Develop asks an expert panel about the 2010 games jobs market
As the industry diversifies and the development studio template evolves, productive recruitment is becoming an increasingly more delicate act.
New roles and disciplines require equally fresh approaches, and as the number of potential employees climbs, so does the effort required to find the right staff member.
At the same time, the task of securing a job is becoming ever more challenging for those looking for a change of career or new position. The recruitment sector is particularly competitive as the global economy clambers free of recession, and the pressure on prospective employees is higher than it has ever been.
All that considered, Develop called together some of the games makers and recruiters with the most experience, and asked them for their predictions and advice for those providing and pursuing new jobs throughout 2010.
What are the biggest challenges currently facing those in the games industry looking to recruit?
Kim Adcock, managing director, OPM Response
“Many companies reduced their HR departments and number of managers during the recession. They are now struggling to cope with the additional workload created now that they are growing again. They need to hire new people to manage the workload, but don’t have time to do so, being so busy already; there’s also budget to consider, although things are definitely getting better. We’re not out of the woods yet. Therefore 2010 to 2011 budgeting may be as tight as last year.”
Peter Lovell, recruitment advisor, Jagex
“Over the past two years we have seen increased competition within the online gaming sector, which presents the challenge of getting our message across amongst a larger crowd. We have also seen so many studio closures and numerous reports of poor working practices, which I believe damages the reputation of the industry as a whole.”
Tony Beckwith, vice president and general manager, Black Rock Studio
“I have a firm belief that you have to hire the best talent in the world and not just hire locally. The challenge then becomes how to reach out as far as possible and get noticed.”
Stig Strand, head of games recruitment team, Amiqus
“Due to the rarity of skills within certain disciplines, studios are sometimes not giving themselves enough lead time to source for specific technical disciplines that can take up to three-to-six months to find and attract the right people into the roles.”
Andy Cambell, CEO, Specialmove
“We are certainly seeing more requirements for the ‘sell in’ of benefits of working in a particular area with a particular company. No longer is it purely the project that drives the interest but security and career development potential. So companies who are looking to recruit need to make sure they are not only offering competitive packages, but really selling the benefits of why their company/location/project is such a great place to work.”
What should development companies do to better their chances of finding the right employee in the industry environment as it currently stands?
“Companies should firstly have a structured recruitment/interviewing process that makes the potential employee feel wanted but challenged during the interview. Nowadays, with more candidates having more than just one company to consider, the process will play a key part of securing the decision of the interviewee.”
“To find the needle in the haystack you need a big magnet. Companies don’t find top talent – talent finds companies. You need to lay down a path for the talent to find you. Being part of a major global entertainment company helps. Making top quality product is the other piece to this. You have to be in the top ten per cent – even the top five per cent – of developer rankings in terms of product quality.”
“We pride ourselves on being open with salary information at the application stage. Too much of this industry is shrouded in mystery and I don’t think it helps attract candidates when everyone seems so reluctant to disclose salary information on job adverts; how often do we see ‘negotiable’ instead of a figure for example? I think the culture of secrecy needs to stop.”
“Before a company even thinks about how to get new staff, it must figure first what skills it lacks, why, who it needs and when it needs the resource to be in place and functioning based on its business commitments. These are far more important considerations than the mechanics of how.”
“No longer can you assume it is an employer’s market. I’d advise you don’t offer unrealistically low salaries to new employees just because they are out of work. Candidates might keep looking if they feel undervalued, and now vacancies are increasing they have a better chance of moving on, leaving you with the cost of replacement.”
Do you see the amount of vacancies increasing or decreasing as the next 12 months pass?
“As more markets are discovered and exploited we will see more and more vacancies to match the demand, especially in the online sector with the proliferation of MMOs and social gaming.”
“There is no doubt that 2009 was a flat year. However we are seeing steady growth with most of our clients. It’s still too early to predict whether this progression will continue or taper off, but signs are moderately cautious. Hopefully with increasing confidence at client and
candidate level, the market liquidity should return in time.”
