Killing crunch “will require more consumer pressure”

New publisher of indie games, Modern Wolf, talked to us about crunch at Gamescom

New publisher Modern Wolf, which will launch “strategy and strategy-adjacent” games by indie developers – with five already lined up to release over the next two years – has announced that it has “zero tolerance on crunch” and is committed to “ethical game development practices.” And it looks like two of the publisher’s heads have some thoughts on how crunch culture might change across the videogame industry – and how their company’s stance might be able to help.

Speaking to us at Gamescom, Modern Wolf CEO Fernando Rizo and CCO Andreas Gschwari spoke about the future of crunch culture. Rizo says “I think [making crunch unacceptable] will require more consumer pressure. I think for the first time, we are seeing consumers who care about how their games are made, the conditions under which the developers who make their games work. That is great, and more of that will force bigger players than us to change.”

He added that the key to this change might be players themselves: “the fact is in a market-driven system like this, change really has to be consumer-led, and I think that consumers are just starting to care. We’re with them on that. We would love if by virtue of our existence and principles, and working the way that we work we add a little bit of pressure to bigger players than us, then that would be great.”

Adding to this, Gschwari talked about how studios can play a part: “as long as developers primarily care about the product rather than the people, change will be very slow.

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“If triple-A studios, but also smaller studios, wake up and say ‘if we care about our people and make our people happy, the game’s going to develop itself, in a way, and it’s going to be good because people want to work on it and people want to work here’, then change is going to come.”

Modern Wolf has five titles already in the pipeline, with titles like the medieval-style, “intense lane defence” deck-builder Necronator: Dead Wrong and “noir spaceship life sim” Ostranauts due to hit Early Access sometime later this year, and more on the way in 2020 and 2021.