Elden Ring devs allege FromSoftware engages in ‘some’ crunch

Developers are speaking out against crunch and low pay at FromSoftware, with minor caveats.
elden ring fromsoftware crunch

Elden Ring developers are speaking out about conditions at FromSoftware, amidst claims the company demands excessive overtime, while offering low pay in exchange. These allegations first surfaced following the success of Elden Ring, with jobs board Career Connection playing host to a number of negative reviews, allegedly from employees who worked at the company between 2012 and 2019.

The legitimacy of these reviews was never made clear, leading many to question the work of FromSoftware, and the conditions it imposed on employees. To further investigate the claims and discover the truth of the matter, GamesIndustry.biz recently contacted a range of past and present FromSoftware employees, who shared a better picture of working life at the company.

According to these employees, FromSoftware does employ some level of crunch in its development cycle, while offering lower pay for overtime – however, many employees speaking to GamesIndustry.biz also had positive things to say about working conditions, and the talent at FromSoftware.

‘The general industry in Japan is not that crazy compared to my experience in other fields. Japan has a lot of holidays [and] there is a rule that staff shouldn’t stay later than 10pm, and 90% of the time, staff won’t stay later than 9pm,’ one employee told GamesIndustry.biz.

Read: Elden Ring wins Game of the Year at Golden Joystick Awards 2022

‘Flexible work hours’ means staff can choose their hours, but 11:00 am to 5:00 pm remains the most important part of the workday, with the majority of development taking place between these hours. However, as sources claim, there is still ‘some level of crunching’ at FromSoftware, with certain departments experiencing this more than others.

‘During critical periods of game releases, I often had to work early mornings and overtime for two to three months,’ one source said. Another agreed, but made clear that crunch does not happen on a daily basis – only ‘during the ROM check for the publisher or two to three months before release.’

Overtime is reportedly included in salaries, but is allegedly reduced after midnight – contrary to most overtime rate structures. ‘Late-night overtime’ is reportedly only worth half the usual hourly rate.

According to sources speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, this is common, and in line with a ‘below average rate of pay at FromSoftware’. This was attributed to the studio being fairly small – around 350 employees – but as the report notes, studios of equivalent size (Atlus, for example) have much fairer compensation.

FromSoftware employees have a reported average yearly salary of just ¥3.41 million (AU $36,700).

This is despite the cost of living in Tokyo being around ¥138,984 (AU $1,498) per month, and the cost of rent being ¥203,730 (AU $2,196) per month. Employees who spoke to GamesIndustry.biz claimed many employees were unsatisfied with the pay offered, as it was not adequate to balance the cost of living.

Despite these circumstances, and allegations of crunch, FromSoftware employees appear to be largely positive about their work at the company, describing it as a ‘great experience’ because ‘you can work with co-workers that are so talented and passionate about creating a video game.’

Like any company, it appears FromSoftware has as many positives as negatives – with sources reporting that issues of crunch and low pay are somewhat allayed by great day-to-day experiences, and being able to work alongside talented developers. You can read the full report from GamesIndustry.biz for a deeper look at the complexities of life at FromSoftware.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.