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Pachter: Developers should expect long hours

Tuesday, 26th July 2011 02:00 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter has said games development staff should not expect paid overtime, should expect some crunch time, and don’t need unions.

“I don’t know anybody in game development who calls it a nine to five job,” the analyst said, speaking in the latest episode of his GameTrailers webshow, Pach Attack.

“I’ve never heard a developer say ‘I don’t work overtime and I don’t work weekends’. If you’re getting into the industry – if you’re going to be a developer – you know you’re going to work plenty of hours.”

Although he conceded that developer should complain if crunch time – extended periods of overtime and weekend work – lasts the whole development cycle, Pachter said the last three to six months before a release are fair game. He predicted that L.A. Noire’s success will mean compensation for development staff.

“If a game is good – and L.A. Noire was good – there will be a profit pool, and there will be bonuses,” he said.

“My guess is that Mr. McNamara is going to be able to compensate his employees and they’re going to make a lot more than just their hourly pay. And I think they’re going to get compensated for overtime.”

The analyst said Team Bondi staff complaints of overtime were unrealistic, and those of underpay, premature, as bonuses could make up for it.

“The cool thing about this industry is, if you’re good, you’ll make a ton of money. 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’. If you want to be an hourly employee, go build automobiles,” he said.

Pachter commented that games studios shouldn’t have unions, because they “pay people a lot of money”.

“I just don’t think people who make over $100,000 a year need a whole lot of protection cause they might have to work overtime.”

Thanks, IndustryGamers.

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33 Comments

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  1. triggerhappy

    No one should be made to work unpaid overtime (even if just at first). In any job, in any industry. And being in a union protects you from more than just unfair hours…

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Phoenixblight

    @1. Most developers are paid Salary and being salary means they can work you whatever amount they want thats why they pay you salary versus hourly because you would be getting a lot more money than being salaried. Now when they are being hired they should ask what is expected of them as far as hours go and don’t just walk blindly in and expect you will get 9-5. If they say we expect you to work more than 10 hours a day 6 days a week and you feel its not good for your life style decline the job. Its that simple. You will work long hours no matter what unless you are a hobbyist than you won’t be paid.

    There are no unions at least in the states

    #2 3 years ago
  3. FadeLive

    Not every good game makes huge wads of money to cover big bonuses. The developers should the very least have a right to get properly paid for their work and they should have the ability to create unions if need be.

    There is also a difference between crunch time a couple of months and crunch time for a couple of years which is rumored the Team Bondi guys were put through.

    I don’t even know why game sites quote him so much the dude is an analyst. I would understand it if something he said was relevant to sales but this is just his opinion on what he has heard other people tell him.

    I mean if he is not a developer or has any experience with it how is it his right to tell developers to sit down, shut up and do as told? Fuck outta here with that Pachter.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Clupula

    Why does everyone pay so much attention to this asshole, anyway? He’s never right. He’s not just a tool, he’s the whole goddamn shed.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. endgame

    @1 exactly!

    @2 and for that salary u should work a certain amount of hours/month. it’s in every contract. so NO!, they CAN NOT work you whatever amount they want. what the hell!? how old r u? have u ever read a job contract?

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Blerk

    These are precisely the reasons why I have never gone into the games industry and have instead remained doing business software and tools.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Fin

    People always said Pachter was a dick, I didn’t quite realise until now.

    Relentless don’t work overtime and don’t work weekends, btw.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Patrick Garratt

    Sometimes you just have to do what’s necessary. The creative industries are extremely competitive, and if you want to succeed you have to be unfailingly dedicated. I’m not defending 18 month crunch periods, but I actually think Michael is talking a lot of sense here.

    The people that work on VG247 aren’t 9-5ers, for example, and we’d be in trouble if they were. I’ve worked with people that just walk out of the office when their day ends on several publications, and they don’t tend to last very long, if I’m being blunt.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. viralshag

    For once I do agree with this guy. He is right that the crunch period shouldn’t last the entire development but sometimes long hours are to be expected. I think some people are making rather naive comments about working 9-5 and calling it a day. It really just doesn’t work that way at times and you are expected to put in long hours. Some employers and some positions will not require it but like Pat said above, these are extremely competitive industries and occasionally you have to give a bit more than just a 9-5 commitment.

    I get paid a salary and for that I am expected to extend my working day by 2-3 hours at time, not to mention any days I need to work from home or on the weekends and all of that would be unpaid. I don’t mind because I feel my salary reflects the amount of work I do. Like #2 said, if the details don’t match what you’re looking for, decline the job.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. klewd

    “The cool thing about this industry is, if you’re good, you’ll make a ton of money”
    Really? So if you’re working on Call of Juarez 9 or whatever, and you’re talented, you’ll make a ton of money? It’s not that simple. You don’t have to look for long to see companies that have had “success” still having to lay off employees. Just because you’re talented doesn’t mean the rest of the team is, or that your game will have any success for that matter.

