Crunch Time for Game Developers: Par for the Course

Crunch Time

Three out of five game developers say that they have to work long hours during periodic crunch time, according to a recent game developers survey.

  • The 9-to-6 Workday
  • Crunch Time – Largely Expected
  • Sexism & Other Challenges
  • Freelancing vs. Contracting vs. Employment
  • The Next Opportunity
  • Distribution Channels
  • Game Genres – Top Three Focuses
  • Best Way to Host your Game

The 9-to-6 Workday

A Gallup survey released in 2014 found that the average amount worked by a full-time employee had gone up to 46.7 hours per week. Only two in five US workers said that they actually do work 40 hours in a typical week. Fully 50% say that they are working in excess of 40 hours.

“While that 46.7-hour average doesn’t represent a significant jump,” notes Jena McGregor of The Washington Post, “it is still the highest it has been since 2001-2002, when the average was 46.9 hours.”

Crunch Time – Largely Expected

The extra hours of the workweek are typically experienced by game developers as crunch time.

Crunch time is a critical block of time that requires necessary actions to be performed quickly and with a high degree of success. Think this quote from Mark McGwire about Sammy Sosa: “Sammy’s a September player, so you have to watch out for him. It’s crunch time – time to make history.”

Developers have to make history sometimes too, and they don’t have to deal with the pressure of athletic success convincing them to start using performance-enhancing drugs, as both Sosa and McGwire did. But they do have their own frustrations.

Crunch time is a normal part of life for most game developers, with three in five (62%) indicating that it is an expectation of their current position. For those who say that crunch time is part of their worklife, almost 50% are logging 60+ hours during those weeks. In fact, almost one in five (17%) say they are slaving away 70+ hours, according to a survey released in September by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA).

When crunch time occurs, 37% of the developers polled say that their workplace does nothing to account for the overtime. In other words, most people do get compensated in some manner – although not always in increased pay. Often the company acknowledges the extra time with either time off (18%) or perks (28%), and sometimes developers get both of those benefits (12%).

Sexism & Other Challenges

More than half of developers (55%) feel that the working conditions are one of the top reasons that people have a bad perception of the game industry. However, two other factors that were more cultural in nature were identified to similar degrees: 52% of developers listed the sexism that is present in the games, and 57% listed the sexism of gamers.

Freelancing vs. Contracting vs. Employment

Another part of the survey looked at income. That data suggests that it’s best to have an employer. “67 percent of employees make more than $50,000 per year, with the most common salary falling somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000,” notes the IGDA. On the other hand, “[o]nly 24 percent of freelancer respondents reported making more than $50,000 per year,” while 37% brought in under $15,000.

The picture for the self-employed is less lucrative: nearly half (49%) make under $15,000 per year. Many contractors are more concerned about the project than they are about compensation, with 45% saying that they could go without pay in order for the project to succeed.

The Next Opportunity

Game industry developers seem to be getting more entrenched in their current positions. While the 2014 report found that the average employee held 3.75 jobs in the last five years, the 2015 survey shows that number dropping to 2.7.

As can be imagined, freelancers and the self-employed have even more employers, with 4.6 within the past five years on average.

Distribution Channels

The top three distribution methods are Steam, Google Play, and the App Store. However, the most useful platforms vary based on style of employment.

“For employees, the top 3 distribution methods are Google Play, Steam and Retail Chains,” explains the IGDA. “[F]or self-employed respondents, they are the App Store, their own personal website and Steam.” Finally, the top three for freelancers are Steam, Google Play, and their site.

Game Genres – Top Three Focuses

Action is the genre that is most often cited as the primary category on which developers are focused. That is the case for all three types of employment (52% employed, 51% contractors, 49% freelancers).

Casual games and role-playing land evenly in second place among employees (both at 36%).

Casual games makes the second slot for contractors (44%), with strategy games in the third position (36%).

Finally, casual and role-playing ranked second and third among freelancers (47% and 38%, respectively).

Best Way to Host Your Game

Everyone wants their game to perform well. Of course, a lot of that has to do with using a strong hosting company. Many cloud hosting services use centralized rather than distributed storage, for instance. A distributed architecture is preferable because you don’t have to worry about node failures or bottlenecks, and you get local I/O performance because the data is stored on the local compute node.

Host your game with cloud the way it was meant to be – via guaranteed resources through a distributed network that is never oversold. Get 40x faster cloud hosting.

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