When I started writing, I had one answer to this question. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that I don’t think think we actually do crunch harder than other forms of software development. Sure, we work a ton of hours during crunch time - I’ve got too many battle scars of my own to ever deny that. But I think that you’re taking too narrow a view of “form of software development” and should instead consider “maturity of product”. Here’s what I mean.
Consider the kind of software development that doesn’t crunch. It’s usually the old, established, boring software - banking, inventory, web development, often long time services that have been running for a long time with long-term established clients. These are very well-known quantities, with well-understood requirements. The urgency of delivering new features is not super high, because those clients are likely deeply engaged within the ecosystem already. It costs too much for them to take their business elsewhere, so they’ll probably continue to do business with you.
Compare this to a tech startup that lacks this kind of long-term product service. They have no long-term established clients with a strong business relationship. In such a case, I would expect to see a ragtag group of developers crunching all the time no matter what kind of software they’re trying to build in order to get a viable product and establish a userbase/clientele. Startups expect to hustle as much as they can in hopes of securing funding, launching the product, and hoping to get rich along the way.
If you consider the game industry, we have both - the long term, long-running established games usually crunch less because things are known quantities for them. They know who their customers are, they know what they’re making, and they’re pretty good at making it. Building regular content updates to a long-running game is really minimally crunchy. Conversely, new games and new products - especially the first title from new studios - necessitate spending a lot of time figuring out what they are trying to be and who they are for, which often necessitates startup-like crunch conditions to get it done on schedule.
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