This is one reason why "follow your passion" is a bad career strategy.
It's not unique to this industry. Look at all the folks who get PhDs and waste their 30's doing low paid postdocs ($50K is higher end).
> Look at all the folks who get PhDs and waste their 30's doing low paid postdocs ($50K is higher end).
Research is different. You are certainly losing out on income, however in my experience you have an immense amount of ownership and autonomy over the project. If you get the boot you can take your project with you. You can publish your code as free software or open source and your papers on open access pre-print services. Academic researchers are often far less alienated from their labor than video game engineers.
Consider two orthogonal vectors: one is income earned and the other is your accomplishments. Ideally you want to maximize both, but failing that different people express different priorities over which one to maximize in a career.
It's heartbreaking the first time I hear it. After the 100th time, the sentiment transforms to "Why did you allow yourself in this predicament?" And the answer is always "Passion".
This story has been repeated over and over for the last 15 years. You can take this exact story to aspiring game developers and they'll say "I don't care. It's not about the money. I just want to make games. Even if I play a small role in the project I'll be satisfied"
>You are certainly losing out on income, however in my experience have an immense amount of ownership and autonomy over the project.
Many postdocs don't. They do the bidding of some faculty member.
Many faculty members don't. Sure, on paper they do. But they'll all tell you about the work they cannot pursue because they can't get grant money for it.
>If you get the boot you can take your project with you.
Not true for some postdoc work.
>You can publish code as free software or open source and your papers on open access pre-print services.
Not true as a post doc. My advisor certainly forbade it.
>Consider two orthogonal vectors: one is income earned and the other is your accomplishments. Ideally you want to maximize both, but failing that, different personalities often express different priorities over which one to maximize in a career.
I completely agree with this, which is why I'm not sympathetic to the game developer, or with postdocs who regret spending so long in academia. They picked their priorities - it was not imposed on to them. And for many, later in their life, they feel they picked the "wrong" priorities.
I am sympathetic to them as we have all made bad decisions. I would argue that a neccessary pre-condition to "following your passion" is protecting that passion and pursuing a longterm strategy which allows you to develop that passion and maintain ownership over your work. Chasing passion is not an reason for failing to plan or for allowing others to walk all over you. Software engineers on the whole have sufficient power to not be at the mercy of bosses if they have the will to stand up for themselves. They owe it to themselves and to their limited lifespan to do so.
Edit: I think we both are saying that, to the degree possible, people have a responsibility to themselves to not allow themselves to be exploited.
That, right there, is exactly what im feeling currently.
It all started as a hobby some years ago and I got an opportunity to turn it into a career, so I did. I dont regret that time because I met some pretty amazing people and learned a TON about so many fascinating things. But I finally got fed up last year and left to do some freelancing work while I performed a 'Career-Shift'.
Unfortunately, what I have come to realize is that its pretty difficult to switch from being a contract developer for 10 or so years. I dont know for sure, but I think, because I have the 'Jack of all trades, master of none' resume. It's highly demotivating.
What should have stayed a hobby became a career, and now feel scorned because of it.
I think this statement sums it up.
After a while, I figured out that for most jobs, following passion is too much of a risk. Even if it is aligned with my passions, any minor change (e.g. management decision) can make it a chore or much worse. It will never really be according to my vision.
So I switched to a boring job but with good work-life balance. This gives me free time to pursue my passions. Now I'll grant some passions are demanding enough that you can't reasonably do it in your free time (e.g. certain types of academic research). Fortunately, the solution is to have multiple passions. Even if I have all the time in the world, it is not enough to pursue all my passions anyway. It's OK to pare it down to what is feasible, and it doesn't make me any less happy.
Are you getting no offers, or just no offers that pay well enough?
I have trouble believing that noone would want to hire you if you're good and can show that you've built nontrivial stuff.
None of that is worth the lowered income.
It's hard to find a GDC talk on Youtube where the creator of a game doesn't get teared up talking about the despair and elation they felt slaving over their game for four years. Try this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOlcB-JxkFw
I also firmly believe there are games that won't be forgotten in a few decades.
1. Watch someone work hard on a project they care about for months or years. It could be software, a quilt or a carpentry project.