    “I just don’t think people who make over $100,000 a year need a whole lot of protection cause they might have to work overtime.”
    Apparently this guy has absolutely no idea what the average salary is. It’s not artists and designers who makes the most money, it’s management/business. Coincidentally also the people who work the least amount. The average for designers is 70k and management 101k.

    I’ve enjoyed watching some of his episodes, but this is some of the stupidest shit he’s said yet. Not only is it stupid, but it’s outright irresponsible. To justify this kind of behaviour is just wrong. Crunching does not make a game better, and it most often happens due to unrealistic time constraints or bad management.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Freek

    Sure, it’s not a 9 to 5 job but when you read about Rockstar and Team Bondi, and in the past EA, and how utterly accesive and soul destorying thier work inviroments are/were, you can’t really roll out that exuse.
    There is such a thing as going to far and working your employees to unhealty levels.

    Especially if you contrast that with places like Valve, Bungie, Naughty Dog. All top level developers and all of them manage to keep crunch and over time to reasonable levels whilest producing some of the very best games.

    It comes down to something else that you keep hearing about: proper studio management.

    Pachter likes to troll the industrie. He does it to gamers, he does it to journalists and all to generate press and interest in him.
    Wich is fine. Trolling gamers when you’re on podcasts is funny.

    But taking that attitude to really seriouse issues like this is unprofessional and probably a very insulting to the people involved.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. marijnlems

    I work in a creative industry (theatre) and I put in a lot of unpaid hours, and I never (or, well, *hardly ever*) complain.

    But that doesn’t mean I’m going to make a blanket statement about work conditions I know nothing about. I’ll gladly leave that level of arrogance to professional douchebags like Pachter (or, apparently, misguided bloggers like Patrick).

    And his “they don’t need unions” is an absolute joke. Other creative industries DO have unions, and for good reason: the fact that you’re doing a job you love (and *in some cases* get paid a good salary) shouldn’t be an excuse for management to wring you dry.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. aleph31

    I was about to spend some time writing a long post refuting all the statements from this guy, but I think it’s not worthwhile the effort. He’s just trying to convince the average joe developer that he is in a good industry, to make him accept overwork without saying a word, and feel grateful about being part of this circus.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. Phoenixblight

    @5

    I am old enough to know the difference between “you” and “u” and if you expect to be taken seriously you should too. Yes I have worked as salary multiple times once for Cisco where I was working 60-80 a week so we would have a good Quarter and again as retail management in a metropolitan area where I was paid even less and was expected to come in 70+ hours a week. Its not in the contract they keep it open for a reason ie to run you ragged.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. Patrick Garratt

    @12 – I am not a “misguided blogger”. I run a creative company and am fully aware what this conversation is about because I live it professionally. I’ve done plenty of 100-hour weeks for both employers and my own company, because sometimes I simply have to. I get up in the middle of the night to cover press conferences, I tune in to conference calls at midnight and I travel all over the world as part of my work: the concept of “punching my card” is meaningless. I can’t do it. If I did, the site would fail. I routinely work 12 hours a day.

    It’s a lot easier for me now, because we have editors around the world, but VG247 didn’t just magic itself into existence. Steph, Johnny and Brenna all do “what’s necessary”. They work overtime and sometimes they work weekends. It’s just part of the job.

    It’s obvious the Team Bondi situation was extreme, and I make no defense of it as it appears to have been the result of poor management, but, as Michael says there, you don’t have to get into creative industries if you don’t want to.

    Can you imagine if your union stopped you from working unpaid overtime? All the extra hours you work would either be paid at an overtime rate, or they’d have to take on more staff to do the jobs you weren’t working, plus all the hours everyone else was forced to not work.

    And what would happen to your theatre in that situation?

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Telepathic.Geometry

    I disagree with Pachter because:

    If you make people work like dogs, the quickly burn out. I have seen that in literally dozens of cases in the last three years, and as a humanitarian, I have to say it’s really heart-breaking to see the empty husk of the employee afterwards. Especially when you consider that often it is management’s lack of efficiency that causes the reasonable workload to take unreasonable amounts of time and effort.

    @Pat: Pat man, this is your website so it may be that the reward you feel from seeing it succeed balances against the long hours you must be in but, if the price of this wonderful site’s success is your health and the well-being of your family, then I’d rather you packed up shop and did something else that made you and your family happy.

    SUMMARY: We all love playing games, but it is a diversion, a hobby and a social activity. It can’t be worth causing human suffering and misery.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. DSB

    PatGar hit the nail on the head.

