Employees and contractors working in Epic's development, QA, and customer service departments endure grueling conditions to keep the ship afloat, according to an investigative report published today by Polygon. Workers routinely clock more than 50 hours a week, with some anonymous sources claiming that they spend over 100 hours a week on the job. Taking time off causes guilt and emotional stress, and those who refuse to participate in the culture of "voluntary" overtime lose their jobs for failing to meet impossible standards.
“The biggest problem is that we’re patching all the time," one source told Polygon. "The executives are focused on keeping Fortnite popular for as long as possible, especially with all the new competition that’s coming in.” Epic's ability to keep Fortnite fresh with weekly infusions of content has made the game hugely profitable, and its breakneck update schedule also sets an insurmountable precedent for other titles in the games-as-service industry. Respawn and EA, for instance, quickly learned how high expectations are when Apex Legends players began criticizing the lack of updates mere weeks after the game's launch.
Unfortunately, it appears as though there is no secret sauce making Fortnite's schedule happen -- Epic is just throwing bodies into the mouth of the beast to keep it sated.
“I hardly sleep. I’m grumpy at home. I have no energy to go out. Getting a weekend away from work is a major achievement," another source told Polygon. "If I take a Saturday off, I feel guilty. I’m not being forced to work this way, but if I don’t, then the job won’t get done.”
One could easily argue that this employee is, in fact, being forced to work this way. “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,” said another employee. “People are losing their jobs because they don’t want to work these hours.” The situation isn't any better for contractors in the game's QA and Customer Service departments, who know that their contracts will not be renewed if they fail to cooperate with leadership's "voluntary" overtime expectations.
Sadly, we've reached a point where news like this isn't surprising to hear anymore. The video game industry is fueled by an endless number of young, enthusiastic workers who want to make video games, and there are no protections in place to keep them from being exploited as thoroughly as possible. Fans of Save the World often complain that their issues are not handled with the same expediency as Battle Royale's bugs, but I'm pretty okay with that after reading about someone working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for several months, just to keep up with expectations. Video game shopping carts just aren't that important, y'all.