“Amiqus has seen a 40 per cent increase in mid level to senior development requirements compared to February 2009. Whilst management roles do not seem to have picked up as much as development staff, there are a healthy number of studios recruiting in 2010 compared to this time
“Increasing. For OPM our jobs have gone up by 63 per cent since July 2009. I’ve never witnessed such a recovery, most of which has occurred since November. OPM will be hiring more consultants this year as UK business increases, also focusing on European markets, and two new service offerings.”
“I’d expect publishers and developers to take on a bunch more staff over the next few years and re-build their bases post-recession. There will be a lot of new jobs created because of the new digital delivery mechanisms and because of the huge explosion in connected devices that is happening now and for many years to come.”
Are there particular roles where there is a scarcity or abundance of viable candidates at the moment? If so, why do you think this is the case?
Peter Leonard, principal games consultant, Amiqus
“The most sought after discipline within the games industry is still for experienced programmers, especially those that have focused on specific areas of technology such as graphics, audio and network. The main reason that demand far outstrips supply is simply down to the numbers of available candidates with these extremely technical and niche skillsets.”
“For us it would probably be artists with a technical slant. This is a fairly new specialisation to the industry. But really – take a look at the job titles in the credits of Pixar movies over the years. With each new movie you see more and more specialist roles. That’s how the games industry is going.”
“Producers, project managers, audio and games designers roles are on the increase – they were the first to reduce and are the first to recover. In development there is a shortage of network and graphics programmers, senior technical animators, technical VFX and UI artists, triple-A games and level designers.”
“The growth of online gaming and service models has created a growing demand for technical skills which are in limited supply, particularly at the highest level with strategic responsibility. Examples include network engineers and server developers. This will often mean recruiting talent from outside the games industry while ensuring they can work effectively in a gaming environment.”
“Given the importance of the role, we always take time to fill our core technological roles. We have also found it difficult to find and attract candidates with experience of microtransactions as a payment system.”
What piece of advice would you give those now preparing to apply for a new job in the industry?
“In general, our advice would differ from no other field, and that would be to do your research, know as much about the role and the company as possible. Prepare yourself and practice your interview technique to build confidence. Most importantly though, be patient. It may take multiple applications before you get your first interview, don’t take it to heart or send a nasty email to the company; instead keep your chin up and start again – Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
“To secure a role, candidates need to ensure all aspects of their application are carefully targeted at the specific role – passion for the role, detailed research of the potential employer and a deep understanding of the unique benefits only you can deliver to the business are critical.”
“Bear in mind that due to smaller HR teams they have less time to assess your application – so make an impact. A concise, professional CV and an introductory letter for each job you’re applying for detailing your strengths in relation to that role always helps. Research the company and let them know why you want to work for them. For technical and creative roles a demo is essential. Many companies will not even assess your application without it regardless of your years in games and the products on your CV. Ideally include softography, shot list and software used. Never assume the person reading your CV knows the games you’ve worked on.”
“Education in this field is always good, but regardless of whether you are studying a qualification related to game development or not, many studios will judge you on your final show reel. It is imperative therefore that all applicants invest in one, and greatly so. It is also very important that whatever your field be sure to compare yourself against some of the recently released titles.”
“If you’re not passionate about gaming then don’t bother applying.”
As managing director of OPM response, Adcock heads up one of the most prominent job-finding companies in the field. Established in 1998, OPM boasts an impressive roster of clients, and has won two Develop Industry Excellence Awards.
Vice President and General Manager
Black Rock Studio
Part of Disney Interactive Studios, Brighton-based driving game specialist Black Rock started life as Climax Racing. In his role Beckwith has hands on experience with much of the company’s recruitment.
Campbell leads a recruitment team who have all previously worked in the games industry. His firm specialise in providing developers and management staff to an enormous range of companies throughout the sector.
The Cambridge studio behind RuneScape currently employs a workforce of over 400, and is renowned for its high staff retention levels. As Jagex’s recruitment advisor, Peter Lovell knows a great deal about the jobs market.
Principal Games Consultant
Offering ‘people resourcing’ across multiple industries, Amiqus has a wealth experience in the development sector. Established back in 1986, the consultancy is currently broadening its technological remit.
Head of Games Recruitment Team
A colleague of Leonard at Amiqus, Strand heads up the recruiter’s games team, giving him a highly specialised perspective and in-depth knowledge of current trends across the development industry.