As the development community continues to question practices that contribute to a normalized culture of crunch, many studios and individual developers have been reflecting on the conversation, trying to find ways to contribute to the solution. And Nintendo is no different.
Crunch isn’t necessarily an easy problem to identify or solve, and there are nuances to that problem based on the variations in studios’ personal practices or team structures. Ultimately, a lot of what contributes to crunch is the inherent nature of game development: It’s hard to predict what will work, what will go wrong, and what will end up being the better direction as identified by creative leads (and, let’s be real: Likely publisher needs, too).
It’s part of why games are delayed so often.
And so for Nintendo, when asked about their perspective on crunch, it comes down to giving their creative teams the breathing room they need.
“The crunch point is an interesting one,” Nintendo of America’s president Doug Bowser told me at E3. “For us, one of our key tenants is that we bring smiles to people’s faces, and we talk about that all the time. It’s our vision. Or our mission, I should say. For us, that applies to our own employees. We need to make sure that our employees have good work-life balance.”
“One of those examples is, we will not bring a game to market before it’s ready. We just talked about one example [in Animal Crossing’s delay]. It’s really important that we have that balance in our world. It’s actually something we’re proud of.”
This isn’t the first time Nintendo has commented on crunch and their strategy around it. Last year, Waypoint asked a series of publishers, including Nintendo, what they were doing to avoid crunch. “We flex through the use of contract employees. We flex in the way we work with our agency partners,” Reggie Fils-Aimé told Waypoint. “Our mentality is we’re going to flex by adding headcount as appropriate to help us get over a crunch. That’s the way we approach it.”
Neither response is the most earth-shattering take, but it’s indicative of the industry’s increasing awareness and acknowledgment around the issue of crunch that big companies are thinking (and hopefully talking) about it.
“To your point, the community obviously is passionate, is vocal,” Bowser said. “But we also need to make sure that, as an industry, we’re having those conversations.”
Tina Amini is the editor-in-chief of games at IGN. You can find her on Twitter.