to “extended overtime hours”.

‘Crunch’ refers to a period of increased workload, often with increased or mandatory overtime, prior to a scheduled release. This can cause adverse affects for staff, diminishing their mental or physical health to ensure a game is released on time and to a high standard.

Bloomberg reports that CD Projekt Red informed employees on September 28th that six-day work weeks would be mandatory for the six weeks leading up to the November release. This additional day of work would be paid overtime, as required by Polish labour laws. The same article reports that some employees have already been working night and weekend shifts for over a year, according to a CDPR employee.

Adam Badowski, head of the studio, did respond to these claims on Twitter:

In response to further questions from Bloomberg, CD Projekt Red’s Chief Financial Officer Piotr Nielubowicz did confirm that the November 19th release date would not be changed – as the release date for Cyberpunk has been pushed back twice already, first from April to September and then further to November – and adding that the primary reason for the overtime is to eliminate most of the bugs in the last straight.

Crunch periods are not unheard of in game development, with other large companies such as Rockstar or Naughty Dog having become embroiled in the discussion previously, following their major releases (Red Dead Redemption II and The Last of Us Part II, respectively). The primary issue is that mandatory overtime and extended periods of intensive work can be detrimental to a person’s physical and mental health, causing burnout or long-term health concerns. This can, in turn, poorly affect the very games they are involved in creating.

The Last of Us Part II by Naughty Dog was involved in the debate regarding crunch periods earlier this year, in the run-up to its release.

As more and more developers resort to using crunch periods to get their games out on time, and to the best standard, the same question is raised – is crunch necessary to game development? Couldn’t a developer or publisher delay a release, to be able to work on their product in their own time without adversely affecting their own employees? Or has crunch become so ingrained in development culture that we just accept it’s a part of releasing a game?

With the eternal machine of business chugging along, it’s not always possible to delay a release to continue development – fan interest and interaction can drop off, repeated delays can cause a game to enter development hell and executives will always be pushing to see profits in their pockets. With that in mind, crunch doesn’t seem like the best option.

What do you think about crunch culture in game development – is it necessary to ensure our entertainment is up to the finest standard, or is crunching on the last straight a crutch propping up a shaky foundation? How do you feel about CD Projekt Red’s decision to enforce overtime despite their previous promises not to?

Let us know in the comments below.

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