Over the past year, the games industry has been faced with new and unique challenges due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, what lessons can we learn from 2020, and what is next?
As part of Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #5, we hosted a panel on what 2020 taught us and what to expect now.
Our industry experts included Ubisoft UA expert Aileen Bergman, Paladin Studios CEO Kay Gruenwoldt, Funday Factory CEO and partner Kristian Bang Nørgaard, Whatwapp co-founder Martina Gianfreda and Wargaming European spokesperson Tom Putzki.
"We grew stronger, especially when we had to experiment with this new way of working," said Gianfreda.
She explained that Whatwapp was forced to rethink many of its processes, but this gave the company the chance to learn, helping it grow. Many companies worldwide were forced to adopt a remote working culture. Some have thrived, while others struggled to adapt.
"If you are flexible enough and spread flexibility among the company" then switching to remote working can be easier.
Culture is a key component is seeing success as a company in challenging times.
"We grew stronger both financially and culturally," said Nørgaard.
The second wave of COVID in the fall posed some other challenges to what it did initially in the spring.
For bigger companies, such as Ubisoft, remote working changes were not quite as much of a shock. However, it still faced cultural changes.
"We don't feel that we're missing anything, but at the same time it has given us the opportunity to quickly solve issues," said Bergman.
Meanwhile, when it comes to hiring, the coronavirus may have forced some companies to adopt a different approach. However, as Bergman explained, Ubisoft didn't see much of a change, and its hiring process still ran smoothly.
"I love to meet people in person. I love to be at events. So for me personally, my job is a little bit tougher right now," said Putzki.
For some, meeting people is a huge part of working within the games industry. The interaction with fellow experts and an audience at events is important to many. Therefore, being forced to go digital has been interesting.
However, it is interesting to consider that the carbon footprint would have been improved due to less travel, with company costs possibly being lower due to fewer expenses.
Times are changing
Due to self-publishing, some companies may not have had their business development and plans impacted to the extent of others. Events, particularly in person, are an opportunity to meet with other companies and form partnerships.
"I really miss it because there are structured meetings. You get to talk to people you might not know and see old acquaintances," said Nørgaard.
There are both personal and professional aspects to being out there physically when it comes to business development.
However, digitally, individuals can still interact and look at business development.
Despite the lockdown, there are still options to connect with partners and other studios. Moreover, some companies don't necessarily go to many conferences, to begin with. Thus the coronavirus hasn't caused such a drastic change.
"For example, I am working closely with Snapchat. We would meet once a week in person. Now it is not the case, but now we meet for a coffee and go for a walk," said Bergman.
Anybody out there
It would appear that the younger members of the games industry are struggling with the social elements of COVID, as they would rather see people in person.
"Younger people need to have that social interaction with others," said Gruenwoldt.
As such, Whatwapp has a plan of possibly mixing its working model. Some may be working at home, while others return to the office when the pandemic restrictions are lifted.
"It is a huge opportunity for all of us," said Gruenwoldt.
COVID has opened up a range of new opportunities within the games industry. Some companies have begun weekly digital events among their teams by talking and catching up, or through different activities.
PGC Digital #5 will run from February 8th to February 12th. To keep up to date with all of our coverage, check out the roundups here. There's still time to sign up - to find out more and book a ticket, head to the website.