‘Metroid Prime’ developer says game had a “death march” crunch period

"I was there for 48 hours straight with one hour of sleep, and then a couple of 36 hour days"

According to Mike Wikan, a developer on the original Metroid Prime, the game had an incredibly intense crunch period until Nintendo stepped in.

Wikan, a former Retro Studios developer, talked about the GameCube title on the Kiwi Talkz podcast (thanks, IGN). The video can be watched below, with discussion of conditions on Metroid Prime at the 32:20 mark.

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Wikan said that he had “two times where I was there for 48 hours straight with one hour of sleep, and then a couple of 36 hour days. The last nine months we were pretty much there 24/7, working on the game.”

Crunch refers to when video games developers (and other similar industries) commit to dangerously excessive overtime to meet business milestones. Examples of such crunch culture at developers can include seven day work weeks and incredibly long work hours, with Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt RED being accused of crunch conditions, while developers on both Psychonauts 2 and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart openly stated it was avoided.

This level of workplace mismanagement apparently changed when Nintendo stepped in, as beforehand the company was just in partnership with Retro Studios. “To their credit, Nintendo realised what was going on, and they came in and took over the company, [Nintendo] bought it out.”

Metroid Dread
Metroid Dread. Credit: Nintendo

Soon after Nintendo bought Retro Studios out for $1million (£721,000 GBP today) and later made Michael Kelbaugh from Nintendo of America president, a title he still holds today.

These changes had a positive effect according to Wikan, with him adding that  “In fact, after Metroid Prime 1, we rarely crunched. We had some crunch but it wasn’t like the nine-month death march at the end of Metroid Prime 1. That was the worst.”

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The interview also has Wikan discussing how Metroid Prime was developed and what it was like working alongside Nintendo. Towards the end of the interview, Wikan said “it’s a constant source of amazement to me how much life the Metroid Prime series has with fans still after all these years. I’m very gratified and I’m thankful to all of you.”

In other news, the PlayStation showcase starts at 9pm BST tonight (September 9) and will be around 40 minutes long, with both first and third-party studios making appearances.

 

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