There's no doubt that Epic's relentless update schedule has been the main engine of Fortnite's growth from a patchworked PUBG clone to the most popular game on the planet, but latest reports indicate that employees paid a dear price for it.
Having conducted a dozen of interviews with Epic's employees and contractors, Polygon's report paints a picture of a company whose exemplary update schedule is built upon huge sacrifices by its workers.
One employee says that he and at least 50-100 other people in Epic work 70 hours a week, but that there are those who pull 100 hour weeks too.
"We're always in crunch. Crunch never ends in a live service game like that. You're always building more content and more stuff", said one employee. Some others claim they worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, for five months.
Epic's spokesperson conceded that these cases happen, but not as frequently. “Extreme situations such as 100-hour work weeks are incredibly rare, and in those instances, we seek to immediately remedy them to avoid recurrence”, the spokesperson said.
It's worth noting that some of Epic's employees claimed they never experienced crunch while working on Fortnite, but those seem to be a minority at the moment.
The spokesperson also conceded that Fortnite put the company into overdrive, saying, "The Fortnite team rapidly expanded the game to grow the audience; the Unreal Engine team began a broad effort to optimize for 60fps and support seven platforms; others throughout the company moved to Fortnite to maintain momentum."
"At first, it was fine, because Fortnite was a big success and that felt good. We were solving problems that were new for Epic: how to run a big, global game as an online service. But now the workload is just endless", one worker said.
Most of the employees claim there's a huge difference in Epic's official stance on crunch and how it is in the field, for more than one reason.
"The company gives us unlimited time off, but it's almost impossible to take the time. If I take time off, the workload falls on other people, and no one wants to be that guy", said one employee.
Another said, "If I take a Saturday off, I feel guilty. I'm not being forced to work this way, but if I don't, then the job won't get done."
Additionally, the interviewed employees clam that even though overtime is not mandatory, it was counted against your character if you refused, and pretty much halted your progress in the company.
You can find Polygon's full report here.