The gaming industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors with over three billion people actively playing games. Gaming and interactive entertainment is now big business, shaking the old school reputation of developers crowded into tiny studios. The latest development in the sector comes in the form of Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $70bn.
If it wasn’t evident before the pandemic, few could now deny the colossal growth of the gaming industry – currently expected to exceed £150 bn in revenue worldwide in 2023. Some of the challenges currently being faced by gaming companies has come from their own success. The pandemic proved to be a huge period of growth for many companies, which while working from home, didn’t present problems in terms of real estate and office space. Fast-forward to the present time and now gaming companies are realising how significantly their requirements have changed.
The gaming sector has adapted well to working from home and now that it is time to reoccupy offices again, gaming companies and studios are facing a challenge to get people back to work. This, in part, is due to the sector’s smooth transition to home working and ability to remain productive during the pandemic. While other sectors shared similar experiences, the pandemic proved to be a huge growth period for the industry. Remote working once more proved an advantage to the games industry as it gave them access to a wider pool of talent who were not bound by their location.
Making remote working into a success and experiencing a rapid growth period may not seem to be difficult challenges to overcome but it does raise one big issue for the sector. Remote work has become so successful that studios now need to navigate the huge rise in demand for flexibility from their employees.
Findings from a study conducted by leading European games industry recruitment agency Amiqus shows that flexible working is no longer an optional extra and more of an expectation. 41 per cent said that they would not consider a job in the future if remote working wasn’t an option.
While this is not a challenge faced solely by the gaming industry, studios are now looking for ways to reinvigorate their workplaces to draw people back to the office and bring people back together. Despite the benefits of accessing a wider talent pool and retaining productivity levels, reports have shown the negative impact remote working had had on career progression, innovation and collaboration. While flexible working and hybrid working are expected to help retain some level of flexibility, having a well-designed workplace to work from will help navigate new working trends.
The growth in the sector has seen the battle for talent become even more competitive and the demand for office space has increased to the point that companies are exploring new areas and locations to find property that suits their needs. With so much accelerated change and growth in the sector, these are some of the key design considerations that are starting to reshape gaming workplaces and studios.
For the office to match emerging working patterns and offer more than just a place to conduct tasks, gaming companies are transforming their workplaces into an immersive experience. Made famous by big companies like Google and Apple, the campus model has been a way of bringing people together and making it as easy as possible to benefit from time in that environment.
As demand for prime real estate for gaming studios has increased, the catchment area for these offices has grown larger. This has forced gaming brands to take their property search outside of inner-city talent hotbeds to find properties that meet their space requirements. Areas such as Guildford, Farnham, Wilmslow and Leamington Spa have become more popular among studios and gaming companies but for these locations to appeal to staff post pandemic, these spaces have to prioritise employee experience.
One of the challenges facing gaming companies is creating a workplace that attracts staff back to the office. With working from home such a practical solution for a lot of the roles within the gaming industry, the office must go beyond just bringing people together – it should be a blend of productivity, convenience and functionality. The office experience has to provide staff with an environment they don’t have access to at home. Whether it needs to go as far as building a gym, canteen or laundry facilities will depend on the needs of the employees.
Many of the gaming brands we’ve spoken with adopt a “one team, multiple players” concept for their offices, where social space is as essential as concentrative and collaborative work. When staff are working in the office, the workplace should be designed in a way that encourages offline gatherings and brings disparate teams or individuals together. The office has a role to play as a place to reintegrate people following an extended work from home period and rebuild the company culture.
Gaming companies are now looking at how to best build an environment that enables focused work without allowing silos to develop. Returning to the office is an opportunity to enhance the experience of work and foster the cross-pollination of ideas. While some companies have managed their company culture while working remotely, the office can be used as a tool to ensure employees feel part of the overall vision and connected to the values of the business.
Designing flexible spaces and communal areas optimised for knowledge-sharing are some of the features that are being utilised in offices to help break silos and rebuild culture. Adding in dedicated campfire meeting areas or flexible events and/or presentation spaces can be successful ways to pull down barriers and promote collaboration.
Having worked with Square Enix, the creators of Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider franchises, in 2014 and again in 2020 we have seen how the workplace can provide greater adaptability and flexibility for their workforce. to warrant staff choosing the workplace over remote working, and in doing so, developing the company culture and community. Flowing between the two floors and connected by an internal staircase, the multifunctional area expands and contracts based on the business’s activities – from a multimedia suite for agile working or game testing and a welcome area for guests and town hall space for group meetings.
Enhancing user experience has long been a central facet of gaming, and UX is at the forefront of interior designers’ minds when creating workplaces. Whether formulating concepts, prototyping, programming, or testing, ensuring that teams are best placed for collaborating and creating inspiring work and play is the core focus of office design.
The key to this is understanding the diverse types of users and configuring the space around their wellbeing. Take, for example, the business-critical role of the programmer. As this requires long hours sitting in static postures – the user’s environment must be fully customisable. For these teams, we’ve previously created acoustically engineered cluster spaces where quiet and comfort are paramount; workstations are kitted out with task chairs, flexible monitor arms and height adjustable desking – bringing their work to the user rather than the user having to work around the furniture. Adjustable light controls help reduce glare and are perfect for greater concentration while coding.
Touchdown spaces are equally essential to support staff in escaping the desk with mobile devices, moving to more comfortable seating such as single-seat private sofas with power and data integration for shorter work periods. Considerations such as reducing space densities and creating better layouts for mobility are critical elements for the design, UI in interior design considers ways of reducing the spread of germs – making interfaces as seamless as possible. Touchless technologies for shared work surfaces, enhanced cleaning services and remotely accessible meeting tech are fast becoming the norm.
Gaming companies have an opportunity to reunite staff and assess new ways of working as they bring people back to the office. While this may initially be met with some hesitancy, it is the progressive step that is required to move forward, and companies need to be prepared for change. The office environment is a testing site that’s in a constant state of development and companies will continue to improve their offices to ensure their people have an office that helps them reconnect with their colleagues and enables them to be productive.
Download our Gaming Lookbook to look inside the offices of leading gaming companies we’ve worked with.download now