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tom_mai78101

An interesting article about the state of the gaming industry

11 posts in this topic

I wouldn't call it stressful or scary.  Yes there are long hours but there is usually a lot of camradarie and egging each other on.   In a lot of cases people work late because they want to.   The biggest downsides to working in the games "industry" are the lack of job security and also very low pay compared with similar IT roles outside of games.

Also it may depend on which country you live in too.  The US games industry has weathered the global reccesion fairly well whilst here in the UK it has almost dissappeared with very few large studios left.

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I wouldn't call it stressful or scary.  Yes there are long hours but there is usually a lot of camradarie and egging each other on.   In a lot of cases people work late because they want to.

 

I'd hardly characterize it as "want to" -- Nobody wants to work 12 or 16 hour days, unless you live across the street, that barely allows for a proper sleep cycle, let alone all those "useless" things like eating, spending time with family or friends, or just decompressing after a long day. And having great co-workers is no excuse to be taken advantage of either -- its noble to take your share of the whip, but it doesn't do anything to resolve the fundamental problem. People do it, mostly, because they know that if they don't it's their head that will come up on the chopping block first.

 

The biggest downsides to working in the games "industry" are the lack of job security and also very low pay compared with similar IT roles outside of games.

 

You wouldn't say that the biggest downside is working twice as long for half the pay, punctuated with all the loyalty that a grindstone shows to a single grain of wheat?

 

 

There are good and bad studios, some through mismanagement and disregard, if not outright malice, for lower-tier employees, others because they are put in a hard place by publishers, and others because the game industry can be a hard business where 90% of everyone are scraping by on bone-thin margins. The good ones know that there has to be a work-life balance, and that happy employees are more productive even if they don't put in more hours to show it, but usually those studios are the ones that are successful enough to punch their own tickets, and don't have to be accountable to external publishers or, to a lesser extent, their stockholders.

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I looked at the article, realized it had some major problems, then read the comments at the bottom and saw that others had corrected it.  The article seems based on a single story, the replies point out that the single story is deeply flawed.

 

I know of no real game company that routinely has 80+ hour work weeks.  

 

I have heard anecdotal evidence of people who have been mandated to work that kind of hours, but as far as I know never met any of them in real life.

 

 

 

If I were told to work that many hours, I would immediate begin sending out my resume to more reasonable companies.  

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If anyone is routinely working more than 40 hour weeks, it's because of poor decisions at a managerial level. Time to find a new job with better management.

The worst I've seen was a request for everyone to do 50 hours during a crunch period. The lead programmer resigned on the spot.
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I have certainly been in that situation. In my story, it was due to mismanagament on my studio and the publisher's part.  The practices, I would say, were borderline illegal.  Publishers did it, and got away with it, because they are big, have lots of lawyers, and they know small studios need money.  What's legal is dictated by lawyers, right?  So what are they afraid of if they can pull out some strings and control the small studios?

 

This type of 80+ work hours/week is more likely to occur in a small studio whose revenues depended on contract works from big publishers.  It doesn't happen every week, but it almost certainly happens on every project.  Small studios need money, so they need to pitch in an attractive project proposal to big publishers.  An attractive proposal means low cost and timely delivery.  Whom do you think the publisher would pick? Studio A that says project will be done in 1 year and costs $250,000, or Studio B that says project will be done in 6 months and costs $100,000?  Obviously, Studio B.

 

The developers bear the cost of those attractive proposals.  They need to crunch hours to get that project done on time, and sometimes without overtime pay.

 

So, even if you were to start your own game development studio, and promised to promote the standard 40 hours work week, with balanced work-life for all your employees, you are out of competition with the studios who don't, including competitions from overseas studios who probably have fewer legal restrictions over this matter, and much lower pay.

 

It doesn't happen all the time, but it does.  Otherwise, these stories wouldn't be here for you to read.

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This is a vicious business model in game industry.  Publishers don't usually have an in-house game development studios.  So all works are contracted out to studios who want to do the dirty jobs.

 

If you haven't read already, Disney shutdown LucasArts, in favor of licensing to other publishers or studios.

 

[i]

“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games,"[/i]

 

So now, who gets to make Star Wars games?  Game development studios, and each one of them will pitch in with different pricing, design, and timeline.