    If you want to play with the big boys, you play by their rules. It’s as simple as that, and it’s not as if any developer has ever, in his life, been forced to work. It’s not as if he or she isn’t fully capable of walking out the door if they aren’t happy.

    It just has certain consequences in a league where the people who truly want it move up the ranks, and the ones who don’t, stay behind like pawns.

    There is a burn-out factor obviously, but that doesn’t only correspond to working hours. It’s mostly about creating a rewarding environment, with rewarding projects, and making sure you make it worth peoples time and effort.

    #17 3 years ago
  18. Patrick Garratt

    @16 – There were a few very hard years, but we’re here now. I love this job. It lets me live wherever I like and I get to watch my kids grow up. I’ve got no complaints.

    #18 3 years ago
  19. Fin

    Pachter is right in that if you work in the games industry, you will work long hours, but with proper planning and management, crunch should be limited.
    The way I read his comments though, it was more “suck it up”, rather than “this is a bad part of the job, but you have to do it”.

    Journalism is a different kettle of fish though, I appreciate that.

    #19 3 years ago
  20. Patrick Garratt

    @19 – No, that’s fair. There’s a massive difference between working long hours because it’s just part of the deal and being forced to work ridiculous hours to massive periods because the management fucked up. You’re right. Michael’s wrong about that.

    #20 3 years ago
  21. Telepathic.Geometry

    That’s good to know Pat. I suppose what I wanted to say – but maybe didn’t express very well – was that if I were to buy a game the development of which caused a lot of human suffering, I’d feel complicit in the act, if that makes sense. Like I’m enabling it.

    I feel like the reason this has come about is that the price of videogames has always been about the same, but the quality, the content and the expertise required of modern game development has gone through the roof. It may be a serious endictment of modern videogaming if we consider that those adhering to labour laws are expected to fail. :^/

    #21 3 years ago
  22. DSB

    You’re going completely off the charts, though Telepathic.

    We’re not talking about a Foxconn slave labor camp, which makes a lot of our devices – Including iPhones, iPads, 360s and PS3s. Apparently human suffering isn’t so bad when it comes to the hardware used to play those games.

    Talking about human suffering among very well paid consenting adults is simply insane. These are grown people, being paid well, generally working at places that aren’t anything like the run down Tesco down the street. And who are free to leave at any time.

    There’s no guarding against mean bosses – But then you can just leave. It’s still a job that leaves you with a lot of opportunities.

    #22 3 years ago
  23. Patrick Garratt

    @21 – That’s true. I dunno: it’s really hard. Of course I want people’s right to be protected, but I can also see how enforcing strict work practices on certain industries can be damaging. Working as hard as those guys were working is basically horrible, and completely counter-productive. That sort of thing shouldn’t be happening. I don’t think there’s any argument about that.

    #23 3 years ago
  24. Telepathic.Geometry

    @DSB: Maybe you’re right, but in my company we used to have a manager survival rate of about 3 months. They were worked until they either quit (generally they just didn’t turn up to work one day), or far more commonly ended up in hospital (general or mental, we had plenty of both). Now I agree with you in principle, but I just don’t know what it’s like in the games industry, even though I count myself as a hardcore gamer.

    I agree we’re not talking about people who can’t eat, but still. People suffer significantly, and unnecessarily IMO.

    Mind you, as I said already, what do I know. Here, take this 5 kilo bag of salt. ;^)

    #24 3 years ago
  25. DSB

    @24 Hehe. But sure, like others have said, it should be unacceptable for most people to work that kind of crunchtime, especially under a boss who’s apparently an incompetent prick.

    I just think it’s kinda crazy to start comparing that to the working conditions you might find at the average factory putting together our consoles. That’s actual human suffering, to the point of those factories actually stringing out suicide nets beneath their buildings. These people aren’t even close to that, they’re just having a hard time.

    That isn’t to say that conditions like that can’t cause depressions or other nasty things for people, but I also do think that people have a personal responsibility to decide whether they want to do it or not. Australia is still a democracy. Well, sort of.

    #25 3 years ago
  26. RandomTiger

    @22 Walking out just like that isn’t as easy as you make it sound, not for everyone anyway, most folk will need to arrange another job first and that takes time. Leaving project mid way can at some companies even be seen as an act of treachery and you effectively burn your bridges with that whole company. Also you have your unofficial references to consider.

    Games should be scheduled to be made in working hours and crunch used sparingly as a means to address fixable problems. Large issues should be handled by removing features, pushing the dates back or hiring more folk (ahead of the bottleneck not during it).

    If crunch is part of your schedule (or more likely your schedule is only realistic with crunch) then you have less to fall back on if things go wrong.

    #26 3 years ago
  27. DSB

    That’s certainly true RandomTiger, and those unofficial references are golden.

