Industry analyst Michael Pachter says game developers have no business complaining about working unpaid overtime hours during crunch time and if they don’t like it, they should find another job.
The Team Bondi debacle that blew up last month, with employees coming forward to complain about brutal, near-abusive working conditions and a drawn-out crunch period that saw employees working 110-hour weeks without being paid overtime, is probably the biggest scandal to hit the development industry since EA Spouse blew the whistle on EA’s poor labor practices back in 2004. But one man who’s not buying into it is well-known analyst Michael Pachter. He doesn’t deny that it happens, he just doesn’t think it matters.
“I’ve never heard a developer say ‘I don’t work overtime and I don’t work weekends,'” Pachter said in the new edition of his GameTrailers show Pach Attack. “If you’re getting into the industry, you are going to work plenty of hours. If your complaint is you worked overtime and didn’t get paid for it, find another profession.”
“I think there’s a legitimate complaint if crunch time is never-ending,” he continued. “Crunch should be the last three to six months of game development. I do get that it is a bad and unfair business practice to work 18 months non-stop overtime, [but] I don’t think anybody was entitled to overtime pay.”
If you’re curious about why Pachter feels this way – and you should be – the short answer is that what developers don’t get in overtime pay is generally more than made up for by hefty bonuses, particularly for successful triple-A releases. “If you want to be an hourly employee, go build automobiles. And what will happen is they’ll close down your plant some day and you’ll be out of work,” he continued. “The cool thing about this industry is, if you’re good, you’ll make a ton of money. I think [the point] everyone is missing is that if a game is good – and L.A. Noire was good – there will be a profit pool, and there will be bonuses.”
As to the question of unions in development studios, which would presumably bring a rapid halt to the sort of behavior that allegedly went on at Team Bondi, Pachter was equally clear. “Sweatshops should have unions but game studios, which tend to pay people a lot of money, shouldn’t,” he said.
The International Game Developer’s Association launched an investigation into the labor practices at Team Bondi in June.