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Report: Fortnite developers recount horrible working conditions at Epic Games

Fortnite dive
Fortnite dive (Image credit: Epic)

Fortnite is an incredibly popular third-person shooter, and a lot of its success can be attributed to constant updates. However, a new report by Polygon suggests that it's an incredibly difficult place to work due to the constant crunch. This is a problem that plagues the majority of the gaming industry, and it's no different at Epic Games.

Over the past few months, many outlets have interviewed developers across the gaming industry to reveal this practice. The latest company which forces its employees to work hectic shifts is none other than Epic Games. Polygon started off its investigation by stating the following.

In a dozen interviews conducted by Polygon over a period of several months, current and former employees say they regularly worked in excess of 70-hour weeks, with some reporting 100-hour weeks. Contract staff in Epic's quality assurance and customer service departments spoke of a stressful and hostile working environment in which working overtime — while officially voluntary — was an expected service to the company.

The most telling quote from the report was of an employee who described working 70 hours, but knew many others who pulled even more demanding shifts. The unnamed employee said the following.

I work an average 70 hours a week. There's probably at least 50 or even 100 other people at Epic working those hours. I know people who pull 100-hour weeks. The company gives us unlimited time off, but it's almost impossible to take the time. If I take time off, the workload falls on other people, and no one wants to be that guy. The biggest problem is that we're patching all the time. The executives are focused on keeping Fortnite popular for as long as possible, especially with all the new competition that's coming in.

While many studios deny such reports, Polygon said that an Epic Games representative confirmed that 100-hour work weeks do take place. However, the spokesperson also said that the company was trying to minimize this in the future. You can read that statement below.

People are working very hard on Fortnite and other Epic efforts. Extreme situations such as 100-hour work weeks are incredibly rare, and in those instances, we seek to immediately remedy them to avoid recurrence.

It's a shame that this severe crunch is part of the gaming industry. Hopefully, the recent increase in coverage of the problems will lead to real change. However, only time will tell. We've known about this for years, but it still hasn't changed.

How do you feel about this report? What steps should the gaming industry take? Let us know.

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Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

