The game world has been beset by layoffs in the past couple of months, as companies reset their expectations after a year of consumer pullback and excessive competition.
The videogamelayoffs.com site has tracked this gloomy progression, with at least 6,500 job cuts this year. As I head back from the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, where I moderated three sessions on gaming, this topic of the game industry’s woes and its resilience are on my mind. The layoffs have hit Kongregate, Humble Bundle, 505 Games, Ubisoft, Amazon Games — the list goes on and on.
First, we have some fresh data. One key finding from one of the industry’s quants is that the industry may not start to recover until August 2024. That’s not encouraging if you are looking for work now, but it is a sign that this sad state of the industry isn’t permanent.
Amir Satvat, creator of the Game Jobs Workbook and business development director at Tencent, came out with some new insights based on the data he scrapes from over 1,000 game companies’ job postings. Satvat has helped find jobs for over 800 people in the game industry over the past year, even as he believes game industry layoffs have now moved closer to 7,000 jobs lost in 2023. Satvat has developed many resources to counter these layoffs.
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His data is extensive but sobering, and he is sharing it as part of his unpaid side gig so people can make informed career choices in games. He noted the tough thing about the industry is that not all displaced professionals can easily re-enter the game industry.
Based on 15 months of data collection and months of work sifting through 100,000 data points, Satvat is presenting Project Flagpole.
The model incorporates a broad range of data: it has tracked all individual job roles in his workbook for nearly 15 months and their availability, assuming they’re filled when they disappear (best case interpretation). Satvat reviewed applicant numbers per vacancy, with insights from LinkedIn and conversations with talent experts. It factors in the rate of industry layoffs and estimates job market demand by considering both applicants and new graduates. Additional proprietary data also informs Satvat’s model.
Here’s what Satvat’s model reveals:
1. What percentage of all applicants will secure a games job in the next year? Predictions vary from a base 4% to an optimistic 10%.
2. What fraction of those in games laid off will find another games industry role within a year? Estimates suggest 30% base to optimistic 40%.
3. When will the market recover, with job fill rates surpassing demand? The forecast is August 2024.
4. How effective, actually then, is this games community in facilitating job placements? Adjusted figures show we’re really filling one in every three possible roles, not 11%.
“I’m sharing this data not to dishearten you but to encourage realistic planning. Competition is fierce. To increase chances, reconsider exploring roles outside games, relocation, or even pay compromises,” said Satvat. “For industry outsiders, be aware of high entry barriers. For those seeking re-entry, remember that a two-thirds chance may be against you over 12 months, but it’s not a reflection of failure.”
He added, “I remain committed to supporting your job search within games, but I am more invested in ensuring you secure any employment. I can now confidently state that our community’s resources stand as your best chance to improve your odds against the games market in the world, so I urge you to leverage them and to join the cause as mentors / LinkedIn + CV advisors.”
“My goal is to equip you with data to navigate your career path wisely and to avoid deterring anyone from their passion for gaming. It’s about broadening your strategies to secure success, and to give yourself enough time for success, in this competitive landscape,” Satvat said.
Against this gloomy backdrop, it’s good to remember hope. Devo Harris is just 24, but he is CEO of Adventer, a maker of Roblox games. I met him at the Web Summit, and he told me one of his games has had 100 million plays.
He started just four years ago and now has a company of 25 people making games for brands and others inside Roblox, which has 214 million monthly active players. In the next year or so, Harris sees his company growing to 50 people, with both seasoned game devs and Roblox natives.
Gaming at the Web Summit
More than 70,000 people and 2,600 startups attended the summit, despite the boycotts that began after CEO Paddy Cosgrave accused Israel of “war crimes” in what some believed was an insensitive criticism. Cosgrave resigned and was replaced a couple of weeks ago by new CEO Katherine Maher. At a press conference that I attended, she acknowledged the pain of loss felt by many in the Israel Hamas conflict, but she did not take a further political stance on the subject.
Tom “TommyInnit” Simons, meanwhile, is one of the people who has carved out an unexpected career in games. He is just 19 years old, and he has accumulated 50 million viewers on social media since he started posting on Minecraft just four years ago.
He got a big boost during the pandemic, joining the Dream SMP comedy video team that stages funny stories like Hamilton inside Minecraft. By age 17, he hit a billion views. TommyInnit and his manager Bronagh Monahan of MonRae did a fireside chat with me at The Web Summit about his life as a creator. He is living the dream and making a career that didn’t really exist a decade ago. He’s part of what I call “The Creator Economy,” which was predicted back in 2011 by Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future.
If people like Simons can bypass the traditional media and amass their own audiences, they can live that dream of getting paid to play games. Monahan wants to help give Simons options — much like celebrity athletes have experienced — of what to do for their careers in the long term, as fame doesn’t always last and it’s good to plan for what to do when the traffic numbers subside.
I found Simons, as you see in the video, had an irrepressible optimism. TommyInnit radiated confidence and had a mature outlook on the celebrity status, and he was so confident. I invited him back to chat with me again when he hits 10 billion views.
I also had a nice onstage conversation on “Gaming for good” with Eva Vonk, CEO of Tales, which is making games that tell the stories of indigenous people; Jude Ower, CEO of Playmob and co-author of the upcoming book Gaming for good; Mathias Gredal Nørvig, another co-author and CEO of Sybo Games, the maker of Subway Surfers. Sybo has had more than two billion downloads and it gives the players options to spend money in the game that will enable the company to plant trees. I will embed that video once I get access to it.
Lastly, I had a fireside chat with Bozena Rezab, CEO of Gamee,, a mobile gaming company, about the little subject of The Future of Gaming. We talked about gaming’s emergence from a subculture to mainstream culture, and the growth of the diversity of interests of gamers over time.
I spent my last moments in Portugal at Cascais, where DevGamm staged a side event that drew more than 600 people. Lerika Mallayeva, CEO of the DevGamm event company, told me that the firm had to stop work on all of its three conferences — one in Russia, one in Ukraine, and one in Belarus — on the day that the Russians invaded Ukraine. Now the firm has successfully gathered expats in Portugal to continue rebuilding the audiences — which had reached 5,000 before the war — one event at a time. We’ll have more to say about such resilience later on. But overall, the work is inspiring.
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