We spoke to the driving force behind the largest esports and gaming jobs platform about entering an era of a new kind of sports idol, the potential for an esports Olympic Games and the next generation of talent.
With the volume of jobs in esports on the rise, it’s evident that the industry (arguably one that is still in it’s infancy) is turning out to be a pandemic-proof, maturing sector that is attracting the attention of top talent and professionals from traditional sports backgrounds and beyond.
When Hitmarker entered the market in 2017, they identified the need for a well-executed platform that housed the latest jobs in esports and accurately represented the gaming audience.
“The community response to Hitmarker has been almost exclusively positive, because esports folks had never really had a centralised location for esports and gaming jobs before,”
Explains Rich Huggan, Managing Director of Hitmarker. Hitmarker is the home of gaming and esports jobs and now the world’s largest gaming jobs platform. It provides candidates with a feed of constantly updated listings and companies access to an unrivaled pool of talented people who love the industry.
“With a lot of start-ups entering the space, they need an easy and cost-effective solution to find the right talent for their business. For a lot of these companies the most important thing is finding people who are passionate about the gaming industry first,”
Continues Rich. “The demand for technical roles in the sector, particularly in the last 18 months, is still exploding. The majority of start-up companies in our industry are built on a tech premise where they need a web platform, an app, payment solutions, and all that good stuff – so there’s a huge need for software engineers and coders.”
“The majority of gamers in the world are somewhat tech proficient because they’ll have been playing on PC, consoles, tablets, or mobile, and utilising all kinds of different tech from a young age. This feels like a perfect harmony and whilst we’re not seeing the supply there for the volume of tech roles, that’s likely to be a part of the esports pipeline that will fill out later down the line. There’s a ton of opportunity in the space for developers.”
As COVID-19 continues to have a devastating impact on industries globally, it’s fair to say esports has been one of the sectors relatively sheltered from it. “When the UK entered lockdown in March, it took a little while for esports to be impacted by the events of the pandemic, especially with the daily reports of businesses around the world ceasing to exist almost overnight.”
“We saw a huge amount of activity in February and early March for hiring in esports and gaming, which was surprising given that the virus was really starting to take hold in some places by then, but by late March companies were putting recruitment freezes in place and events were being cancelled left, right, and centre. Naturally, this had us worrying about a longer lasting effect for our industry, but it seems more likely that companies were getting their houses in order and adjusting quickly to the circumstances.” explains Rich.
“In contrast, May was our best-ever month for user-generated revenue and this showed companies were coming back ready to hire again and were prepared to pay more to give their jobs greater visibility. It hasn’t slowed down since, either, with August on track to be significantly better than May was.”
But for an industry with a calendar packed full of global events, competitions and games, how have these been impacted?
“In-person events have quickly had to pivot to utilise technology to run these events virtually – it presents a different challenge in the requirements of bringing an event together that will run seamlessly online. But with these changes we’re seeing an increased need for good quality Business Development, Marketing and Sales Professionals to support this,” adds Rich. “For a lot of these roles you might be required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and at five years of experience in a relevant sector, which in esports can be hard to come by given how new the industry is. However, what we’re seeing more and more is that companies are willing to put that industry specific experience aside if someone has knowledge in a relatable industry – particularly traditional sports or the tech start-up space.”
And Rich speaks from experience, having made the transition into esports just over three years ago from his role as a Director and Head of Sports at Stratagem Technologies. After his brother, Phil Huggan, founded Hitmarker and the platform was gaining a lot of traction in the first couple of months of its existence, there was a need for someone to come in and manage the business. “Our skill sets really complement each other; he’s very creative and big picture and I’m here to facilitate his ideas and manage the team to get it off the ground. I try and handle all of the ‘dirty work’ so he doesn’t have to. We haven’t killed each other yet and it’s been almost three years now, so we’re doing okay.”
“I was really thrust into the industry and quickly had to learn how to speak to its audience, identify who the major players were, keep up-to-date on the games we needed to be aware of and understand the lingo, but having been a gamer all my life it came quite naturally.”
So, are we seeing the convergence of traditional sports and esports? And if so, what other developments can we expect to see moving forward?
“We’re already seeing a lot of sports brands becoming active in the space - as a simple example there are already a lot of NBA teams that are involved in esports and gaming. We’re seeing it now with more and more here now too, with the majority football clubs having a FIFA player at the least and the links between F1 and competitive gaming growing ever stronger too.”
“There’s a big trend towards business development and partnership roles and sports professionals making the jump into esports, which has only been accelerated by how much the sports industry has been impacted all the way from the top right down to the grass roots level by COVID-19.”
“That was a catalyst for a lot of people in that sector. If you take football as an example, it’s a sport that has been running at an organised level for well over a century successfully and has continued to grow and then they’ve hit the pause button on it. I think this changed people’s perspective towards esports and sparked a curiosity as they saw this entire industry continuing to thrive while theirs was on hold.”
“There is a real shift away from kids pretending to be famous footballers in the playground and instead aspiring to be like the gamers and YouTube personalities they’re watching morning, noon, and night,”
“And with tech such a huge part of everyday life from a young age, there’s definitely scope for a huge gaming event in future which incorporates all of the different games in esports, especially considering how different all those games are. It might never come to be because of the fragmented nature of the industry, but our own version of the Olympics where all esports were represented by the best players on the planet would be something to behold.”
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