Nintendo has explained that its decision to delay Animal Crossing: New Horizons was to avoid crunch. Fans were delighted that the Nintendo Switch exclusive Animal Crossing: New Horizons was officially revealed in the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct presentation but were disappointed to learn that it has been pushed to early 2020.
Speaking to IGN, Nintendo of America's new president, Doug Bowser, said that Nintendo is all about making people happy and that means its employees as well as its fans. "We need to make sure that our employees have good work-life balance," explained Bowser, who also said that Nintendo has a policy that it will not release a game until it is ready. The delay of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one showing of that, said Bowser. The Nintendo boss also said that "It's really important that we have that balance in our world" and that this policy is something that Nintendo is "proud" of.
Nintendo's approach to work-life balance for its game developers bucks the unfortunate trend of crunch culture, which is where developers are asked to work grueling hours to make a game release on time. Mortal Kombat 11 developer NetherRealm Studios is one company accused of having a horrendous crunch culture with former employees, speaking anonymously, saying that at times they had to pull 100 hour work weeks.
Red Dead Redemption 2 developer Rockstar Games has also been criticized for its crunch culture. Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser said that he and some of his co-workers had been doing 100 hour work weeks as they put together the story of the huge open-world Western epic. Houser did explain that he was only talking about a small handful of higher-ups in the writing team who did these hours, but former employees of the company have also spoken about crunch and having to work more just in case the Houser brothers visited the studio.
Few developers speak positively of crunch and many have said that the practice is why they have chosen to leave the games industry, and it has also been blamed for games being of poor quality. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the most hotly anticipated Nintendo Switch exclusives that Nintendo is working on, and so its delay is potentially problematic for the company. However, Nintendo isn't willing to ask developers to crunch to get the game out the door faster and fans will have to be patient.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons releases March 20, 2020 exclusively on Nintendo Switch.