Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty addresses crunch culture allegations at Bethesda Game Studios

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Kotaku reports that head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty addressed concerns over working conditions at Bethesda Game Studios in an “all hands” meeting last week.

During the meeting Booty stated “The challenge with a lot of these articles is that they look backwards, sometimes pretty far back in time.” He added,

Crunch culture is…if you go back 10 years ago, it’s a little unfair to put that on one studio,” said Booty. “It was just part of the industry. I don’t say that to justify it, I’m just saying it was part of the culture of the industry. I literally slept under my desk early in my career. And we looked at that like a badge of honor.

However, as reported also by Kotaku earlier this month, allegations of crunch culture during development of 2018’s Fallout 76 have surfaced, with the list of grievances including constant, mandatory overtime in addition to low pay.

Fallout 76 Wastelanders video game on Xbox One
The development of Fallout 76 is alleged to have occurred under crunch working conditions

The QA team – that is, the game testers, who are often seen as the “bottom rung” of a development team – often got the worst treatment, according to the allegations. Often the QA team would get called in to work through the weekend with the promise of free pizza and overtime pay.

It has also been alleged that QA staff were surveilled, with their breaks being timed. In some cases it is even reported that staff would be followed into restrooms by other non-management employees designated as “coordinators.”

If these stories seem familiar, it is likely because you’ve heard them before in Activision Blizzard-related news over the past few years. Activision Blizzard was also acquired by Microsoft back in February.

Booty stated that “I know from talking to Bethesda leadership that we do not have a situation where people are crunching and we’ve got this bullying atmosphere…I’m confident about that.”

However, he also acknowledged that such working conditions could occur without his knowledge. He also neglected to specify what actions Xbox would take toward its studios which failed to comply with its stated stance on the matter.

Instead he referred to the Xbox Human Resources department, saying “There’s avenues for them to report that anonymously back to us that goes through HR. We have to rely on those independent systems of checks and balances.”

It is hard to consider the Xbox HR department independent, however, considering it is employed by Xbox.