Post-Pandemic Studio Evolution

2020 was challenging. We can all agree on that. One of the most significant ways that the Covid-19 pandemic affected us was in the way we work. The GDC polled nearly 2,500 game makers and the results revealed that  almost 70% of makers have switched to working from home due to the widespread quarantine measures. This resulted in nearly half of devs reporting that they were working longer hours, while a third reported being less productive. A third of studios have delayed a game release because of this.

Working from Home

50% of Gamesmith members reached out to say they will not consider a new role without some work from home flexibility in 2021. There are a variety of reasons for this including increased at-home childcare, health concerns related to the pandemic, and financial instability. 

While this has become the new normal, how long will work from home opportunities last? Is it a sustainable model? According to globalworkplaceanalytics.com, “56% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible (at least partially) with remote work.” 

With programs like Perforce, Slack and Discord for teams to seamlessly work on projects both independently and together at the same time from thousands of miles away, the gaming industry is in a particularly good position to keep work from home opportunities around. While this likely won’t be the entirety of the industry standard, expect it to continue to be a major part of the new normal workflow. 

Different platforms have different hurdles to make this a success however, highlighted by Venturebeat. Makers cannot be expected to provide their own hardware and software, so the studio has to account for this in their budget. While some studios may be able to allow their makers to take equipment home, this can be more challenging for console developers who are required to get permission from platform holders to allow dev kits to leave the office and secure their safety. VR developers also need to invest in more hardware, as makers will not be able to share equipment and will possibly need to work with local shared office spaces if they have a need to test their work that might not be feasible in their home.

Scaling up?

Sure, remote work is viable in the gaming industry. But is it something that works across the board or is it more tailored to smaller indie studios and freelancers? To get a better idea of the scope of remote work opportunities and the general attitude about it, let’s take a look at Halo Infinite and 343 Industries based in Redmond, Washington. 

Halo Infinite was originally scheduled to ship alongside the Xbox Series X over the 2020 holiday season. However, the studio has since pivoted and delayed the release to November 2021. According to Studio Lead Chris Lee, the decision was “the result of multiple factors that have contributed to development challenges, including the ongoing COVID-related impacts affecting us all this year.” 

Worth noting is that this is not stopping production of the game, rather it is fine tuning it. Halo Infinite will ship in November 2021. The issue was not entirely with working remotely, but the arduous task of transitioning a massive team of almost 500 people to remote work over the course of a noticeably short period. 343 and Microsoft are handling the new normal extremely well, something several studios have struggled to do over the last year whether that is caused by budgetary concerns, console platform contract requirements or simply the logistics of having to set up secure home offices for every employee. Lee goes on to state, “Rest assured that every single one of us is doing everything in our power to continue developing and delivering quality Halo experiences while we adjust to this new way of life.” They have a strong history of delivering on that promise. The franchise is in good hands.

It appears that remote work is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Whether you are freelancing, searching for work, currently working on an indie game or working for a large developer, expect work from home workflows to continue to be a driving factor within the industry. For better or worse, in the words of a certain Beskar steel clad mercenary, “This is the way.”

To help you find your next remote opportunity, search for “remote” under Gamesmith Jobs search page: https://gamesmith.com/jobs where we currently have listings from a number of developers including: Jam City, Streamline Studios, Black Tower Studios and Product Madness.

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