Unpaid crunch deserves no sympathy - Pachter

Unpaid crunch deserves no sympathy - Pachter

By Rob Crossley

July 25th 2011 at 3:23PM

Analyst labels overtime as a natural part of game development; says Unions shouldn't exist

Full-time game developers shouldn’t complain they have to work unpaid overtime, an industry analyst has said during an extraordinary outburst in defence of Australian studio Team Bondi.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter claimed to have never met a developer who hasn’t worked overtime, nor does he believe working extra hours unpaid is a legitimate source for complaint.

“I’ve never heard a developer say ‘I don’t work overtime and I don’t work weekends’,” he said in a video address published on GameTrailers.

“If you’re getting into the industry, you are going to work plenty of hours.

“I hear from lots of people on Twitter about these Team Bondi guys in Australia, [hearing complaints about how] they’re young and right out of school, well, don’t pick that as a profession then.

“If your complaint is you worked overtime and didn’t get paid for it, find another profession," he said.

Pachter’s comments come in the wake of an overtime scandal which threatened to engulf Sydney-based studio Team Bondi. The LA Noire developer has been repeatedly accused of subjecting its staff to ‘brutal’ crunch work, though some staff are now speaking in defence of the studio.

“The [Team Bondi staff] were asked to work crazy hours, I don’t know anybody in game development who calls it a 9-5 job,” Pachter said.

“So that [complaint] doesn’t really resonate with me.”

BONUS CULTURE


The thrust of Pachter’s opinion is that game development tends to remunerate staff, often lavishly so, through bonus schemes.

He said that particularly elongated periods of crunch work is unacceptable, but complaints about pay are of little merit.

“I think there’s a legitimate complaint if crunch time is never-ending,” he said.

“Crunch should be the last three to six months of game development.

“[But] if you are a salaried employee – if you’re not told what to do – then you are master of your own domain and you don’t get overtime.

“If you [in another job] are told to [continuously] put bolts on a car, you’re an hourly employee and you should get overtime.

“I do get that it is a bad and unfair business practice to work 18 months non-stop overtime, I don’t think anybody was entitled to overtime pay.”

The point that everyone is missing in the LA Noire scandal, Pachter said, is that the Team Bondi development staff will receive generous bonus packages.

That claim has not been substantiated. Numerous alleged former Team Bondi staff claim they had not been paid bonuses. These accusations have not been substantiated either.

“I just don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for people who say ‘I worked for such-and-such, and I didn’t get paid, and that’s not fair’,” Pachter continued.

“If you want to be an hourly employee, go build automobiles, and what will happen is they’ll close down your plant some day and you’ll be out of work.

“The cool thing about this industry is, if you’re good, you’ll make a ton of money.

“I think [the point] that everyone is missing is that, if a game is good – and LA Noire was good – there will be a profit pool, and there will be bonuses,” Pachter continued.

“So who knows what the final sales of LA Noire will be, and who knows, what the final profit will be.”

Pacter predicted that LA Noire made around $200 million in revenue, and that the Team Bondi management will have a studio profit pool of around $5-10 million.

“So the developers are going to get a lot more than their overtime,” he alleged.

‘BLAME ROCKSTAR’


As well as claiming that complaints about crunch were ‘premature’, Pachter also insisted that Team Bondi was not responsible for the credits dispute at the centre of the scandal.

Many developers claim they have been unfairly removed from LA Noire’s credit roll, and in response have established a website which lists all staff contributions in detail.

But Pachter said it was his understanding that the Team Bondi management was not responsible for the initial credits cut.

“If you’re complaint is you got cut out of credits, blame Rockstar,” he claimed.

“Credits cut out of the game is not a [Team Bondi studio boss] Brendan McNamara issue, it’s a Rockstar issue,” he added.

Pachter said he has never personally met McNamara.

“Apparently there are people who don’t like McNamara, apparently there are people who think he is a tough boss,” he continued.

“Making a game is not easy, it is a complicated process, managing the process is really hard.

“The LA Noire project was disrupted, and there were several false promises of finishing the game, and poor Brendan McNamara – who is probably going to be ‘rich Brendan McNamara – was put in the position to get his team to crunch and get it done more than once.”

Pachter also said game development studios should not be protected by a trade union.

“Sweatshops should have unions but games studios, which tend to pay people a lot of money, shouldn’t,” he said.