    I just don’t accept that they’re relegated to the role as helpless victims. They’re well paid people, usually with outstanding qualifications to do what they do, and even if it’s a troublesome process, they’re still free to leave whenever they want. They don’t have to suffer anything they find unacceptable. It’s hard for everyone to change workplace, even if it does suck, but it’s still our own responsibility.

    Even if you don’t get that unofficial reference, you’re still not in as bad a shape as most other workers, and you’ll still have a portfolio to fall back on. Although having known a few people in positions like that, usually with big paychecks comes a lot of crazy spending, so often times they have so much debt to pay off, that they genuinely need a similar paycheck to make it work.

    That’s still on them, though.

    #27 3 years ago
  28. mortiferus

    FUCK YOU PATCHER! Take that “If you want to be an hourly employee, go build automobiles” comment and shove it. Developers are being exploited, burned out and are censored or terminated when they openly complain to the media. The whole Profit pool and payouts based on sales is BULLSHIT. Upper management walks away with the big money, plain and simple, regardless of how piss poor a job they have done in regards to managing the dev cycle. Also, there have been many a good games that though critically acclaimed have not sold well. So are these guys SOL, they should not get paid decently because there is no profit pool???

    #28 3 years ago
  29. aleph31

    @Patrick: with all respect, if you need your employees to do routinely overwork and live and care for the company as if it was their own project, they should get a proportional and noticeable amount of the profits, as if they were investors. But I presume it’s not easy to share the pie with the people you manage :)

    Problem today is that people doesn’t have enough self-respect. It looks as if we are living in poverty, desperately willing to keep a job at all costs. If your work involves an amount of dedication and care equal to the one needed to run your own initiative, ask for a share of the profits, or either fallback to a regular contractual work where you sell time and expertise in exchange of a salary, with no exaggerated passion and commitment involved.

    Managers play a tricky psychological game in this business, convincing people that commitment must be taken for granted, and that you are failing as a true professional if you don’t give 150% to the job you are being paid for. Let’s tell the bosses then to pay 150% in exchange ;)

    #29 3 years ago
  30. absolutezero

    Dear Jesus God in Heaven stop giving this man headlines and reportage.

    Why is he commenting on THE INDUSTRY? Why are his mis-guided opinions being given space on actual gaming sites?

    Breaking news Tim Langdell is still fucking insane and Jack Thompson still hates games.

    #30 3 years ago
  31. triggerhappy

    OK if overtime is REASONABLE/RESPONSIBLE and within REASONABLE limits of your salary, then fine. But Pacher with these irresponsible comments… in my eyes he’s basically giving McNamara a pass here. And this is what its all about, his comments on this are inlight of the Team Bondi fiasco. Hes making out that long UNPAID overtime is acceptable. If your on a good salary which is meant to cover things like “putting in a little extra this week’ then fine. Im making this comment in consideration of all the things said above btw…

    ps. Pat: your a legend, im so jealous of you and your job, obviously you have put in time and effort above and beyond the norm to achieve your goal.

    Telepathic.Geometry: you sound like a really nice guy :D

    Phoenixblight: your argumentative but 99.9% of what you say makes sense. This is what we come here to do though, discuss the games and the industry. There are always going to be conflicting opinions.

    #31 3 years ago
  32. VancouverBlade

    Show me which games he’s worked on and then I might listen to it. At this stage he’s just an outsider talking about how he thinks the industry should work.

    #32 3 years ago
  33. marijnlems

    @Patrick Garratt Sorry for being way out of line there. Obviously, I shouldn’t have called you a “misguided blogger”. Still, I’ll explain why this kind of thing sticks in my craw.

    Sure, in any creative industry “crunch” or unpaid overtime is inevitable (and theatre, indeed, is no different). It’s just that anyone who works in any creative industry has to stay very critical about that kind of thing, because it can lead to a burnout faster than you can say “straitjacket”.

    The basics of good management mandate that you plan to put your employees through “crunch” on as few occasions as possible. But more than a few creative managers expect their employees to put in many, many unpaid hours because “that’s how the industry works”. No, you’re just a lazy planner.

    Also, in an industry like avant-garde theatre or internet journalism, where there just isn’t any money to go around, this kind of thing is more acceptable than in a multi-million dollar project that is going to make a few people an enormous amount of money.

    The reason for my anger is based on how stupid or disingenuous Pachter is. Not only does he equate quality with commercial success, he severely overestimates the average programmer’s salary and the likelihood of the profits trickling all the way down the food chain, he blocks counterarguments with “if you dont like it, go work in a different industry” and he does all this with (as far as I know) precisely zero inside knowledge of the work practices of some developers (more to the point, Team Bondi).

    From what I hear, the number one reason developers quit the games business when they reach the age of thirty (and, you know, start families) is these kinds of work conditions. That’s just not a great way to grow an industry.

    #33 3 years ago