COVID-19 is leading a number of VR development studios to work from home in order to protect workers, their families, and communities from the spread of the disease. While the switch to new working conditions and schedules might affect productivity in the ongoing development of VR projects, we’ve also heard from sources that the quality assurance testing processes for companies like Sony and Facebook may be affected as well.
That could mean delays for upcoming VR games on some platforms.
We reached out to Sony and Facebook about potential delays to VR software projects releasing this year on PlayStation and Oculus Quest, respectively. We’ll update this post if we hear back from Sony, while Facebook responded with a comment saying that they are “working with” their Quality Assurance testing company Keywords Studios and others “to transition to a work from home model for testing.” The transition “may impact the ship date of some titles,” a Facebook company spokesperson wrote in an email to UploadVR.
“We are working with Keywords and others to ensure that they are meeting their local government health guidance—we have been working with them to transition to a work from home model for testing. This transition may impact the ship date of some titles. We’re working closely with Keywords and our developers to keep projects moving, but the health and safety of our partners is the first priority,” the statement from Facebook reads.
With new game consoles planned for 2020 from Microsoft and Sony and the leak of a new development kit for a Facebook VR headset — amid dramatic workplace changes and cascading effects related to COVID-19 — both security and tensions are high at many companies. Facebook partnered with Keywords Studios and its associated studios to test products approved for release on the Oculus Store. A post from Canadian labor news and analysis website Rankandfile.ca over the weekend alleged workers at Keywords “are pressured to work on-site through the COVID-19 pandemic.” I sent emails to Keywords seeking comment and will update this post if we hear back. Update March 25: Keywords sent a response to our questions over email posted in full at the bottom of this article.
Quality assurance is somewhat specialized work with extremely strict guidelines placed on workers to not disclose the intellectual property of partners. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any information related to the safety of workers ensuring the quality of VR products.
The production of headsets like Valve Index and Oculus Quest were impacted in recent weeks as the entire circuit of large-scale in-person technology conferences was cancelled or postponed. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and other major tech companies transitioned to work from home for their workers.
Our first priority is, and has been since the beginning of the crisis, the health and wellbeing of our teams, our clients’ teams and our communities.
We rigorously follow the health and safety recommendations of the local and federal authorities in every location we work in across the 22 countries in which we have operations, often going well
beyond those recommendations to make our teams safer.
These are unprecedented times and at Keywords Studios and we have been working tirelessly to design alternative production methods to keep our people safe and support our projects.
In particular, wherever possible and always in consultation with our clients, we are moving our teams to work from home (WFH) operations. While we are continuing to make the necessary changes to our infrastructure, training our staff, and organising the necessary safeguards and security processes to support WFH operations, we have implemented a whole series of measures to increase the safety of our studios and teams.
We have not and never would put anyone under pressure to perform their duties in an environment they are not comfortable with and, when directed to do so, as part of city-wide shutdowns, we have very promptly shut our facilities without delay.
As a provider of services to the global video games industry, we rely on our people every hour of every day and want the best possible for them yesterday, today and tomorrow. By keeping them safe and continuing to perform the tasks our clients have entrusted to us be that game development, art outsourcing, testing, localisation, audio recording or player support, we hope to preserve as many jobs for them as possible.