February 21, 2024

7 min

Video Game

Juan Jimenez

Marketing Manager

How to Improve Retention in Video Game Companies

Within the entertainment industry, the video games sector is experiencing the fastest economic and employment growth in recent years. With a player base that will exceed 3 billion users by 2027, according to Statista figures, the industry's annual revenue is only going up, as is the supply of video games across all platforms, and thus the number of employees needed to make it happen.

Splendid news, right?

Well, get ready to think twice.

While the employee turnover rate in the video games industry, at 22.6%, is pretty decent, it's almost three points above the tech industry average – 12-20% – according to figures from Finance Online. The reasons for this are varied, but the result is the same:

Ensuring that the best talent stays at a gaming studio for a significant period is becoming increasingly challenging.

The structural reasons for this situation are slowly making headlines in the gaming press. Renowned Bloomberg journalist and video game researcher Jason Schreier has covered the topic in his most recent book, Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry (2021), showing how crunch, increasingly ambitious development processes and volatile studio budgets and investor decisions can make the prospect of a long career in the same place feel like walking a tightrope.

Generational changes in the industry – with millennials being displaced and replaced by Generation Z – mean that the values and principles guiding the job search are also seeing adjustments. On top of this, the post-pandemic world has seen potential candidates choosing different schedules and philosophies when selecting their desired companies to work with.

Sounds intimidating, doesn't it?

No worries: today’s article is the ideal starting point to inform yourself about this issue and, hopefully, learn how to turn the situation over.

No puns intended.

Do not press any key to continue.

The main reason why, on average, 23 out of every 100 employees quit their gaming industry jobs within twelve months has nothing to do with salaries, contrary to what common sense might indicate. The opposite is true: this sector is among the highest paid in the technology industry, particularly in North America and certain regions of Europe.

This comfort, however, comes with caveats. Vacancies in the video game industry are becoming more competitive by the minute, with a larger pool of candidates and increasingly specific roles and requirements translating into more demanding work for HR departments to pick the ideal employee to fill them.

Even though education and training to be a game developer are more widely available, it is more challenging to stand out as a likely employee precisely because of this expansion. Remote work options also mean that gaming studios can access highly professional talent for more competitive salaries and that the most outstanding profiles opt for freelance work to increase their earnings.

Moreover, as games become more complex and projects become more expeditious and demanding, so does the human capital and effort required to drive them to success. In 2021, the IGDA’s Development Satisfaction Survey found that 47% of the workforce had to resort to overtime or crunch to meet goals and deliver high-quality work across all game development disciplines.

Blend all of these facts with a corporate environment slowly falling into the same patterns — unfortunate executive decisions, lessened creative control over projects, and shorter development times — as other entertainment sectors that are already in crisis, and you might get an idea why people might be thinking of leaving their posts earlier than anticipated.

Luckily, and knowing this, improving retention rates in video game companies should be easier if you know what drives your workforce forward.

Turn the tide in your favour.

The first way to improve retention is one of the hardest, so we will start with it: respect and encourage a healthy life-work balance across all your departments. Passion and hard work drive this business, but both perks stop being nice when it turns a promising studio with creative, great ideas into an overworked mess.

Flexible work arrangements, a well-developed holiday policy, and generally knowing when people need time off will not only keep your workforce happy, refreshed, and inventive, but it will also boost your reputation and attract the best talent out there with ease.

To ensure people are motivated and growing their careers, it is paramount that considerable educational support is available for them. With 39% of gaming employees saying their studios are not offering enough training to improve their careers, one of the priorities for your HR department should be devising learning and development routes for each of your departments.

Throughout these achievements, it is also significant to recognise every employee’s contribution to your company, even the smallest one. Positive communication and assertion of breakthroughs and high performance can lead to a highly loyal crew, particularly when consistently rewarding deserving employees for their hard work can lead to almost four times more engagement and 56% less inclination to look for another job.

Remember when we last wrote about having an internship program? You would be surprised to know that is one of the most organic ways to increase a company’s retention rate. By having a fresh intake of new talent and fostering a healthy environment that nurtures and trains your future employees from the earliest days, you will ensure everyone gets involved — setting the stones for a successful, satisfied workforce.

Finally, ensure that every one of these steps has an inclusive, diverse, and multi-cultural talent base backing them. The more visions and beliefs you can have in a single company, the merrier; different viewpoints can lead to a more satisfying workplace and more solid projects if your managers turn them into productive, powerful reasons to stay on track and contribute to more professional projects and development.

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