Computer games have come a long way since the days of Pong, when bouncing a pixelated dot back and forth across the screen of a tube TV was considered state of the art.
From those humble beginnings, the industry has developed into an entertainment behemoth, racking up estimated revenues of $36 billion in the U.S. in 2017, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Compare that to 2017 U.S. box office earnings, which came in at a little over $11 billion, and that number is even more impressive.
Gaming is big business—and it’s also a big employer, with openings for game designers, producers, programmers, artists, not to mention business, sales and marketing roles. But while the growth of gaming should be welcome news for aficionados with the right skill sets, it’s not always easy to navigate the industry’s ups and downs.
Our data science team crunched the numbers to find out the state of opportunity in this exciting industry. Here’s what they found.
VR and augmented reality represent strong areas of opportunity
Although VR failed to live up to its promise during its 90s heyday, it seems to be doing better in the 21st century. In fact, when we look at jobs in virtual and augmented reality we see impressive results. The number of gaming job postings for roles requiring these skill sets has risen an impressive 93% since 2015, with 17% of the growth taking place in the past year. VR Troopers reboot, anyone?
As for where the jobs are—although the gaming industry is dispersed across the United States, the cities below have the highest concentration of augmented and virtual reality jobs.
The top three cities are all home to major gaming companies, with New York City housing Rockstar Games, while Los Angeles is close to the Santa Monica headquarters of Activision Blizzard and Naughty Dog Inc and Seattle serves as home to Popcap Games, among others.
As eSports booms, game tester jobs decline
There’s also plenty of buzz around eSports. While the idea that gamers might make a career of playing video games front of spectators in Las Vegas might once have seemed like a premise for an 80s science fiction blockbuster, today it is a reality. More than that, it is a reality which is creating jobs: postings related to eSports are up 18% since last year and 57% since 2015.
But while VR & eSports might be hot trends, we do see some declines in some of the more general categories. Yes, it’s still possible to be paid to play games before other people get a chance, but game tester and QA roles are down 36% since last year and 43% since 2015.
Game designers, developers and engineers aren’t faring much better, with postings for designers down 30% since 2015 and postings for developers and engineers dropping by 36% in that time period. Even so, game developer and engineer roles still make up a large portion of gaming job postings—but where are they concentrated?
New York City may be strong on VR & augmented reality, but it’s less of a hub when it comes to gaming jobs overall. Here, LA leads, followed by Seattle while San Francisco and Austin take the number three and number four spots.
What job seekers want
But which positions are the most sought after by job seekers?
The most dramatic growth in job searches is in the area of eSports. Searches for eSports jobs are up 117% since last year and up 336% since 2015. And while VR/AR job searches saw a slight drop since last year—just 1%—that amount seems particularly small given that searches have still gone up by a whopping 81% since 2015.
In other words, employers and job seekers are generally aligned on what’s hot. However, there is one notable group of positions that is experiencing growth in job searches and a decline in job postings, potentially indicating a high level of competition for these roles. Game developers and engineers have had a steady rise in job searches totaling 40% since 2015, even as job postings have fallen by 9% in that same time period.
Meanwhile, some roles have seen a drop in job seeker interest. The number of searches for game designers has fallen 8% since 2015 and searches for game testers and QA jobs are down by 15% in the same time period.
There’s no doubt that behind the glamor and excitement, gaming is a serious business subject to ups and downs like any other major industry. New technologies bring disruption and new roles; some jobs rise as others decline.
Where will the gaming industry go next? Will AR/VR continue to rise as other roles fall? We’ll be watching.