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Recruiting for mobile games companies

The mobile games ecosystem provides a unique mix of challenges and opportunities for any recruiter. Ever since free to play games started to move from social networks such as Facebook to mobile devices in around 2010, the growth in the mobile games sector has been staggering. Early pioneers such as King and Zynga became multi-billion dollar companies. With the proliferation of smartphones, gaming had become more accessible than ever before and enjoyed by a much broader demographic of users.

This new, largely free-to-play mobile gaming ecosystem had dynamics that were very different from the existing console and PC gaming world. Consumers could download products directly from the app stores, anywhere in the world, and mobile games companies had to compete for attention in this most competitive of marketplaces. Performance marketing was often key in order to drive installs and demand in the busy marketplace. Mobile games companies generated huge amounts of data and had to continually improve their products post-launch. The concept of “live game operations” – the ongoing delivery of new features, promotions, events and content post game launch – became essential to the long term success of most free-to-play mobile games.

In many ways, mobile games companies share more dynamics with other direct to consumer internet or app-based businesses than they do with more traditional games companies. They are performance marketing driven whilst traditional games companies relied more on brand advertising. Mobile games companies have a very direct relationship with their customers and have to constantly adapt and optimize their products to keep and monetize them effectively. Mobile games are operated much more like a live service than a traditional product.

With a global marketplace and relatively low barriers to entry, both the size of the opportunity and scale of competition in the mobile games sector are significant. In particular, there is intense demand for candidates with strong performance marketing and product management skillsets. Performance marketing – both in the sense of acquisition and retention – is key to mobile games companies in order to drive sales in the busy marketplace. Most mobile games companies spend a large proportion of their revenues on acquisition channels such as paid social advertising on networks like Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat, as well as on various mobile advertising networks. From a product management perspective, strong skills around game design and the effective monetization of users are also essential. Strong game designers who know how to build compelling games needed to be complemented with more commercially oriented product leaders who can design the right game economies and help to monetize the user base.

As in any rapidly growing sector, the demand for talent in mobile gaming has typically outgrown the supply. It often makes sense to bring in performance marketers from similar mobile or internet businesses outside of gaming,  provided they understand the relevant channels and techniques. Commercially minded product leaders can also be found in e-commerce and app based businesses, and can often successfully adapt their skills to the sector.  Game design oriented recruitment projects can be especially tough as they usually require extracting someone from another mobile games business. Extracting experienced candidates from other mobile games companies is often hard – they are generally well looked after financially, and may well have equity in their current business. Product leaders may want to wait and see how well their new game performs before jumping ship to anywhere else.

Recruiting for mobile games companies is therefore not straightforward. There is often a shortage of supply of talent in the sector, with experienced employees being well looked after and often reluctant to leave. So what can mobile games recruiters do in order to successfully operate in the sector?

Look internationally

One of the characteristics of the mobile gaming sector is that the market is fundamentally internationally dispersed by its nature. In Europe, you’ll find sizeable mobile gaming businesses in the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, Israel and beyond. Whist that high profile King candidate in London might be well looked after, there might well be other, equally strong candidates in emerging markets who might find your opportunity to be more attractive. With the rise of remote working, the ability to look for talent internationally is a key weapon for the mobile games recruiter.

Polish up your collateral 

A company’s website and job description plays an important role in shaping candidate perceptions. Does your collateral suggest a vibrant, diverse business that is successful and a fun place to work? Or is it just rather generic and tired? When you’re competing for talent in a hot market, it’s important to give yourself every advantage you can. If you work directly for the hirer, ensure that your employer branding is as strong as possible. If you’re an internal or external recruiter, make sure you write a job description that sells the company and role as well as one that lists the role requirements. 75% of the document should be about the company with only 25% about the role requirements. Most job descriptions just provide a laundry list of requirements and a brief copy-and-paste from the website about the business. It’s much better to write a compelling, thoughtful job description in PowerPoint that might be 8-10 slides and tell a much more interesting story to potential candidates.

Consider hybrid and remote working models

Insisting that candidates relocate to be permanently based in one of your offices will massively reduce your access to talent, particularly if your office is in a location that isn’t particularly attractive from a relocation standpoint. It’s much easier to get candidates to relocate to Madrid rather than Reykjavik from example. That said, even if a candidate might think that moving to Madrid is appealing, often their family situation will make that impossible. Requiring relocation will mean that 80%+ of internationally based candidates will reject any job opportunities with you.

Learn about the sector and build a network 

It takes time for any recruiter to gain a strong understanding of the mobile games sector, and to build a sector within it, but this can make a huge difference. An experienced mobile games recruiter will be able to find more relevant candidates by knowing where to look, and in turn, they will convert a greater proportion of candidates by having a reputation and track record on the sector. On LinkedIn, candidates can see mutual connections and are more likely to engage with a recruiter if they believe that building a relationship with them might help their career in the long-term.

Neon River is a headhunting firm that specializes in working with mobile games companies. If we can help you, don’t hesitate to get in touch