Xbox Reportedly Addresses Allegations of Bethesda Crunch Culture

Xbox reportedly internally addressed allegations of crunch culture at Bethesda, something that can lead to an unsustainable and otherwise toxic work environment. For those that aren't aware, crunch is a pretty prominent part of the gaming industry and although some places are working to combat it, it does still exist. Crunch is when developers work extensive hours, sometimes even sleeping at their desk and rarely going home, and really push themselves mentally and physically to hit deadlines. Some have suggested this could be avoided with better management, more realistic timelines, and so on, which has supposedly sparked change at some studios. Bethesda Game Studios was the subject of an extensive Kotaku report which focused on the rigorous crunch culture on games like Fallout 76, the last game the studio released before being acquired by Microsoft.

According to Kotaku, head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty addressed the report at an internal meeting and noted that he is "confident" that there isn't any crunching or a "bullying atmosphere", likely in reference to the shaming that goes on when someone clocks out at a reasonable hour while others continue to work and crunch. Booty went on to note that it's possible that it could still be taking place without his knowledge and encouraged employees to anonymously report it to HR. Xbox has reportedly retained a "hands-off" approach with Bethesda, largely allowing them to operate as they normally would, but the company has noted it takes these kinds of reports seriously and would step in if necessary.  

An Xbox employee reportedly told Kotaku that their takeaway was to take things to HR, but that reportedly backfired for Blizzard employees pre-acquisition. As of right now, Bethesda Game Studios is putting the "finishing touches" on Starfield, a game slated to release in the first half of 2023. It's unclear if there is any crunch on that project, but Bethesda may have delayed the game out of 2022 in order to avoid extensive crunch on the project.

Starfield will release sometime next year exclusively for Xbox Series X|S and PC.