14 Comments
  • Are you kidding me? This has been a problem FOREVER in the gaming industry. People aren't just figuring this out now. EA Spouse in 2006:
    https://www.cjc-online.ca/index.php/journal/article/view/1771/1893 Rockstar did this when I was working there from 2000 until 2009. For a time, they had (pretty much mandatory) 65+ hr work weeks all year.
    And when that didn't happen because the most experienced people were getting their jobs done and helping the less experienced do their jobs as well? LAYOFFS! I remember looking at those who were "let go". Twelve of the top 20 senior people at R* San Diego were laid off right after Red Dead Redemption. Myself and a few others who had been there for more than 7 years were also "let go" in the 2 years leading up to that..
    We had families to get home to, but R* wanted you to stay for dinner Mon-Friday... and if you ate there, you were required to stay until 9pm or later. Then we'd have to work 10-4 on Saturday and be on call Sunday. https://www.gamespot.com/forums/games-discussion-1000000/rockstar-lays-o... The statement in this article from Steve Martin at R* is BS, btw... they didn't need to realign anything. They always pooled the talent from any of there various studios to help with whatever game was finishing next... I worked on Midnight Club for many years, but also helped on Table Tennis, GTA, Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, and various other titles that needed input or help.
    They did this mostly to get rid of the highly paid San Diego folks, and bring in fresh faces who wouldn't mind working more hours because they were desperate to break into the industry. There were also rumors of them doing it because they didn't want to pay bonuses based on Red Dead Redemptions success. I dont know if that's true, but the fact that its even mentioned should tell you all you need to know.
    This all happened at a very bad time, btw.. there weren't jobs to be had in the San Diego area. Rockstar had more than enough money to support a few of those people through a couple months...
    And final nail in the "R* are jackholes" coffin.. We all heard they offered to hire back a few of the people they laid off just a few months later. Surely that meant no bonuses for RDR, no extra vacation for being there longer.. ouch.
  • Reading your posts always saddens me. R* has made so many games that I have loved. It is just disappointing to hear how bad the management of a company can be of products that you love using. Thank you by the way for helping to make these games and any other future games at other companies you make. Even though most of us don't understand the industry that we cherish, especially the people side, we do appreciate your efforts. If anyone is interested, I have recently listened to a good book on this subject, "Blood, Sweat, and Pixels". I encourage everyone to give it a try, it certainly opened my eyes a bit. I tried to send a free book, but it looks like I can't anymore through the app. Here is an old link that may work: http://a.co/eoB0iLD
  • It's the same in a lot of industries... People trying to progress in companies feel they need to do extra to get noticed. Eventually, everyone is trying to outdo each other and the unpaid work gets out of control. Companies exploit this fact very easily. If everyone worked hard during their paid period then all left when they were supposed to, companies would hire extra workers to fill the gaps and promote people according to talent.. Half the time people burn out long before they are promoted and are simply replaced...
  • This is untrue. You shouldn't talk about things you obviously know nothing about. People aren't working extra hours to try and progress. They are told they *need* to work extra hours to meet a deadline. If you don't meet the deadline, sales suffer, your bottom line suffers, and you'll lose your job.
    Marketing, shelf space, etc... all have to be planned out months in advance. Thats the reason.
  • Isn't an average over 48hrs pw over 17 week period illegal and in violation of the Working Time Directive for European countries? How do people like Rare compete with these sweat shops?
    exceptions from UK HSE (Health and Safety Executive):
    -where 24-hour staffing is required
    -in the armed forces, emergency services or police
    -in security and surveillance
    -as a domestic servant in a private household
    -as a seafarer, sea-fisherman or worker on vessels on inland waterways
    -where working time is not measured and you’re in control, eg you’re a managing executive with control over your decisions
    I reckon they're using the last one as a opt out, but using guilt regarding load on co-workers.
  • You are allowed to opt out of the working time directive. My previous employer before Mobile Nations 'encouraged' me to sign such a thing. By encouraged I mean it was either do it or don't have the job.
  • It is "optional" overtime. Overtime you have to take otherwise you get fired.
  • I really don't feel too bad for them. They have the choice to work there. Lots of people work this much and not just in the games industry. You choose to work hard now to get somewhere or achieve a goal, that is part of advancing in a career. No one is forcing them to come in every day. If they complain about it you kind of have to ask them why they are still working there. Hard work builds character and hopefully it's just for a time so that you can get to where you want to go. If that isn't happening and they feel taken advantage of they should leave. Pretty simple.
  • Why are they still working there? Maybe, but just maybe, they have a family and losing a job makes it hard to put food on the table and pay the bills. This kind of argument only works on an imaginary world where people can just leave a job and find another the next day that pays enough to pay the bills. And have you though that not everyone wants to advance on their career? That they just want a job that pays enough to live a comfortable life? It's even proven in studies that after you make enough money to live a life like this you more money won't be happier.
  • I hate to break it to you, you sound like what some call slave driver. When you build a niche carrier like game development, with limited industries, you can not just leave, hence your family will suffer financial hardship which the top brass knows.
  • I would guess because if they lose their job they also lose their health insurance(a big problem for a lot of people in the US)
  • You do know that it all depends on how competitive the market is. It's not as easy as saying "I'll just quit and find something elsewhere".
    Here a video on the subject. I agree with this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT14-lyqofA
  • The others have pretty much torn apart your useless spouting of verbiage through your keyboard... so the only thing I have to offer here is:
    What you say makes you sound like a complete idiot. Definitely one with no family depending on you. Maybe even one who lives with his parents. And no sense of how the real world works.
    Hmm, I guess I had more to say than I thought.
  • It sounds like America's labour laws sit somewhere between terrible and outright non-existent.