2. Find a legal way to destroy it in front of them.
3. Say "Come on its just X not the Sistine Chapel."
4. Record their reaction and report back.
It's not as if they found a legal way to destroy it after the work had started. That legal way has always existed. How one can enter a profession where you're paid to make art and not know the rules is mind boggling. I know lots of famous music artists who've felt exploited, but those contracts are likely a lot more complicated than what these developers deal with.
If you're a carpenter, and I hire you to build something, and you don't know that I can stop the project at any point and destroy it, you've got serious issues. Ask any carpenter.
If Michelangelo was paid to produce a masterpiece, I'm sure he knew he didn't own the work. I should probably look up famous artists like him and read up to see if this was even unusual: Getting paid to make something that would be destroyed by the owner.
Its obviously not a 1:1 comparison, but the emotions and feelings are the same is what im getting at ;-)
I'd advise against making someone else rich, at your own expense.
Been there, been done like that.
Following your passion is fine.
Complaining about low pay because you are following your passion is not. If they're complaining, they care about more than their passions, and they (not their employers) are responsible for satisfying their needs.
You can get lucky and follow your passion as well as take care of material needs, but those are the exceptions. Not the norm.
If there were not aligned, then we should strive to change the market and society to make them align. Without a proper incentive mechanism, no innovation can be done optimally.
I would beg to differ. The aligned ones are the exceptions.
Unless your passion is to make money, that is.
The whole point is that if your passion is something other than to get rich, you are more inclined than the average person to take lower pay to pursue your passions.
"Wow, it's awesome employer X is willing to pay me to do passion Y. I never thought I could make a living doing this!"
"Those who use their skills to do boring work (code/CAD monkey) to make more money are sellouts!"
Most startups are in it for the money. As pg himself wrote: It's not at all unusual in the early phases for a startup to completely change direction because they didn't find a market for their "passion". The goal is to get rich, not to solve business problem Z.
>Without a proper incentive mechanism, no innovation can be done optimally.
I agree with the caveat that the incentive need not be "get rich". Making a lot of money often lowers innovation by constraining it.
I am saying rich being above average and can secure a above average starting point for offspring. I do not think rich should be "rich enough to be considered privileged".
Greed and desire for the pot of gold are illusions.
If salary were a function of social value added why is the Pepsi CEO so well paid? So many industries just appropriate wealth from real work.
If people don't yield to the flawed system I say hats off to them.
It's up to them to decide. I, for one, have seen far too many people go the route of academia, stick to it, and then regret it because they either didn't get a tenure track position, or because they were so old when they got one.
It depends on the discipline. Engineering/CS is soft on academics. When I was doing my PhD, it was not unusual for a graduate to get a TT position without doing a postdoc. But if you're in the sciences or math: Good luck.
You are responsible for taking care of your needs. If all you care about is research, and not enough money to pay for your kids' college (the situation of a number of career post docs I know), then I'm the last one to tell you to reconsider.
This is why a system that fails to associate value added with reward gained is so utterly damaging.
Plus, if we're talking about games, you have the money to pay people for quality art, sound, etc. So when you are ready to make that step, you can really give it some polish.
If someone wants to keep that up with postdocs, more power to them. I just observe that there are a lot more postdocs who regret their journey than those who stopped at PhD.
That said, I do enjoy doing research. It's frustrating working with researchers sometimes though. :P Sure, everyone push to master without testing, no problem! I'll just spend my afternoon making things compile again..
Start school at 7;
Start university at 19;
Start PhD at 25 [4-year bachelors + 2-year masters] if you can do that immediately after masters, or 26;
Finish PhD at 28, or 29 (if it's a 3-year PhD, otherwise older);
Finish first post-doc at 31, second one at 33/34.
By mid-30s you are just starting your tenure-track (assuming you get some semi-permanent position at a university or research institute)
I'm currently doing a PhD [quantum chemistry] and this is basically my expectation for the future.
Most companies today seem to only care about being the largest in the industry. Because, I'm guessing shareholders or greed or something, I dont know for sure. It's almost impossible to find a company that wants to just stay within their means. Grow to the optimal size you can manage and coast. I assume its because those kind of companies would get run over by their competition if they didnt keep growing, but im not sure.
I used to aspire to have a super successful and huge game company. But after seeing all the insider crap that goes into game development, I think I'll be happiest with just doing my own thing and having trusted colleagues that will come in on projects to help out.
