Jagex is expanding intensely. Will Freeman talks to CEO Mark Gerhard about the studio's future
Jagex has just welcomed a high number of new staff into the fold. What’s going on at your studio to motivate what is a substantial recruitment push, even by Jagex’s standards?
We have been recruiting heavily for the past year as we have so many big projects currently in development, ranging from substantial upgrades to RuneScape, our upcoming sci-fi MMO Stellar Dawn, our Transformers browser MMO, 8 Realms, and massive improvements to our game development platform.
There is an incredible buzz around the office right now as we have added a staggering 81 new members to our family and still have 67 positions still to fill. It’s a very exciting time.
Is it true that you’ve welcomed a new studio head to team?
We do not have one studio head, as we have a number of large studios all with their own games in the making that operate independently from each other. Therefore each studio requires its own management.
We’ve just filled the VP of Transformers vacancy, but we still have an open role for the VP of 8 Realms which we are really excited about as one of the first ‘core casual’ games for the social networks.
And you have a particularly high number of vacancies to fill? What kind of roles are you still looking for?
We are quite literally expanding every function right now and so have roles across most disciplines. We have a large number of positions available in marketing as well as game engine, tools and tech, which we are of course always keen to fill as quickly as possible with the best talent that shares our passion and values.
Is finding quality talent in the UK still relatively easy, or are you looking to employ from further afield?
Finding the right talent is never ‘easy’ but we have a fantastic pool of talent here in the UK to draw upon. We recently hired large numbers of people through the unfortunate closures of Real Time Worlds and Bizarre Creations and so we were able to retain key talent here in the UK, which we are very proud of.
Having said that, we are keen to acquire the very best talent in the industry, so we certainly don’t limit ourselves to just the UK. Jagex offers a fun, phenomenal working environment, with world-class teams, ground breaking and at times world leading projects to work with and on, so finding the very best people is what it is all about. Naturally if we can find that person from the pool of amazing talent here in the UK then we certainly will.
What is it about Jagex that lets you continue to thrive when many UK studios are finding it hard?
We’ve clearly been blessed with a bit of luck and we never take that for granted. We have a very focused, hard working team that are not only hugely talented, innovative and committed to developing great games and game content, but also focus heavily on listening to our community.
This allows us to be very efficient as an organisation, in touch with players, as well as keeping ahead of the emerging trends in the online games space.
I believe that the UK games space is very hard for everyone at the moment no matter how successful you are or were. However, due to our diversity of talent and strong base we are able to continue to recruit new talent into our teams as well as continually developing our existing talent.
Strategically, now is a great time to be recruiting as there is a lot of talent out there, and available to us, that were the industry stronger we may not see. This means we can, and are, growing our studios with great people, which is what is essential if you plan to build an even stronger and more successful company for the long term.
Do you think pessimism about the state of the UK games industry is over-exaggerated, or realistic?
I don’t think it’s drastically over-exaggerated, and sadly we have seen firsthand from visiting many studios that have unfortunately gone under just how severe some of the issues facing our industry are.
But it certainly isn’t all doom and gloom either and there are still a lot of very exciting opportunities out there. It can be frustrating that the UK industry is continually painted in a poor light when there are still studios, like us, that are stable, growing, profitable and working on exciting new games or technology. One just has to hope that the headlines aren’t taken too literally and that people are still aware of the fantastic opportunities available in the UK.
What else does Jagex have planned for the coming months beyond hiring?
It’s certainly evolution or extinction in both the technology and entertainment spaces. Jagex have operated under the radar for almost a decade quietly whispering ‘nothing exciting going on over here – look over there’, whilst at the same time working diligently on numerous fun and ground-breaking projects, earning a wealth of invaluable lessons along the way.
The coming year or so will begin to showcase just some of these enormous efforts ranging from evolving our existing games, dramatically improved tech, completely new games through to Jagex ultimately opening up our own proprietary platform to other developers to use.