One of the biggest talking points surrounding Red Dead Redemption 2 has been about the working culture within developer Rockstar Games. Co-founder Dan Houser said he and a small team worked a few 100-hour weeks to finish the game, and after this, Rockstar HR encouraged its developers to speak openly about their own experiences. Many shared stories of working overtime, but not to the point of 100-hour weeks.
While the topic of “crunch” and extended working hours is nothing new for Rockstar or the industry overall, it re-energised the discussion about the importance of a positive work-life balance. Now, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has responded to the controversy, telling GameDaily.biz that he is “incredibly proud” of Rockstar and the effort that went into making Red Dead Redemption 2. Take-Two is the parent company of Rockstar Games.
“Rockstar commented extensively on the issue. I don’t think there’s much to add to it. I would say that I’m incredibly proud of Rockstar Games,” Zelnick said. “There are more than 2,000 members of the team who did a fantastic job bringing Red Dead Redemption 2 to audiences around the world.”
Unlike 2010’s Red Dead Redemption, the sequel was developed by all of Rockstar’s studios together, which is where the 2,000 person figure comes from. Zelnick went on to say that Rockstar and management at Take-Two have “aligned interests” as it relates to money and culture.
“Look, we have a common culture and shared views and aligned interests, both personal and economic,” he said. “Certainly, our creative interests are aligned. We all work within the same enterprise. I think there’s a great deal of commonality of culture and I’m really proud of that, which is why I said I stand behind the [Rockstar] label and their approach.”
Rockstar HR told Kotaku that developers at Rockstar’s studios worked an average of 42.4 hours per week from January through March 2018, then 45.5 hours from April through June, and 45.8 hours per week from July through September. These numbers are the average from everyone at Rockstar working on all of the studio’s projects, not just Red Dead Redemption 2, which may explain some of the stories people are telling about overly long working hours.
Another element at play here is that Rockstar developers who worked on Red Dead Redemption 2 stand to make potentially significant bonuses related to the game’s performance. For the previous game, some people made five-figure bonuses, according to Kotaku. Red Dead Redemption 2 made $725 million in its first three days, and has shipped 17 million copies already; the sequel needed just eight days to outsell its predecessor. This all suggests developers are in line for a nice bonus payday.
Disclosure: Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick is the interim chairman of CBS Corp., the parent company of GameSpot.