This is why I still play many older AAA games, yet only a few current AAA games, though my machine has enough HP for any current title. Yet current indie games often have this extra, and are on my menu.
You can run a game factory like this, but this inflates the product line on the long run. Only managers will stay, and ideas will not blossom, only the management will execute the same reciepes over and over, and eventually customers will not come without insane sales campaigns.
"Many older AAA games yet only a few current AAA games" I suspect is more due to rose-tinted glasses and survivor bias. There was plenty of crap back then, and plenty of greatness today.
The other comparison with Hollywood is the unrelenting sequelitis. It's even reached the point now where game developers are planning trilogies from the start, like StarCraft II and Medieval Total War: Warhammer.
There is no way a game like the first Portal could have been designed by a game designer, it started as a research project by a developer. Then there are games that do very innovative with the art blending it seamlessly into the design in unconventional ways, like Antechamber. I think there are plenty examples of games that buck the mold too hard for a conventional designer to have been able to make them.
My favorite example is Minecraft and its procedurally generated infinite world, much of the art is in algorithms that create the biomes. Cresting the top of a mountain to see the scenery on the other side for the first time is so simple to do and easy to enjoy in this game. The programmer had to be the designer and the artist to pull this off. I know Notch worked with others but this one facet had to be singular or iterative, not communicated from someone seperate after "designing". This was communicated in code and programmers and artist saw what existed and tried to build something and sharing. There is no good way for a conventional designer to convey the details of an algorithm to build forests and cave systems. It is not a fundamentally unsolvable problem, it is just presently unsolved in my experience.
Perhaps, for certain types of games. But for many types of games there's this subtle overlap between design and programming that defines how the game "feels" to play.
eg. How do digital/analog sampled inputs exactly map to character movement and camera control.
This is an area where having a small core group that understands the technology at play but also has a handle on the design side of how to implement for "fun" can be a huge difference maker.
From a high level design point of view, most action "platform" games have basically the same controls. But anyone who has played, say, Nintendo's Mario games versus most other platform games realizes there is some special sauce in the "feel" of the character movement that is equal parts design and programming/low-level-implementation that wouldn't get conveyed properly in a higher level outsource-ready design document.
If I want to be told stories I usually prefer books, films. (Though I liked Baldur's Gate for eg. which is an opposite of what I usually prefer)
Many game makers mistakenly conflate any kind of success with an endorsement of their game creation skills and assume it will transfer. If the next product doesn't hit the necessary behavioral hooks, it's going to fail, no matter how well your first or main product was received.
Just as in movies and music, the big players rehash the same stuff over and over again because it sells. The dividends from these formulaic products pay for the small fraction of experimental/non-formulaic ("soulful") projects, which typically lose money.
A few weeks ago, I started another new game of Carrier Command.
It's still the same game it was more than 25 years ago when I first started playing but I'm not the same gamer that I used to be so this play-through is much different.
I can't imagine that most of today's AAA titles will still be enjoyable in 25 years. Madden or NBA 2K17 aren't going to have people re-playing them. The Fallout Series probably will but most won't. I'm going to be an old guy again but these games don't feel like someone poured their heart and soul into them the way the old ones did.
Take a look at the release list for the last year, it's sequel sequel sequel.
Once in a blue moon a new IP comes, and people drop their pants like it's the second coming, forgetting that this is how the games industry used to be.
A lot of the time it just really depends on the motivation behind the director. Keep in mind that some of Nintendo's most successful games were from simple observations on the parts of their creator, like Miyamoto watching ants while he was gardening and coming up with the basic concept for Pikmin. Most yearly release games will suffer just because they are yearly release games. Same with yearly release movies.
The difference might be that the contractors in the film and TV industry are all union.
There was a distinct jump in professionalism (and acknowledgement of safety) when I started working union shoots vs non-union.
I'm sympathetic to the game developers, but unionization has been pretty strong eroded outside of traditionally hazardous occupations.
This is even more pronounced in the UK where permanent employee pay is very low, compared to contractor pay. Generally the best engineers all end up becoming either contractors or go into finance where they can get paid well. And unfortunately the engineers who could never get employed as a perm employee also become contractors.
And even if you managed to get in somewhere I imagine you'd be found out and binned pretty quickly.
edit: "typical" for a mid-to-senior level programmer contractor. A "contractor" doing QC in games will not take anywhere near as much.
