Despite industry growth, game developers worry about jobs

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY BERNARD OSSER: Workers of "11 bit Studios" Polish IT company producing video games are seen working in office in Warsaw on July 2, 2015. The Warsaw-based "11 bit" studios has the hallmarks of an IT start-up. Around 40 video game developers sit in the open-plan office located in a 1970s building by a noisy expressway in an industrial part of town. AFP PHOTO/WOJTEK RADWANSKI (Photo credit should read WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Vojtek Radwanski — AFP/Getty Images

Video game professionals have somewhat mixed views when it comes to their industry. While the majority expect overall growth to continue, they’re worried about the outlook for jobs—and say the industry has a long way to go when it comes to diversity.

The preliminary results, taken from an annual survey by the International Game Developers Association, highlight the growing pains the video game industry continues to go through as it becomes a more dominant part of the entertainment landscape.

Of the 2,932 professionals the IGDA spoke with, just 41.6% say they have a positive perspective on the current state of the industry—33.5% said their perspective was negative.

That could be due, in part, to fears about future job opportunities. Of those surveyed, 26.1% said they were “somewhat negative” about the employment outlook in the gaming industry—with another 10.4% saying they were very negative on the prospects.

That pessimism is lower than last year’s survey, though—where 41.4% expressed a negative view about job opportunities.

It’s also a bit at odds with their feelings about their current employers, as 66.4% say they expect their organization to grow over the next three years—with only 11% expecting any sort of downsizing.

The good news is that despite concerns about future jobs and trepidation about the industry in general, game makers and other professionals seem to be quite content with their current positions. 66.7% said they were either “very positive” or “somewhat positive” about their overall job satisfaction. And 67.5% said their current quality of life was either “very positive” or “somewhat positive”.

Overshadowing the apprehension about the jobs market, though, are concerns about the industry’s ongoing struggles with diversity among game makers. 66.5% of the respondents said diversity in the industry was important, but when asked if there was equal treatment and opportunity for all manner of people, 48.8% said no. (Ironically, game makers seemed more concerned about diversity in video games than in the companies that make them, with 71.1% of those surveyed saying it was important in game content.)

Diversity has long been an issue in gaming, but it’s one that has sprung to the forefront in the past year, thanks in part to the Gamergate controversy. The intimidation of and attacks on women who spoke out about equality in the video game industry actually proved to be an amplifier for the cause of diversity in gaming, forcing video game companies to look at their own practices.

The impact of those examinations is still in the nascent stages in many places, though some publishers, such as Electronic Arts, have hired women in significantly powerful roles. And women were much more forward facing at high profile press conferences preceding the E3 trade show this year.

The survey results come as the video games industry continues to grow. Sales of traditional video game hardware (such as consoles and handheld gaming systems) and software in 2014 topped $22.4 billion, according to the Entertainment Software Association—an 8% increase from 2012. Meanwhile, gaming on mobile devices had estimated revenues of $25 million last year, according to research firm Newzoo.

And the looming launch of virtual reality systems from Sony, Valve, and Facebook-owned Oculus will only help that bottom line. Digi-Capital estimates the augmented reality and virtual markets will generate $150 billion in revenue by 2020.

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