Crunch time is a term used to describe having to work intense overtime to meet a critical goal in order to achieve success. In the games industry, it’s usually employed in the period leading up to a game’s launch, but we live in the era of early access, DLC, post-launch patches, and games as a service, meaning deadlines just keep coming and the pressure never really goes away.
Everything has to be done immediately. We’re not allowed to spend time on anything. If something breaks — a weapon, say — then we can’t just turn it off and fix it with the next patch. It has to be fixed immediately, and all the while, we’re still working on next week’s patch. It’s brutal.
According to Polygon, Epic Games employees, from development to support, regularly worked 70 – 100 hour work weeks for several months, in a hellish work environment where “voluntary” overtime was expected, due to the explosive success of Fortnite. Contractors that refused to work excessive overtime were replaced. Anyone that complained was labelled toxic.
The pressure comes from executives wanting to please fans so they can make more money, by pleasing fans, with PUBG and Apex Legends snapping at their heels.
There’s a common idea that, if you’re paid exceptionally well, you should just shut up and do the work, because you knew what you were signing up for. However, users aren’t going to die if a patch is delayed by a couple of weeks, whereas excessive stress can cause all kinds of actual death.