A key expectation in 2017 is the move to 4k gaming
TV is leading the tech and standards of resolution available have demanded that new gaming hardware keeps up. Once again we are set for another consumer choice of Sony v Microsoft, this time between Playstation Pro and X-Box Scorpio. The step-change in visual capability is one area which is, according to The Guardian’s Keith Stuart, “basically what PS4 Pro is all about – improved graphics fidelity”. So what does this means for jobs?
The lag between new tech coming out of the corporate powerhouses and adoption by independent developers is shrinking. In 2017 we can expect the consumerdemand for 4k games to increase across the board, so the first challenge for studios will be delivering the required standard or graphics. Jobs which focus on graphical optimisation and rendering techniques - which are already a high-demand area - are likely to increase. Graphics programmers who keep their tools skills up to date will experience the highest demand, which is likely to outstrip supply.
The continuous demand for programmers does not show any signs of slowing down. C++ remains at the heart of console development (not least for Unreal Engine) and is a great language choice for computer graduates to learn. Developers pushing boundaries of cross-platform experiences will also continue to provide jobs in C# and Unity so again, graduates and experienced coders should see a range of opportunities in 2017. Mobile studios are expected to maintain the demand for native iOS and Android coding skills.
As well as games for entertainment, serious and educational games are tapping in to the power of core languages providing a wide choice of jobs for coders. Through R&D, familiar games tech is expanding in to new areas of simulation as diverse as drones, surgical technology, product retail, A.I. development and big data algorithms.
Tech Radar claims that “the two new pieces of hardware fundamentally change how consoles work. It's a brave new world when it comes to gaming”. One such change is a further step toward the games as a service model (GaaS). Games using web-based infrastructure can be continuously updated based on an understanding of how the player behaves, elongating the game’s lifespan. This meaningful human-computer interaction is informed by analytics and harnessed through monetisation. Whether or not F2P will fully flourish on consoles is another question, but the acquisition, retention and monetisation funnel applies across the board. While GaaS is not new, the increasing complexity and power of big data means that the importance of analytics for developers continues to grow. Jobs which address this need for interactive media intelligence, plus those with emphasis on balancing game design with monetisation will also provide career opportunities in 2017.
VR is now commercially live and kicking and we are already seeing very different flavours of experience ranging from apocalyptic dystopia to cartoon goats. While the core VR code-base is built on familiar and in-demand programming in C++, C# and Unity, VR brings newer challenges when it comes to art and design. The sheer complexity of interacting with a ‘3D’ virtual world requires enormous detail on the behaviour of surfaces and lighting. To address this, the demand for art assets and environments created using Physics Based Rendering (PBR) has been growing this year and is set to continue. This combination of visual and mathematical considerations will mean a higher demand in technical art positions.
VR isn’t only changing the core-gamer experience but is also evolving quickly on mobile. Even where games don’t require photo-realism, design aspects still have to address frame-rate, depth, in-game navigation, object interaction and more. We have seen a significant push for level designers in particular. Overlay this with the monetisation and balancing aspects and games design, jobs in 2017 are set to have a rich and increasingly complex remit.
As well as the ‘indie-apocalypse’ of small businesses developing games in recent years, the increase in eSports businesses are a solid indication of growth. “SuperData Research has estimated the market to reach $1.9B by end of 2018, which would mean approximately one billion by the end of 2017” writes Aki Järvinen, Gaming Trend Analyst & Futurist. Here we anticipate jobs beyond the game, addressing community aspects in social media, PR, marketing and events. Community management in eSports is not only about keeping playing customers happy, but nurturing full-on engagement and events management on a massive scale. The events themselves provide sponsorship opportunities with vast exposure, so the need for sales, marketing and branding as well as event production will rise.
In many respects, politically 2016 has been a year of big decisions and 2017 should shed more light on the impact we can expect on the economy and the games industry. James Chaplin, CEO of Vacancysoft told us “where there is economic uncertainty, there is a greater demand for contractors”. Flexible and remote working models also look set to continue, providing flexibility for employers and job-seekers alike. As we approach the New Year, there is no evidence of a slow-down in games recruitment. On the contrary, the demand for skills in the sector is higher than ever. Fueled by new tech, increasing consumer demand and flexible business models, the games industry looks set to hit the 2017 jobs market with huge momentum and unrelenting ambition.
This article first appeared in Develop Magazine