Outside London as a senior dev you might expect £45k full-time + pension + benefits.
So definitely not at least 2x.
45 weeks is kinda the rule of thumb of contractors, as you don't get paid hols or sick days.
100k is definitely not twice what you get as a permie in London.
There are a lot of reasons why employers hire contractors, some more valid than others.
In my limited experience, it's rarely worth it, mostly because the relevant processes are never in place to ensure that loads of knowledge doesn't walk away with the contractor at the end of the contract
Should clarify that I'm in the UK.
Could you elaborate on that, please? Thanks in advance!
Their contracts have an expiration so they're easier to get rid of on short notice.
Also they are treated as capital expenditure versus operational expenditure. And I believe that you can do some accounting that is beneficial tax wise to a company.
This is a UK perspective.
Basically some big companies charge their divisions fees for upkeep of facilities, paying the finance team salaries, etc based on the number of employees in the division.
So if you can have ten employees you are only on the hook for $1M/year in corp fees even though you actually have three "consultants" sharing desks with every employee for years-at-a-time. If you added the consultants to the employee roles then you would become a 50 person division, owing $5M/year to the home office.
The CAPEX vs OPEX thing is a big driver too, of course, but there are definitely ways to classify employees, at least partially, as capex.
It's why you can make an exempt employee fill out a timesheet to charge back projects which you have put into the capex group.
A few jobs ago my group was told to find 80% capex or find new jobs. Most fridays were spent negotiating with project managers in tasks-for-hours swaps.
On demand skills
misallocation of internal resources
hanging on to yearly budgets
I could probably think of a few more
Some of the above are perceived by PHBs types as there is always a finite pool of people with the skillset that is needed for the job at the skill level required etc...
> The guy poured his heart and soul into the project and was vested way beyond a paycheck
... so it's kinda sad when productivity isn't the reason.
Yeah, how dare they...
People are more specialized and interchangeable. Outsourcing the work to where it can be done best for the best price makes sense. We would have done it that way in the '90s, if it would have worked. Now it does.
I know many developers in gaming and I constantly tell them to leave the industry for anything else. But they rarely do. And over time I see them get more run down and despondent. I actually see them age over a short period time. It's some sort of occupational Stockholm Syndrome.
The proper way to work in the game industry is to make your cash in another industry and then start your own game studio.
But I was not a big fan of many people above us though. The actual decision makers that don't really know what they are talking about. They are great talkers, sometimes even motivational, but know nothing about what devs need to be successful and productive. And to a point don't care.
That's why you don't do that unless you own the business or shares of that business. Stick to what you're were hired for, don't be over invested, don't put on extra hours of work thinking you'll be rewarded somehow. I'm pretty sure this guys is burned out now. There is no such thing as being a "loyal employee" when your boss isn't paid to be loyal to you. That's business not some social club.
The medium-sized family company I work for was just purchased by another, multi-billion dollar company. After the post-acquisition stuff calms down, I'll be having that discussion with them. Until then, any work I do on the projects are void of the personal passion and extra time I put into developing and researching the projects, as much as I am able.
In every industry, everywhere, employees are an expense.
To maximize profits, expenses must be cut.
Maximizing profits is currently the goal of our society, and we seem hell bent on doing everything we can to achieve that goal.
Game industry has ridiculous turnover, for developers it is something like five years and you are likely to be out.
I just wonder if the 20something who dream of stock options and fame, of the game developers who dreamt of doing this since they were children, just haven't reached a point where the disappointment has hit. That, or internalized so strongly that they get promoted and catapulted up the chain. Workaholism, or 'passion' as some call it, can get noticed by the brass and now the passionate people are handed whips.
Age makes you more rational and common sense makes you see exploitation when faced with it.
But boy, IT folks seem to be the LAST to see it. Why is that? It's not like it's the only profession in the world where people can really enjoy what they do.
The article suggests industry shifts more towards project-based economies as they progress, but I think this is wrong. The examples of Hollywood and video gaming are both outliers, because both of these industries have put up huge resistance to lengthened product cycles. In part they perceive it as reducing competition. And it's true, but personally I am starting to wonder what all this competition is actually getting us. Prices for customers are dropping, however we seem to get a lot of sequels and recycled content in the name of cost-cutting, and then a lot of extraneous fighting over who gets to release what on what platform just to push royalty charges up. And what do we have to show for it? A lifetime of fickle and perpetually unhappy customers? Please make it stop.
