Sony: Euro labour market is in rude health

Large scale layoffs have left pools of "raw talent" picking up work previously handed to outsourcing markets, says XDev director

The European labour market is in rude health, with skilled games creators signing up for temporary contracts previously handed to overseas outsourcing companies.

That's according to Sony XDev's John Rostron, the division of Worldwide Studios that works with multiple external development teams across Europe, who noted that following the closure of large development houses the skills of specialist workers are in high demand.

"The labour market is massive because there's that many companies that have gone under there's absolutely no problem attracting people," said John Rostron, senior director of Sony XDev, in an exclusive interview published today.

"Developers are able to contract a lot of people that were laid off. So instead of going through a company to outsource, there's 20 engineers you can bring in and they can earn very good money directly from their raw talent on a project."

We know it's tough out there but it always is. If no one's funding your project then it doesn't matter if the economy is doing well or not

John Rostron, Sony XDev

The XDev group, active in 11 countries across Europe, finds the flexibility of contracted staff a more viable proposition than taking on in-house staff, said Rostron.

"I have nothing but admiration for anybody that sets up on their own, it takes huge balls to do that sort of stuff. We're just far more open to that way of working.

"At one point a lot of the outsourcing work was going over to China and to Asia, but because there's this workforce a lot closer to home, who speak English as a native tongue, it's very easy to get some of those guys into a studio and working on a project for a year and a half and really grow their portfolio. We've definitely got the talent here," he added.

"We don't necessarily get those huge teams anymore but you can have a nucleus of 20-30 people and augment that with another 20 or 30 people at a time and they move around from project to project."

Its clear the market has changed for independent developers, said Rostron, and with less of a publisher presence in Europe studios have moved away from traditional home console development.

"We know it's tough out there but it always is. If no one's funding your project then it doesn't matter if the economy is doing well or not," he said.

"There's definitely a lot less presence in the UK from other publishers, so it's harder if people are looking to be published on a console. They have to fly out to the US to meet with the big boys. That makes it very tough for them. But then you do have the mobile space which is another opportunity."

The full interview, in which he also discusses how Sony is learning from the freemium business and working on unfinished Vita development kits, can be read here.

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Latest comments (2)

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 10 years ago
In Leamington there are 11 game companies, plus Codemasters out in the countryside and Full Fat who moved to Coventry. Most of these are recruiting!
At Kwalee we have had no problem attracting fairly large numbers of quality applicants for every post, but mostly they are coming from outside Leamington.
The good thing about a cluster is that it gives employees mobility of labour so they feel far more confident living here.
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Tyler Moore Game Designer & Unity Developer 10 years ago
Something doesn't seem right about this. Two issues I have with a contractor-heavy model:

Contractors tend to not be nearly as invested in a project as core staff. This can cause contractors to only deliver what's on their contract (especially if they are busy) whereas a core team member would engage in a feedback cycle with the rest of the staff to make they are producing value, not deliverables.

In Canada, there's a well-defined line between Contractor and Employees, with a great deal of overhead required to have employees. When contracting becomes the norm, companies will often try to treat contractors like employees ("You have to be in the office X days a week", taking direct guidance etc.) while compensating them like contractors (no benefits, no severance, fewer employment rights, etc.). Younger contractors often will not stand up for their contractor rights in fear of losing the contract. This in turn causes a lot of employee rights to erode as the labour model shifts to contracting.
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