Market for dev talent is tight - Take-Two

President Karl Slatoff says the core 10-15 creative leads are more important to making a team work than just the Houser/Levine/Meier types up top

Take-Two has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade. Speaking at the Cowen and Company 46th Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today, CFO Lainie Goldstein said the company behind the Grand Theft Auto, BioShock, and Civilization series has increased its developer ranks from about 1,200 in October of 2007 to 3,300 at the beginning of its current fiscal year in April.

Despite nearly tripling its developer workforce over that span, Goldstein said the company has found the market for talent "pretty tight."

"For us, I think we have such great IP that people really want to work on that it's a big benefit for us," she said. "And it depends on where the people are located. It's not that easy to just add a team. It's really how do you ask the right people to the right teams at the right location? An acquisition of a studio with a lot of resources is also something that can help be additive and grow the resources for the game."

But how about the top talent? Many of Take-Two's studios have celebrated industry figures at the top. Firaxis has Sid Meier, Ghost Story Games (like Irrational before it) has Ken Levine, and Rockstar has Sam and Dan Houser. When asked how tight the market for those sort of developers was, Take-Two president Karl Slatoff suggested they are valuable, but there's more to it than that.

"We are always looking for the new talent, and it's not just the one or two creatives at the top," Slatoff said. "What really makes a team work together is more a function of 10 to 15 people who are your creative leads, and then building a team around them. And even that doesn't guarantee you success, because when a studio really hits its stride, typically they've been working together for a number of years and they've delivered a game already and have a flow going. It also helps to have multiple projects going on at a given studio because as you roll off one project, you go on to another one.

"So we are looking always for the top talent up top, but it's even deeper than that. What really is very attractive to us is finding teams that have worked together in the past. That's very compelling, but that's hard to find though. It's very hard to find. And look, engineering talent across the entire software industry is very difficult to find these days, so that market's extremely tight."

[CLARIFICATION]: A Take-Two representative contacted after the publication of this article to stress that Slatoff was in no way trying to downplay the importance of the top talent at its studios, saying that they would by definition be included in that core group of 10 to 15 creative leads that can serve as a foundation for successful teams.

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Latest comments (1)

Marianne Monaghan Director of Game Product Development, Akili InteractiveA year ago
Absolutely agree with this statement: "What really is very attractive to us is finding teams that have worked together in the past. " This is made more difficult by the industry's short-sighted practice of breaking teams up when a game ships. Those layoffs save money in the short run but lose the much more valuable experienced team.
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