"Crunch time" is the point at which the team is thought to be failing to achieve milestones needed to launch a game on schedule. The complexity of work flow and the intangibles of artistic and aesthetic demands in video-game creation create difficulty in predicting milestones.
Most game-development engineers and artists in the United States are considered salaried employees; as "exempt non-hourly-paid professionals", they are not subject to state laws governing overtime.
Some video game developers (such as Electronic Arts) have been accused of the excessive invocation of "crunch time".
The protest against crunch time was posted by Erin Hoffman (fiancee of Electronic Arts developer Leander Hasty), who contended that her life was being indirectly destroyed by the company's work policy. This led to debate in the industry but no visible changes until March 2005, when Electronic Arts announced internally that it was planning to extend overtime pay to some employees not currently eligible.
"Crunch time" has become a common and hated trend in the video game industry because it has led to the release of rushed, unfinished and unpolished games. It has been compared heavily to the equally infamous "Christmas Rushing".
The excessive amount of stress and overwork developers go through during Crunch time is bound to cause health problems to them. Sonic X-Treme's lead developer suffered from this so much that he was diagnosed to die in about 6 months if he didn't quit the project immediately.
It has been also criticized by video game developers and other staff because they are forced to work overtime without getting paid all the extra hours.