 

GOTO 10.

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I've done 70+ hs/week a couple times because of extraordinary demands and it's ok I guess (If you have the option to not do it). The problem is if this happens a lot and you you're not rewarded extraordinarily as well.

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“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games,"

So now, who gets to make Star Wars games?  Game development studios, and each one of them will pitch in with different pricing, design, and timeline.
 
GOTO 10.


I've worked on licensed Star Wars games -- most of them were already contracted externally, instead of being done by LucasArts themselves. The company that I worked for had done a whole bunch of them.
However, we had such a bad experience being *$^#ed around by them (them spuriously claiming they didn't have to pay us at all for 6 months of work, because they decided they didn't want to make that game any more), that we stopped pitching for their contracts altogether.
What they actually did (or seemed to do from my vantage point), was accept the pitches from several companies, "green light" them all, direct their development for 6 months, and then "cancel" all but one, and pretending they didn't ask for the work to begin with, and not giving paying for it as was agreed... and this was the pre-sell-off LucasArts.

I know of other companies that have gone bankrupt while waiting for lawsuits like this against publishers to be resolved. If they can hold off payment long enough, then the people they owe money to will cease to exist... clever :/


The work-for-hire model for dev studios is very uncertain. After you finish a title, you need to line up another one ASAP, or otherwise you've got to have huge layoffs until you do find more work. One company I worked for was deliberately making pitches that quoting prices below what they knew it would actually cost, knowingly making a loss on the work, because they didn't want to lay off their staff -- they'd rather lose a little bit of money over a long period, rather than be sitting idle paying everyone's salary with no income.
They thought they were just weathering the storm, trying to stay afloat during a tough time in the industry, but you can see that if all the big developers were doing this, then the littler ones who can't afford to make a loss were just screwed!

There's been quite a big shift recently among smaller developers, with many more trying to work on "original IP" instead of licensed titles. The problem with this model is acquiring the funding to support development, which traditionally was provided by a publisher (just like the work-for-hire model). Seeing how Kickstarter has exploded in the past year though, I'm really hopeful that crowd-funding will allow these smaller devs to independently work on "new IP" without betting their survival on the whims of a publisher. Edited by Hodgman
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I looked at the article, realized it had some major problems, then read the comments at the bottom and saw that others had corrected it.  The article seems based on a single story, the replies point out that the single story is deeply flawed.

 

This. The article is interesting, but the comments give real substance to the issue. It seems to depend entirely on who you develop for, and who they take contracts from.

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The work-for-hire model for dev studios is very uncertain. After you finish a title, you need to line up another one ASAP, or otherwise you've got to have huge layoffs until you do find more work. One company I worked for was deliberately making pitches that quoting prices below what they knew it would actually cost, knowingly making a loss on the work, because they didn't want to lay off their staff -- they'd rather lose a little bit of money over a long period, rather than be sitting idle paying everyone's salary with no income.
They thought they were just weathering the storm, trying to stay afloat during a tough time in the industry, but you can see that if all the big developers were doing this, then the littler ones who can't afford to make a loss were just screwed!

There's been quite a big shift recently among smaller developers, with many more trying to work on "original IP" instead of licensed titles. The problem with this model is acquiring the funding to support development, which traditionally was provided by a publisher (just like the work-for-hire model). Seeing how Kickstarter has exploded in the past year though, I'm really hopeful that crowd-funding will allow these smaller devs to independently work on "new IP" without betting their survival on the whims of a publisher.

 

Sounds exactly like my industry. 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/rhythm-hues-bankruptcy-could-affect-421775

 

http://carpetbagger.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/the-economics-of-visual-effects/

 

keep an eye on this blog

www.vfxsoldier.com

 

b

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If anyone is routinely working more than 40 hour weeks, it's because of poor decisions at a managerial level. Time to find a new job with better management.

The worst I've seen was a request for everyone to do 50 hours during a crunch period. The lead programmer resigned on the spot.

 

This.  Stole the words right out of my mouth.  The insane hours for crunch time is usually a result of a project being mismanaged.  I won't get too detailed, but Chicken Run for Dreamcast was a prime example.  The project's management was so bad, that there was one programmer that wanted to leave but didn't because he refused to desert the team.  Never in my life have I seen so many angry source code comments with that much profanity.

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