In a recent post on the Indeed blog, it’s been stated that “jobs for video game developers have dropped by 65% since 2014.” That’s just three short years ago, roughly. But in a time when new consoles are entering the market, and indie games are reigning, how is it possible that developer jobs are in jeopardy? Is this even true?
It’s been estimated that the gaming industry will be worth over $91 billion dollars by 2020, according to the accounting firm PwC. That includes revenue from consoles (digital and physical games), PC games, browser-based games, apps, and game advertising.
However, “video games have shrunk from 2.9 percent in 2010 to just 2.5 percent of the $631 billion media and entertainment market in the U.S. in 2015,” explains Dean Takahashi, writer of VB’s “U.S. Games Industry Forecast To Grow 30 Percent To $19.6B By 2019.” To interpret this in a more concise scope, searches for “game developer” have grown by 50%, but the number of postings for open positions has dropped by 65%. There’s a demand for careers in the industry, but because the way games are created is changing, the gaming labor market is rapidly changing along with it.
Think of smartphones being used as part of VR. That’s new, and completely different in terms of developing than your average game. And it’s doing quite well, regularly being reviewed favorably, despite the mixed feelings from players, users, and even developers.
Another example is the fact that games used to be developed by studios, who were financially backed by publishers, like Sony and Activision, or Microsoft, to name a few. These days, there’s a few major studios who develop games. Sometimes, the publishers themselves develop the games. All of these places are staffed by industry veterans, with years of experience, which means there’s little to no postings for entry level gaming jobs anymore.
What Does This Mean For You?
For you it means one of three things. Let’s begin with the first: getting thousands of dollars in debt for a college education in game development that you have to then try to use at a large studio. Not only will it take years of work, portfolio building, and networking, there’s also no guarantee that any large studio will ever hire you. In the past, people worked their way up to large studios, climbing the ladder from lesser known ones. With the lesser known ones gone, well, who can say if you’ll ever get the job?
Plus, there’s the matter of the jobs that you’d be qualified for don’t exist in large studios anymore. You only have 35% of the market to work toward, and there’s a ton of competition.
The other course of action is to do what most people are opting for: joining indie teams or simply becoming a single developer. This, for better or worse, is the direction things seem to be heading for upcoming developers.
Finally, the third option is to simply pursue game development as a side job, and go to college for something else entirely. If it seems like giving up, just consider the countless authors who do this. Everyone knows writing books doesn’t generate a livable income unless you’re famous, like Rowling or Martin (and even then, you’d be keeping your fingers crossed for your big break). Most authors have day jobs and write their novels on nights and weekends . . . Did you know Kurt Vonnegut was a car salesman by day?
Where Are The Jobs?
Yes, indie is the wave of the future. And guess what? That explains why indie is reigning now. Fewer AAA studios means that they can only put out so many games in a year, giving indie all the time in the world to put out game after game. If you were wondering why your AAA games library was looking a little scarce, you’re not wondering now.
Indie games can appear on smartphones, home consoles, or PC—heck even calculators. There’s plenty of demand for indie games, and lots of room for your work. Just don’t expect them to sell like a AAA game, because nine times out of ten it just won’t. Indie games aren’t as well funded as AAA games, and as such, the special effects and level of output from a large studio will always outdo the scope of what any indie can. But, let it be known that that doesn’t mean indie games pale by comparison. They’re just not as marketable (or have as great a marketing budget) as their famous counterparts.
Right now, the gaming industry is undergoing a massive overhaul, so to speak. Think of arcade games. They’re dead. They’ve been dead. Arcades became old school quickly once people realized they could stay home and play games on their mom’s 1987 Sentra STX600TV.
Parallels with Hollywood?
But if you thought games are the only medium suffering from the massive advances and changes in technology, you’re wrong. Hollywood is in serious jeopardy too. Yes, all those dubious blood facials and diamond creams and lasers and plastic surgery can’t save them now!
Think of the parallels: it’s difficult to get into the acting business, and once you’re in, you’re subject to only a handful of well-known studios. All of which are currently fighting the fact that they’re putting out bomb after bomb in every movie theater known to man. Suicide Squad did terribly, and the entire industry thought it’d be a game changer. Focusing on realism, the cast was encouraged to torture themselves mentally, to the point where they needed a therapist on set. And for what? A 26% on Rotten Tomatoes?
Last year’s Turtles: Out of the Shadows didn’t do well either. Gods of Egypt was worse. But not as bad as Dirty Grandpa. You get the idea. All the money going out for terrible reviews. And then the kicker: every movie that pushes the envelope in terms of multiplexes and visionary twists is failing. Movies that focus less on the over-the-top, and instead focus on strong screenwriting, are hitting it out of the ballpark.
In case the connection eludes you still, indie games are doing better than AAA games lately. Players spend so long awaiting these large titles, setting expectations high. Once they get them, they’re kind of disappointed. Indie games are also being put out at a faster rate than AAA, due to the reasons described prior.
Bootstraps and Pacifiers
It’s safe to say media is suffering greatly due to rapidly advancing technology. While some are mesmerized by VR or indie games on their pricey iPhones, there are millions of upcoming game developers struggling to find work. Even movies have become so commercialized that the few that don’t try to desperately push boundaries are overshadowing even the most hyped of blockbuster “hits.”
It explains the age of prolonged youth, where a whopping 31% of 18-34 year-olds are still living with mom and dad. These people aren’t buying homes. 21.90% of 18-30 year-olds are currently renting, while 3.89% own homes. With jobs in media and gaming in jeopardy, so is the financial, career building, and home owning future of millions of people. Younger generations want happiness at the workplace, but all they’re getting is a series of closed doors and loan debt.
It might be time to grow up.