Fortnite continues to ride high at the top of the Xbox Gameplay Chart and streaming charts, and this is mostly thanks to its weekly updates that bring along new content, such as the Avengers: Endgame crossover, and regular bug fixes. According to Polygon, though, that has taken its toll amongst the developers at Epic Games who are working on that content, with reports of intense crunch that has lasted for months, and a "toxic, stressful environment".
The interviews were conducted with "full-time staff, managers, and contractors working in development, QA, and customer service departments". Both current and former employees reported working regular weeks that exceeded 70 hours, some of which could even reach 100 hours. When a deadline was missed due to workers refusing to work weekends, those workers were fired.
The conditions are created by the game's constant update cycle. As an Epic Games spokesperson said:
Fortnite achieved a far higher level of success than we had ever anticipated. Everybody throughout Epic responded to the success with incredible vigor and commitment. The Fortnite team rapidly expanded the game to grow the audience; the Unreal Engine team began a broad effort to optimize for 60fps and support seven platforms; others throughout the company moved to Fortnite to maintain momentum.The game's executives ask for constant changes in a bid to keep the game popular and to fend off any danger from rival titles. The problem is those changes have to be made immediately. If a weapon breaks, it can't be removed from the game and be fixed and reintroduced with the next patch. Instead, it has to be fixed immediately, all while the team continues to work on the new content in the next patch. Spreading each content update over two weeks instead of a single week also did little to alleviate the problem.
Working overtime at the company is supposed to be on a voluntary basis, but they claimed that it was actually "an expected service to the company". If the employees didn't meet these conditions, they were met with a "culture of fear" and hostility, with career progression being blocked for those unwilling to work excessive hours, or even their contracts not being renewed at the end of their terms. The company also offers unlimited time off, but then employees are reluctant to take that time because their large workload would then be passed on to somebody else, increasing the pressure on them. Many suffer health issues due to the stressful conditions.
A representative from Epic Games did acknowledge the problem:
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. The company is currently looking to recruit over 200 people, but its' debatable as to whether that would help when employees report a lack of training. The problem of crunch continues to be a contentious issue in the gaming industry, and with the games as a service industry continuing to grow, bringing a seemingly endless workload, it doesn't look like the problems are going to end anytime soon.
We have been responding to those challenges by aggressively growing the team, improving our planning process, and experimenting with approaches.
We've got the full list of Fortnite achievements - check the list for guides to unlocking them.
Check out our Best Xbox One Third-Person Shooters Available in 2019 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.