Fortnite has been a major success for Epic Games, and it's not unreasonable to call it the biggest game in the world right now, what with millions of players logging in every day and with big name streamers playing the battle royale shooter for their legions of eager fans.
That success seems to be coming at a cost, however, and with the game being ostensibly free-to-play, it seems that the cost is being paid by those working on the game with long stretches of overtime and weekend work as the ever-expanding team looks to hit deadlines and meet the demands of the community and their own managers.
In a new report over on Polygon, several sources outline how the company has handled its expansion following the success of Fortnite. In some respects things seem to be going very well as Epic looks to scale up its internal operations, however, the report also outlines how the company has shifted to an unspoken culture where overtime - or crunch as it's often called - is expected, and failure to go the extra mile often results in people being let go, or their fixed contracts not being renewed.
In the report, an Epic spokesperson admitted that "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."
While it seems as though the overtime (which is paid, we should add) is not mandatory, sources told the site that it was expected that people would put in the extra hours, and if they didn't, eventually there would be consequences.
"I know some people who just refused to work weekends, and then we missed a deadline because their part of the package wasn't completed, and they were fired," one anonymous source revealed. "People are losing their jobs because they don't want to work these hours."
Another source added: "You're on a contract. It could be three months, it could be a year. But if you don't do the extra work, it's most likely that your contract won't be renewed."
In response to the point about contractors, the Epic rep said: "All Epic contractors have a fixed contract term that is communicated up-front, typically between six and 12 months. Epic makes contract renewal decisions based on the quality of work performed and willingness to work at times needed to meet critical release dates." The spokesperson also added that the average overtime for contractors is "less than five hours per week."
The report details the company culture and how it has shifted to meet the demands of the game's audience, and it doesn't sound like it has been an entirely smooth transition with employees revealing how exhausted they are, with many apparently pushed to the absolute limit. Crunch seems to be a problem for some at the company, especially those on vulnerable temporary contracts, but it's worth noting that these kinds of working conditions are not limited to Epic, and this is an issue that affects the wider industry.