Xbox Responds to Bethesda Crunch Culture Allegations

Following a report earlier this month about the crunch that occurred during the development of Fallout 76, Xbox is responding to these allegations.

One of the problems that the gaming industry has been trying to avoid in recent years is a crunch culture. In the gaming realm, crunch often occurs when a development team rushes to finalize a title, with employees working for long periods of time. One of the reasons some games like Horizon Forbidden West were delayed was due to a company wanting to avoid crunch. However, these cases of compulsory overtime still occur, with Xbox and Bethesda dealing specifically with a recent report from Crunch.

In early June 2022, a report revealed that during Fallout 76’s development, Bethesda’s team was under a lot of pressure to continue working overtime, with low hourly wages and little incentive to do so. According to the report, this constant pressure on the development team is one of the reasons Fallout 76 launched in such a broken state, with fans of the series heavily criticizing the game.

Now Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty has responded to the report via a Q&A when asked to address it. Booty started by stating that Xbox took all reports about the crunch culture “seriously”, before adding that the report and many similar articles “tend to look backwards, sometimes quite a long way back in time.” He went on to say that crunch is something developers wore “as a badge of honor”.

Booty confirms he doesn’t “justify” crunch, but he does explain that it was part of the industry. “[Crunch] was just part of the industry,” he said. “It was part of the culture of the industry. I literally slept under my desk early in my career. While crunch culture was part of the game industry’s past, it seems to be quite common in the present as well. Neil Druckmann of Naughty Dog studios has previously said that crunch culture is not a solution, meaning stories like that could happen again about the development of Fallout 76.

In addition to his comments on the gaming industry’s past, Booty also said overtime should currently be limited only to personal excitement and passion for a project, rather than being required to finish work on a particular title. He also stated that crunch could take place without his knowledge, but that employees could rely on Xbox’s internal process. It seems that some trust has been built between employees and developers in more recent times as multiple studios have slowed down or changed games to avoid crunch. Upcoming titles like the new Witcher game have been said to lack a crunch, though some are waiting to see if there’s any truth to these statements.

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