Crunch is an ongoing issue that many development studios suffer from, with companies like Rockstar, BioWare, and Blizzard being notorious for working long hours. During an interview with Eurogamer, Blizzard’s founder Mike Morhaime stated that the company would not have been as successful without crunch. This is despite the company aiming to become a “no-crunch team.” Morhaime left Blizzard in the fall of 2018 after being with the company for 28 years, starting in 1991.
According to Morhaime:
Blizzard has definitely evolved around crunch. In our early days, we crunched crazy hours to get the games done. I think if you’re a small studio, you’re living or dying by the success of the next project, it takes a lot of superhuman effort – or at least it did for us.
I can’t speak for other companies and I’m sure there are better ways of doing things, but for us, I don’t think we would have been as successful if we hadn’t put in everything that we had.
Later on in the interview, Morhaime added that despite the benefits of crunch, he believes it’s not a great long term solution:
That is not sustainable, and we need to find better ways of working, and so, I think you’re finding companies are doing a lot better these days, managing sort of controlled crunches where people are working really hard, but they’re not working 24/7.
They’re taking breaks, they’re sleeping, and I think the larger companies are able to hire more staff. And actually even the smaller companies – there’s a lot more money coming into the space these days, so even the smaller companies are able to get funded to do the work they want to do better than in the past.
In another interview with Eurogamer, executive producer and vice president for World of Warcraft at Blizzard, John Hight, noted that the company is making lots of progress towards reducing crunch:
Generally our policy on the team itself is we want to be a no-crunch team. We’re not there 100 per cent yet, but we’re really dramatically better than we were even five years ago, certainly 10 years ago. I think that very few parts of the team end up having to work any degree of overtime.
The studio is definitely aware of the consequences of working its employees long hours. Although, it’s not a cut and dry situation, sadly. Many creative directors feel that crunch is necessary, like the head of A Plague Tale, noting that a certain magic happens at the 11th hour. In addition, the nature of developing games is tough to plan, as many unexpected problems can arise.
At the very least, it seems like Blizzard is working towards fixing this ongoing issue and hopefully there is a solution that can be reached.