Learnings from fifteen years as a games recruiter
I’ve been interested in games since I was a child in the 1980s. My first computer was a Spectrum, before moving on to an Atari ST, SNES, PlayStation One, PlayStation Two and I’ve been mostly a PC and mobile gamer thereafter. With hindsight, I was probably part of one of the first generations of children to really grow up with gaming. Whilst gaming was never a particularly niche hobby to people of my generation, it certainly wasn’t as mainstream as it has become today. Mobile gaming in particular has helped to democratize the industry. Today, a much broader demographic of users play games, and it has become one of the largest categories in entertainment.
As a recruiter, I’ve always worked with a combination of B2C (typically games, mobile or internet) and B2B (software, services) companies. The games industry is a unique ecosystem that requires time and experience to understand. As a games recruiter, one of the first things you need to try to define is – what is the games industry? How do we break it down into sub-sectors so we can make more sense of it?
A helpful way to look at any industry, and gaming is no different, is to break it down into different subsectors. For example:
Game developers and publishers – Game developers make games whilst game publishers manage their commercial distribution. Whilst many studios both develop and publish games, this is not necessarily the case. Sometimes games companies will outsource game development to a third party – perhaps because they have more experience of building a certain type of game. Sometimes a game developer will look to partner with a larger games publisher to help them sell their game.
Console and other hardware developers – As well as the obvious console makers – Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo – there are PC manufacturers, electronics manufacturers (GPUs etc.), gaming accessories and peripherals.
E-sports – Although e-sports are still fairly niche in appeal, they have developed a loyal following and a hardcore fanbase. High profile tournaments are often held around popular titles like League of Legends, Fortnite or FIFA.
Influencers – The rise of games streamers on platforms like YouTube and Twitch has been staggering over recent years. With younger generations spending less time watching TV and more time on social media platforms, streaming has become big business, with gaming being one of the most popular types of content. Advertisers are keen to work with popular streamers and influencer marketing is a key strategy for many games publishers. As the industry matures it is becoming increasingly professionalized with many more agencies and management companies specializing in the sector.
Streaming companies – Games are increasingly becoming an important part of subscription services proposition. Companies like Netflix and Apple have subscription games packages as part of their offering.
Retailers / E-commerce platforms / App stores – All games need to be distributed – either physically through a retailer or digitally through an e-commerce platform like Steam for PC Gaming, or the app stores for mobile devices.
Technology and service providers – The games industry also has an ecosystem of technology and service providers around it – these could be marketing agencies, outsourced sales teams, game development tools (e.g. Unity), providers of outsourced services (e.g. localization), professional services such as accounting, recruitment or legal.
We can see from the above that the games industry has a variety of different types of company within it – with game publishers, influencers, retailers and console makers being B2C focused – but also with vital B2B technology and service providers within the ecosystem.
Furthermore, the rise of online and mobile gaming has had a profound effect on the industry.
Browser-based games over the internet, and mobile games have become major parts of the industry. Games like Candy Crush Saga, Clash of Clans, and Pokemon Go have become household names. Online and mobile games companies were different from traditional console games publishers. Traditional games publishers would sell games through retailers, but with the rise of e-commerce platforms and app stores, online and mobile games companies could interact much more directly with their users and get access to vast amounts of player data that would prove hugely valuable.
In this new world, data science, performance marketing (the efficient acquisition and retention of users using digital media) and product management were key. Games were becoming more of a service than a product – constantly being updated and optimized in order to help retain players. “Live operations” – the constant updating and improvement of games post-launch – was an increasingly important activity.
With consumers increasingly having access to fast internet speeds, it is now very easy for consumers to download even relatively large PC and console games. Today, all the major console manufacturers offer their own e-commerce stores where players can buy and download new titles. Steam has become the most popular platform for buying and downloading PC games, although there are also rival platforms and a host of smaller companies selling CD keys.
As a games recruiter – depending on the nature of the client you work for and their business model – you’ll need to think creatively about where to find talent for a particular project. Sometimes you can look outside the sector for talent too. Need a strong data science leader? Consider broader app and internet companies – they’re often just as data-driven. A strong performance marketer can also often be found in broader mobile and internet companies. HR and Finance people rarely need deep industry knowledge.
However some roles – for example product management or game design positions – will require close industry experience. These roles can be challenging with a limited supply of candidates in the market with the relevant skillset. Your ability as a games recruiter to squeeze as many strong candidates as you can out of the market could be the difference between success and failure. Thorough market research and looking in the right places can make a huge difference.
Games recruiters also need to think carefully about how they present opportunities to candidates. A high quality job description can make a huge difference when it comes to converting candidates. Too many job descriptions just list lots of requirements without telling a story about the company and why you might want to work for them. What is it about the games, the market, the people, the role, that makes it a compelling opportunity. A vibrant job description with strong imagery and a narrative about the company, market and role can massively enhance your candidate conversion. Recruiting leaders for games companies isn’t easy, but it’s some of the most interesting work you can do as a recruiter.
Peter Franks is the founder of Neon River. He specializes in recruiting leaders for games companies and has worked with a wide range of clients including King, PlayStation, Miniclip and Peak Games. To get in touch, please email email@example.com