Crunch has been a disturbingly common practice in the game industry, and the past few years have seen many developers push back against expectations of lengthy overtime and unhealthy working hours. Sega’s latest financial report says overtime reduction is one of the company’s biggest goals in the near-term, but reading between the lines it seems there’s still quite a way left to go.
Sega says “long overtime hours” – which the company defines as working more than 80 extra hours in a month – have been reduced by 80%-90% since implementing anti-overtime initiatives back in 2013. Those efforts have been focused at four divisions: Sega Games proper, the arcade division Sega Entertainment, animation studio TMS Entertainment, and Sega Toys.
Those divisions represent a small portion of Sega Sammy Holdings subsidiaries, but Sega’s primary Japanese development studio is there. The report (noted on ResetEra) says that “the main focus of the Group’s work-style reforms is the achievement of a balance between work and private life. We want employees to have quality time outside of the office so that they do not lose their creative drive. Well-established measures that the Group has introduced to reduce long overtime work have produced tangible results.”
But reducing the number of 60+ hour work weeks is a pretty modest goal. Across all its 17 subsidiaries, a Sega Sammy employee averages 21.9 hours of overtime per month. That’s up from the 17.3 average in 2016 and 2017. The company only began reporting average overtime numbers after the reduction initiatives were put in place, so the earliest data we have is from 2015 – 18.7 extra hours per month.
An average work week of about 45 hours isn’t horrifying, but the extremes around that average might be. Even if “long overtime hours” are down 90% over the past five years, that still means some are working well over 60 hours in a week, and many more are likely are working longer than a healthy 40.
GDC 2018 saw Game Workers Unite and other organizations push toward unionization in an effort to combat crunch, though the differences in work cultures worldwide mean it’s difficult for any one movement to have global results. The results Sega has promoted still have a way to go, but it’s promising to see a major company promote overtime reduction as an important goal to its shareholders.