The only solace that I have is that a lot of this is still driven by the hardware arms race. This won't end, but we will start to see more consolidation as the industry continues to mature.
Only a handful of AAA games are in the "HW arms race". By sheer numbers, the overwhelming vast majority of games sold are casual games downloaded on mobile devices.
The game industry is driven by people's short attention spans. It doesn't matter how fast you upgrade the technology, people get bored of playing the same game in the same way they get bored of watching the same movie even if you upgrade it to super-purple-ray-3D-smellivision. You already know the plot.
"We ended up operating for five months without money or payments to the team here," the post reads. "It was a difficult period, where some of us were awkwardly standing in front of cashiers having our credit cards declined, drawing from any possible savings, and borrowing money from our friends and family. But we made it to the other side!"
Would you work for anyone for five months with no paycheck? I couldn't afford to even if I wanted to.
Granted, Shovel Knight has seen huge success since its release, and I'm sure they made all of their lost wages and then some, but still, that project could have potentially died before it got released, and many more lower profile Kickstarted video games never get released.
I haven't been on the inside in a while but we might have one musician on a AAA title and he/she would compose all the music and they might also do all the foley work because musicians you might have heard of would probably laugh at the wages and would demand royalties. Obviously part of the issue is making video games can be a crap shoot where a game with original IP is just as often a failure as a success so it can be hard to justify spending money on an unknown entity, and royalties don't exist except for bigger successes for the most part.
Even with the clout of Disney it was really hard to work with "professional" actors who were SO bad at doing the voices for games. They were slow and VERY error prone. They often demanded ridiculous extras and final say on lines used but couldn't match their performance in the original movie. We could hire professional voice actors and record quality accurate depictions of the characters in 1/10th of the time. In fact recording the foreign versions where we used the original foreign voice actor was nearly always easier and more efficient because there is less ego.
The Hollywood system is a sham. There are fixed unionised rates for voice acting but that's not worth the top actors time so they roll in to the studio to do their $100/hr talk knowing that when they leave there is a brand new BMW, Lexus or even piece of art to add to their private collection waiting for them as a gift. We're talking Picasso's as sweeteners!
The games industry has a lot wrong with it but it's nothing like the shambles of the movie industry.
Yikes. That makes me wonder what the director had to do to get a good performance out of them. Did they just have them say the lines over and over and over until they accidentally got a good take?
Not everyone is George Lucas.
Seriously, though, I think the various coaches (dialog, accent, acting) on set might have a lot more influence on the process than we're lead to believe.
I have years of professional game development and simulation work under my belt and I find it one of the most difficult fields to actually get in to. I always end up just doing the usual software development while still aspiring to actually get a job as a game developer. IMO this is a slippery slope for game companies
I worked in games for 3 years and we worked with a few contractors. I noticed a few bizarre things about the contractors we used. We never worked with the same contractor for two different games in a row. Every contractor we used we heard of through word of mouth. They were all small (2-20 people) and most of the time they had no to little online presence. The most effective avenue for getting jobs seemed to be handing your business card out at GDC to as many people as you can.
As far as I can see, if you want to be a game contractor, you're better off starting one on your own than trying to get hired by a contracting company. Find a game artist who's also just starting out, launch a shitty game or two to show that you can, then hand your card out at GDC.
I think that right there is the biggest issue of contracting companies, because their sales people and account managers will over-promise, get the contract signed and then the PM's and developers will have to work extra hours to make up for it. Leading to rushed, poor quality software. And ultimately they get absolutely no credit for the work because the company that hired them claims the credit.
I actually left that company last year to get out of the chaos and do my own freelancing, but that even led into the exact same issues. Since I'm not a super-mega-rockstar freelancer, if i wanted to make ends meet financially, I would have to over-promise to bring in enough work. But now, it is just me so I have to work 12 hours a day anyway to make clients happy.
Honestly I think aspiring game devs would be better off just making and sell games they enjoy until they can bring in enough money to sustain them. Possibly even making a hit game that starts their own company. Hopefully one that does not contract out work ;-)
Let's not forget the barrier to entry for shipping video games is going down drastically (except for AAA where it keeps getting more expensive!).
