The past year or so has seen many video game developers being called out for imposing 'crunch' on employees, forcing them to work longer hours, late nights, and weekends leading up to major development deadlines. While its recently released Mortal Kombat 11 has received praise from critics, current and former employees of NetherRealm Studios have spoken out about years of taxing work conditions surrounding previously developed fighting games from the studio.
According to multiple sources speaking with PCGamer, NeatherRealm Studios has been accused of instituting a 'crunch culture' on its employees for a number of years. Sources include former employees willing to identify themselves, as well as some who were previously contracted with NetherRealm to work on Mortal Kombat 11, prior Mortal Kombat games, and the Injustice franchise.
Throughout a number of interviews from people who previously worked in the NetherRealm QA department, the problems never appeared to get better as the developer moved on to new projects. One source explained how the workloads between Mortal Kombat X (2015) and Injustice 2 (2017) became worse, with employees regularly working 80 to 100 hours a week to meet submission deadlines. Others who worked as contractors expressed their concerns about needing to work overtime in order to make personal ends meet, due to the low pay QA contractors receive. Poor communication between departments also led to longer workdays, as many QA testers would be left waiting to test new builds brought in by the development team.
News of these accusations placed on NetherRealm Studios follows a similar report from earlier in the week surrounding crunch at Epic Games with Fortnite. Given Fortnite is treated as a live service title, is the most popular battle royale game out right now, and has generated billions of dollars in revenue for Epic, the studio is under constant pressure to make sure its flagship title is always a step ahead of the competition. Other developers placed under the radar include Rockstar Games, Telltale Games, and Electronic Arts to name a few, for being called out for forcing employees of working 60,70, or even more hours for months leading up to a major release or large press event, such as E3.
While it appears it may need to reanalyze how its workers are being treated, NetherRealm Studios is also in a sticky situation of how it treats player progression and microtransactions in Mortal Kombat 11. The studio has confirmed it plans to rebalance MK11's progression system in an effort to reduce playtime needed to unlock character skins.
With news of NetherRealms' apparent mismanagement of employees, the future of MK11 now holds more questions. Just days after release, it was confirmed Mortal Kombat 11 has years of content planned. Knowing there's more work on be done on the game if the accusations made by these sources are true, would lead to even more long days and weekends employees will need to spend at the studio to make sure DLC expectations are met if said problems go unresolved.
Mortal Kombat 11 is available now for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.