Red Dead Redemption 2 hit a PR snag when, just weeks before release, co-founder Dan Houser made comments that seemed to suggest the studio had undergone periods of heavy crunch development. Now it seems someone at the company may have been trying to make some clever commentary on it within the game itself.
As spotted by a Reddit user, an in-game advertisement for the Cattleman Revolver contains some verbiage that could easily apply to development culture. “It is made by skilled laborers who work tireless hours each week and on weekends for little pay in order to bring you the finest revolver on the field today.” To top it off the gun is said to be manufactured in Worcester, Massachusetts, a town just outside Boston and relatively close to Rockstar New England.
Granted, this could be a coincidence. The writers of flavor text may have just chosen a historical town nearby and written in a self-aggrandizing advertisement style. Still, given that Rockstar reportedly has a culture of crunch that is emblematic of a pervasive problem in the game industry as a whole, it seems more likely that not that someone was cleverly nodding at their own work situation.
Though Houser referenced 100-hour work weeks, he quickly clarified that he was only referring to himself and other senior members of the writing team. In an effort to clear the air, the studio encouraged its developers to speak openly about their own experiences. Many of those did mention short bursts of heavy overtime, but few approached the 100 hours Houser had mentioned. The company also followed up with its own employees, calling a meeting in at least one studio to emphasize that overtime is not mandatory. However unintentionally, the studio opened up a larger conversation about crunch in the industry as a whole, and this in-game advertisement appears to be a possible artifact of that.