So, the big publishers are shipping AAA games with margins that are getting thinner and require careful balancing acts to make those releases profitable. Players expect better Gfx, Sound, Music, VR/AR, Multiplayer and vast open world universes, these things are not cheap ...
As an alternative path, many 'indies' are able to make it on their own and it's possible to work as a contractor and indie dev. Tools like Unity and Unreal and the plethora of mobile gaming plaforms are very accessible to almost anyone with basic technical knowledge.
With 17 years experience as a Dev, I can tell you the most talented, creative and smart devs/progs/engineers I have met are in the Video games industry, I haven't been in any other industry where it gets even close to that.
Too many videogame industry jobs are 1-off, lasting only so long as their part in the production of a single game exists. In essence, they work for the game. This is also true of the movie industry in many cases, but more often than not, work is farmed out to a variety of small production companies who each bring a few bits to the table. In a movie, the lighting guy works a steady-ish job for a lighting company, the cameras are rented from an equipment company, many of the actors will work for a couple agencies and so on.
The production company hires out and assembles these pieces, which are often union supported, and makes a movie. It's not too many people who work for the movie.
Once the movie shuts down production, the lighting guy goes back and asks his company where his next gig is, the actors have their agency working for them, the cameras go back into rentable inventory and so on.
This spreads risk out and keeps the industry from going through huge hiring/firing cycles.
The video game industry hasn't really matured to this point. You get a job working for EA Games East or wherever, get assigned to work on "Dog Touch Magic 2 - iOS" do your work, and if you're lucky will get asked to work on "Dog Touch Magic 3" or whatever. If you don't work for a studio directly, you're probably freelancing. But there's very little middle ground like in the film industry.
There's no real equivalent of say "I need 3d modelers for this game, let's get 2 or 3 contractors from Modelhaus Inc." bring them on for 4 months to make some models and then return them to their company to be hired out again. Instead EA Games East will have staff modelers or some freelancers, and their jobs may last beyond the game or task they're assigned to.
It kind of blows my mind that there aren't even unions yet in the gaming industry, they've been talked about for decades, but the industry hasn't done it yet.
Game industry veteran here. It's not surprising to me at all. Large dev studios don't want unions. They've been able to capitalize on an endless sea of starry eyed young devs willing to work 60+ hour weeks for months on end for half the salary they could make in other software fields until they get burned out, just so they can say they worked on the 10th sequel of a game they loved as a kid, or tell their friends 'I worked on this game you can download here!' and it doesn't look like the supply of that has gone down at all.
Meanwhile, individual software developers not in the midst of a company death march and are probably doing the Indie thing and tend to see themselves as lone wolves and thus don't make much effort to organize with their other developers.
There's associations like IGDA (International Game Developers Association), but in my interactions with them, I haven't seen them organize anything more than social activities with some veteran from the game industry to give a talk.
Anyway this is actually a pretty large size for a game studio. More numbers from studios building much larger (RL is more about balance and in game items than story or world building):
Bungie had around 550 (heavily staffed up) before Destiny came out. Zipper had 250 before they shut down. Naughty dog I think had around 150 before they spun up LoU, I recall them around 250 now.
Talented software engineers are sick of 80-hour-week grinds as underpaid salary employees in an industry where nine out of ten products fail. By working contract/hourly, they get actual money in liu of their name in a credits list that nobody reads - even in the unlikely event their product ships.
I really like a policy that gives management and employees aligned incentives; it puts everyone on the same team and makes sure people value the other side's perspective.
Nah, not even close. I mean, not unless you include every random app store game made by some teenager.
Obviously the big companies almost always do well, but there are a ton of small and medium-sized companies which have been ticking along for years, releasing game after game with at least modest success.
Failure isn't random either. You have good designers and good management, you're probably not going to release a bad game. A company's track record is often surprisingly consistent, in either way.
But if they can blame the game's failings on decisions made by the publishers -- and that's often the case, i.e. 'must be free to play!' or 'we don't need to market this game! if we make it, they will come!' or 'let's release it six months before the game is ready!' -- then the developer probably won't be hurt too much by a failed game, as long it wasn't super technically broken.
