Video games boom creating job opportunities for business school students
The UK gaming industry’s growth to £3.86 billion in 2019, worth more than video and music combined, is the tip of the iceberg for a sector on the rise, according to Nick Button-Brown, former chair of BAFTA’s games committee.
Button-Brown, who has an MBA from London Business School (LBS), believes gaming in the UK and globally is on an upward trajectory as new generations of people engage with the popular pastime.
“In the next 40 years, gaming will have the demographic reach of film,” the games executive said. “Movies have been going long enough that someone aged 80 will have been exposed to films since growing up.
“For my age group, gaming isn’t a mainstream pastime. But it will be for future generations as all kids today play games, whether it be Candy Crush or Fortnite. China will be the biggest gaming market in the world as that’s where all the money is at the moment.”
The UK is the world’s fifth largest video games market, behind China, the US, Japan and Germany.
The global industry’s growth – driven by esports and game apps for mobile phones and tablets – is, according to Button-Brown, creating more job opportunities for business school students who have traditionally found it difficult to enter gaming.
“When I got my MBA (in 2004), I didn’t tell anyone,” he said. “Within the games industry, MBAs didn’t carry a lot of weight, but we’re now reaching a stage where they do.
“What gets people’s backs up is someone with an MBA coming in to the industry and telling them that they’re doing it wrong. Anyone who does that will fail, because working in gaming is not as easy as it looks.”
David Jackson, MBA student at LBS, founder of the School’s esports team and head of its gaming community, agrees that games companies are opening up to business school graduates as the industry continues to develop.
“I think there are more job opportunities, because the business models for esports and video games are evolving,” he said. “In the past, these markets were driven by gaming developers, but it’s likely we’ll see an increase of people with MBAs coming in to the business development or product management side of the industry.
“The challenge for MBAs is that people in gaming companies want employees with a real passionate for the sector. If graduates can demonstrate that, communities like ours at LBS can hopefully be a vehicle for them to get into gaming.”
The LBS gaming community was set up in 2018 for students to talk about the latest video games and industry developments, socialise, play in esports tournaments and hear from sector leaders such as Button-Brown, who recently spoke at the School.
Through the community, Jackson is establishing links with video games companies in the hope that they consider LBS graduates when recruiting. Some students have done internships at King, the makers of mobile games such as Candy Crush, Farm Heroes Saga and Bubble Witch Saga.
If not joining a gaming company, business school graduates hoping to enter the industry can set up their own venture. Tara Reddy, an MBA graduate from LBS, was recently named one of the 100 most influential women in tech for her work at LoveShark, an augmented reality app maker. The company that Reddy co-founded in 2018 has received investment from Button-Brown.
“I’ve backed Tara because she’s a smart, creative person,” Button-Brown said. “She works with a coder and a designer, and they make a really powerful team. There are plenty of opportunities for MBAs within the big gaming companies, or for graduates with great ideas who work with people that create the games.”
On the gaming industry’s future, Button-Brown believes the traditional pillars of video games, TV and film will be replaced with mixed reality, where the real and virtual worlds merge. He also expects to see a fully immersive virtual world, like the one in Hollywood movie Ready Player One, and film-cum-video games where viewers/players make decisions that affect the narrative.
“Younger generations don’t see any barriers between films and games, they just see them as ways to tell stories,” he said.