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Game Developer Layoffs: The Real Story

January 12, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3
 

But "moving on" hasn't been easy, reports Souto, who has been on a few interviews via conventional job advertisements, none of them yet successful. He's also signed up with several recruitment agencies which has resulted in a few leads.

"I'm still looking," he says, "but it's far harder than I expected. While there seem to be quite a few jobs out there, there are also quite a few people hunting, which means that employers are now able to find the perfect candidate who ticks all the boxes."

"In the past, a candidate could fulfill 90% of the role and it would be understood that the remaining 10% could be worked on. However, that '100% candidate' is potentially out there in the large job-seeking pool. So the difference between getting that job and missing out could be a very minor feature or attribute."

Souto had interviewed for one particular spot, and was one of the last two finalists. But he says the deciding factor wasn't his skill as a game developer, but his perceived lack of interest in a particular sport. "It was enough to sway the job in the other direction," he says. In another interview, he was informed that he had worked too long at Eidos.

"It's unbelievable!" he says. "I also have friends who didn't get jobs because they were told they had moved around too much. I must say that it's rather disheartening. All I can say is that if you're reading this and looking for a job, keep the faith and I sincerely hope that you find one soon. Good luck!"

But Marc Mencher, president of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based GameRecruiter, says luck has nothing to do with it. Job seekers just need to buckle down and apply for the myriad of job openings that exist, he says.

"These layoffs are not the result of the economic downturn that is affecting other industries," Mencher maintains. "Our industry is having record sales. What we're seeing is a combination of the not-so-unusual year-end layoffs that we see every year at this time when games have been shipped... plus a few companies that are having troubles, like EA, which has been struggling for some two and a half years."

"Those companies are going through some much-needed restructuring, just like the banking industry, which had to restructure after the problems they encountered."

On the opposite coast, T.J. Summers, a senior partner and co-owner of LA-based recruiter Digital Artist Management, suggests that the industry -- especially the console sector -- is going through a "reset" regarding how it is using its developer resources.

"Distributed development and outsourcing are becoming more of a predominant part of the industry," he explains. "Publishers are taking a hard look at their portfolios, determining what they can do in-house, giving their core games to their best people, and handing off some of the others to outside resources. As a result, a lot of people are being let go."

"In the case of some publicly traded companies -- like EA, THQ, and Midway -- it's part and parcel of their need to prove to their stockholders that they're being fiscally responsible. And given today's economic times, they are making significant cuts quicker than they ordinarily would."

Summers' best recommendation to developers who see obvious layoffs coming at their companies is to start collecting their work, updating their resume, and reconnecting with old colleagues, because networking is of primary importance.

Summers reports that, yes, companies are hiring... but not necessarily the ones that are on the top of developers' lists.

"If someone is passionate about creating games only, particularly console games, it's very hard to replace that type of satisfaction," he admits. "But there's a lot of good stuff going on elsewhere now in web, in mobile, in the simulation industry, in the Web 2.0 area. And these companies, many of which are hiring, have quite a few ways with which they can use game developers' skills."

Summers' bottom line is that while everyone should, without question, have a reason for concern, there are a lot of opportunities if you're flexible, if you're willing to adapt your gaming skills to some of the new growth sectors, and, particularly, if you're willing to relocate.

"Relocating cannot be overlooked," he says. "Some of the geographic regions that have traditionally been big gaming areas -- like Austin, Dallas, and Chicago -- are having their business slowly trickle away. People who reside there and want to stay there ought to either think about other options outside of games... or consider moving elsewhere."

---

Title photo by Kevin Dooley, used under Creative Commons license.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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