Game industry grows, but is it recession-proof?

The Game Developers Census released at the end of October showed the number of game developers working on staff in the game industry in North America.  Results show more developers work in the industry now than ever, leading to questions about who, exactly, is swelling those ranks and in what positions.  But is it recession-proof?

The census indicates that there are 13% more people employed in the industry than last year, with the highest increase in Canada.  If you live in the US and work in the game industry, there’s nearly a 50% chance you live in California.  This statistic describes the Writers Cabal to a tee — half of us lives in the Golden State. 

Where are the extra developers finding work?  According to the census, they’ve been added to next-gen games as well as to MMOs and virtual worlds.  Good news for writers, especially in the case of MMOs!  Developers may be getting the message that hiring specialized writers makes for better games.  Purely anecdotal evidence suggests more companies are hiring writers on staff.  Where do you think the additional developers are employed?

Yesterday, while my handyman was fixing one of my windows, we ended up talking about the entertainment industry.  He repeated the old standby that entertainment was recession-proof, because ten dollars for a movie was still affordable.  I replied that just because people were willing to buy doesn’t mean the company had a business plan that worked — some rely on independent funding or advertising, which are affected by the economy. 

The census suggested that the down economy hasn’t had an impact on the industry itself, but I think we’ll only know that when the next census comes around.  Brash Entertainment recently laid off some workers due to a “tough economy,” although the tough economy they could be referring to poor sales on their games over the last year. 

What do you think?  Do you think the game industry will escape entirely unscathed from the economy, or do you know of companies that have already had to adjust their financials?

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Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 11:09 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How many of those employees are entry level code/art monkeys? Also, how much “venture capital” is finding its way into the industry? How many of those games under development are MMOs? (The saturated market will not be kind to MMOs; witness Age of Conan and Warhammer Online.)

  2. Tesh-

    Sounds like you may want to buy the census report! Any answers to these questions you’ve seen yourself at work?

    -Anne

  3. I’ve never seen much need to buy census reports. The data gleaned usually isn’t worth the cost.

    As for my work, I’ve seen publishers more hesitant to fund projects, whether it’s our design or theirs. Most are leery of risk at the moment. (Rightfully so, methinketh… but it does make it harder to get work.)

    Most troubling to me is the industry’s move to DRM and subscription models, often with MMOs. Do they not understand the nature of a “saturated market”? Sadly, game design suffers as it is bent to serve the market gods. It’s not really a good time for the industry as a whole; the economy is slumping, just when publishers are getting greedier, and the industry still doesn’t understand that story and game play are more important than cutting edge visuals.

    I’m hoping for an indie renaissance, but without good cheap middleware, we may yet be some time out from that sort of meritocracy.

  4. Faith…

    an interesting take on a fun topic….


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