I worked for a small publisher. We put out four games that did okay, and two games that lost a bunch of money (partially due to quality, partially due to misreading the market, partially due to timing, partially due to how the platforms worked), and those failures were enough to put us out of business seven years ago. Meanwhile the developers of those games are still chugging along today.
By the way, I'm not saying those developers don't deserve to still be in business, as they did their job to the best of their abilities with the resources available. But that's just the nature of the business.
Depending on the game you may be content heavy in which case may use outside contractors (or outside studios) to help with the mass of work but that seems to have dropped off as a practice in recent years. Using Chinese and Indian art outsourcing studios was big 10 years ago.
More recently the big players have moved to a model where each of their development studios has a game (or two) in development with a core team working only on that game and a content team who will work on whichever studio needs their help (typically the next game for release).
If you are not 'outsourcing' the entire game development you'll typically want most of the core staff in the same location and full-time. Design, code, technical art and art direction all have to work very closely together. Not something you can easily split around the world or assign to short-term contractors.
Psyonix did outsource their console versions to another studio (likely comprised of full-time employees), which is common with smaller companies who would rather not have to ramp-up their engineering staff for console support. It also saves Psyonix the large capital expense of purchasing development kits.
And really, can you blame them? Revenues are largely based on the work of the producer (marketing / promotion), the director (overall tone / quality) and the acting talent (big names = box office draws); the folks behind the scenes get screwed over (or they would if they didn't have unions ensuring some long-term consequences for producers acting in bad faith).
Not a good HR model for the wellbeing of 'free agents'
- SW is never done. Any successful application is continually developed, so there are always more work to be done on the application.
- Knowledge gained. The longer you work on a product, the more you learn about it, the source code and the domain. With permanent employees, the knowledge is retained (until they quit), but with contractors the knowledge is lost more quickly.
Big corps because they want to form the people so they become exactly as they want them.
Small start-ups probably because they can't sell a company without employees?
On the other hand I know a few devs of bought start-ups that had hard times because the buyer only wanted a few of the devs and only those they considered good, not the "bystanders".
Also, managers want more control and employees can be scared with the prospect of losing their job, because they value stability.
As a contractor I'm always aware of losing a project, people don't have any budget left or it is simply finished and I need to go on, so if a manager wants to give me a hard time, I simply wrap things up and go to another company.
That said, the trend definitely continues to lean towards a small core team that can put the pieces together, and then external teams who can leverage a longer term specialization, lowering management risks on both ends by reducing the "seasonal layoff" dynamic of game launches.
Going into college I had the dream of eventually working at Blizzard or some other big video game company. However, I ran into articles about studios of beloved games hitting misfortune (Sierra, Westwood Studios, etc.) from either bankruptcy or being bought out by bigger game companies. I also read articles on how former big studio employees were being dumped at the end of projects. You can see Hideo Kojima as a latest example.
There is, however, a silver lining. All, if not most, of the tools for developing software are out there to use for free or with doable licensing which usually rely on sales of the developed game. Unity, Unreal being big, powerful game engine examples while Gamemaker or even straightup IO libraries like SDL being on the other side of the spectrum.
With these tools, coupled with various distribution methods like GoG, Steam, eShop, itch.io, or just straight binary hosting, indie developers have been killing it in the video game space when it comes to creativity and originality. There is the problem of the door for entry being a bit too open and so you tend to see a lot of vaporware, clones, bad games, or even alpha/beta games that seem to just stagnate due to feature creep or other misfortunes. But there are gems being put out that even surpass the crap AAA companies put out.
I see former workers of big companies ditch or get laid off from their former employer to start their own gig or join one. It's exciting to see what they come up with and which ones succeed.
A faucet of 10k H-1B visas a year making an average salary of just 81k.
> Layoffs often hit after a game was released, which was hardest on workers who were let go and damaged morale for those who stayed. “It was like ‘Welcome to the family!’ ” he recalls. “Then we released the game, and it was ‘See you later!’ ” Outsourcing became a solution to the hire-and-fire cycle, says Mr. Hartsman.
Most software developers are employed to write custom software for internal use by their employer, which is expected to last for years and will generally receive a lot of continuing investment. Almost every company of substantial size has such a project, so there are plenty of stable employment opportunities. If the company doesn't want to use its old software anymore, they keep their employees onboard because they have useful knowledge about the business and what does/does not work from the prior package. None of this is really relevant or true of game companies.
Article without the paywall.