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Where the Jobs Are

Posted by zer0wolf, 17 February 2011 · 268 views

I'm not sure how long this entry will be, but this is just something that has been on my mind. In the games industry news we are constantly seeing studios laying off. Back when was I was interviewing around I had two different companies close the position (without hiring anyone), with one of them admitting they realized they didn't have the budget for the position. We are well into the current console systems' life cycles, and budgets for the largest titles have soared beyond imagination. Huge projects are getting canned frequently and large, established studios are closing and/or being subjugated to laying off large portions of their staffs. Talented and experienced game developers are on the market for finding new jobs, and fresh graduates from school who are looking around don't have a lot to pick from because they have to compete for jobs with all the experienced folk who are looking as well. The situation appears, at the surface, dire.

I don't think it is at all; there has simply been a large market shift over the past couple years. There are a number of great opportunities that have emerged simultaneously with this predicament.
  • Growth in the indie space. With so many talent developers finding it difficult to make it in the AAA console gaming space, many are striking it alone. Xbox Live Arcade, the smartphone (particularly iPhone/iPad) market, PC, and online social gaming spaces have had a flood of startups. These markets are are hit driven as it is for consoles, but the markets themselves have grown tremendously and the barriers for entry are considerably lower.
  • Growth in the mobile market. Over the past couple years the number of mobile developers has exploded, along with the market size. Some, in only a short couple years, have become practically giants in their own right. Mobile gaming may not be as 'glamorous' as console gaming, but the number of potential players is huge. The rapid advancements in mobile gaming technology has made wicked awesome gameplay possible that wasn't possible only a couple years ago. The number of people who own an iPhone or Android phone is an order of magnitude larger than the number of console owners there are, each of them a potential gamer with the right apps.
  • Growth in the social gaming space. When I was graduating with my Bachelor's degree three and a half years ago, social gaming was basically text based games with a couple buttons to interact with the game. Now they are incredibly richer, and everyday there are new games being released with better graphics, better audio, and better gameplay. Wikipedia tells me that there have been over 55 million copies of every game in the Call of Duty franchise sold. Top social games have more unique players than that play them in a month.
As I've mentioned before, I now work for the largest game developer for Facebook. There are so many people playing online social games on Facebook that we can't hire people fast enough to make enough quality content for people to enjoy. We have a ton of great titles on the horizon, each pushing what is possible on the social gaming space. I'm flabbergasted that more people aren't trying to jump onto this bandwagon, where the games you make will reach a wider audience than any console comes even remotely close to.

BTW, hit me up if you've got skills and you're looking to make a move into where gaming is going Posted Image




I think a lot of game developers are "hardcore" gamers and as such want to make games they're interested in playing. I personally don't find Facebook games compelling at all, and would never even consider working on one. Game developers as a group have already chosen to seek employment based on passion over money, so it shouldn't be surprising that a large portion of them don't immediately jump onto business bandwagons like this.
I think your point on 'hardcore' gamer developers wanting to make games they want to play is valid, to an extent. It is certainly true that a given portion of the game development population is only willing to work on AAA console games. That selection of professional game developers is definitely in the minority though. There are far more games released each year on consoles that aren't the big blockbusters than the number of big blockbusters are released, providing the majority of console development jobs.

I don't think your 'passion over money' point really applies to game developers choosing to stick with traditional console development over making the switch to social game development. Social games companies don't always pay that much more than traditional console development companies do. It isn't about making more money, it is about having a job in a growing market (job stability and career growth) and reaching a broader audience with your games. I am incredibly passionate about gaming, as well as are the majority of my coworkers. I do not, however, have all that strong of a desire to work on games tailored specifically to me as their target audience. I want to create gaming experiences to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Social gaming for the web and mobile devices has drastically widened the gamer demographic, drawing in otherwise non-gamers to become gamers. That is brilliantly awesome if you ask me. :D

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