Joining an Established Company vs. an Underfunded Project

By: Steven Granieri

The core hardware and software markets in the Game Industry have matured far enough to require a large capital investment and a great deal of team experience to ensure success. Companies like Infinity Ward, Blizzard Entertainment, Rockstar, Epic Games, amongst many more, have solidified their position in this core market, and within a capitalist society, the Video Games Industry slowly teeters the cusp of monopolization.

A job within this market can come along with a lot of positives:

  • You’re likely to be working for a company that is already established and financially secure.
  • You’re likely to work with many experienced individuals in which you can learn from.
  • The experience will look good on your resume and help you with future employment.
  • You get to be a part, however small, of a big project that can potentially make a lot of money.

Now, although the aforementioned sounds lovely, there are a few cons to breaking into this market:

  • These jobs are HIGHLY competitive and difficult to obtain without a few notches under your belt already.
  • You are unlikely, in most cases, to be working on projects that prioritize innovation.

I say this because, on average, most established developers make marginal profits; however, they also have expenses that deter them from taking risks. If you have a team of 75 developers working on a game, you can’t run the risk of delving into avant-garde, post-modern gaming innovations that could potentially tank your company.

A good example to take is Infinity Ward. Clearly the Call of Duty franchise is unbelievably successful and has rewrote the standard for production values in a first person shooter; however, you’ll notice how playing things safe is indicative of their success. They build on top of game mechanics that work, and drop the ones that don’t, while preserving the core formula that makes Call of Duty distinguishable.

This isn’t to say that no big name developers prioritize innovation. An obvious example would be Nintendo, who clearly thrives off of new technologies and innovation to push hardware. Nintendo has an entire generation of success to cushion the event of a failure, so it makes being creative not only possible, but a direction the company foresees to be conducive to success.

Still, underfunded companies are often the ones to take risks and try new things because they understand that rivaling a big name company and trying to deliver a polished product that’s better than what’s currently available is unrealistic. The funds and team experience just simply won’t be there in most cases. Young companies have looked for new areas of expansion such as mobile and online gaming. These outlets combined with innovative ideas have led to growth of prosperity for many new developers who understand that taking calculated risks is necessary.

So, say that your resume is as detailed as a decorative paper towel and you’re not making Blizzard melt when you apply for a job. Joining an underfunded project may be your only option; however, you have to start somewhere, and this project has the potential to help you start climbing the ladder.

I feel the best thing to keep in mind when looking for a job is make sure you believe in the work you are doing. Have confidence that you are producing something of merit, something that you would want to play yourself. Be innovative, be creative, but be realistic in the longevity of these ideas, and how they would be actualized and a sustainable source of profit.


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