Xbox’s games boss reportedly claimed ‘Bethesda no longer has a crunch culture’

The head of Xbox Game Studios has claimed that Bethesda no longer has a “crunch culture”, it’s been reported.

According to Kotaku, Matt Booty held a Q&A during a company-wide meeting last week, during which he addressed the topic of labour conditions at Bethesda and its parent company ZeniMax Media.

Booty was asked to discuss a previous Kotaku report which claimed there was a heavy degree of crunch during the making of Fallout 76, which was released a number of years before Xbox acquired Bethesda in 2021.

“The challenge with a lot of these articles is that they look backwards, sometimes pretty far back in time,” Booty reportedly said during the meeting (according to Kotaku, which claims to have seen a video recording).

Booty reportedly claimed that crunch culture was “just part of the industry,” adding: “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 honour.”

However, he also claimed that those days were gone under Xbox, stating: “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.”

Booty reportedly added that there was of course the possibility that crunch was going without him knowing about it, and urged employees to follow Xbox’s internal processes, including the ability to give anonymous feedback, to ensure any issues are resolved.

In 2019, Ikumi Nakamura – who was Ghostwire Tokyo creative director at the time – left ZeniMax-owned Tango Gameworks because the pressure of her working life there was negatively impacting her health.

Bethesda’s latest titles, Starfield and Redfall, were both set to be released later this year. In a statement last month, however, the Xbox-owned publisher announced that it needed more time to develop the games, delaying them to 2023.