Business of Games Summit highlights growth opportunities accelerated by the pandemic

While some business sectors have suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, gaming and esports have grown—and are now a bigger industry than movies and North American sports combined, according to Chris Volpe, a leading voice in Midwest gaming and esports.

Volpe, president of Multivarious, founder and executive director of GDEX, and president and founder of Ohio Game Developer Association, provided a State of the Industry overview at Ohio University’s Third Annual Business of Games Summit. Prominent entrepreneurs, software and hardware developers, publishers, investors, marketers and players came together to inform students, educators and the community about the various aspects of the gaming and esports industry.

The gaming audience grew 11.7% year-over-year in 2020 and is estimated to increase 10.4% year-over-year by 2023, Volpe noted. Unlike traditional sports, such as football and basketball, esports was able to continue its growth despite COVID-19 restrictions because games can be played remotely. That makes esports a recession-and pandemic-proof industry, Volpe said.

“While developers and programmers are always in high demand, we’re recently starting to see more opening positions for public relations, marketing and community managers,” Volpe said. “The industry is growing so quickly that no matter what you want to do, if you’re working hard and have the skill set and experience, you can find something that’s important to you.”

Gary Gardiner, former creative producer at Universal Creative and current creative director at Dream Flight Adventures, outlined one of those non-traditional gaming and esports job. Gardiner and his team brought Super Nintendo games Mario Kart, Super Mario and Yoshi’s Island alive in the setting of a theme park in Japan.

He explained theme parks are looking to video games as the next big opportunity because franchises tend to develop a deep bond with its fan base that spans over generations, which leads to big profits, Gardiner said. “At Super Nintendo World, it is easy for the guests to see themselves as heroes, which is not possible in movies,” Gardiner said. “Guests enjoy recreating the experiences of playing a video game at a theme park.”

In his presentation, Gardiner also urged attendees to not wait for anybody’s permission to pursue dreams.   

Matthew Shiflet, social media manager for the Boston Uprising and an OHIO alum, gave similar advice to students looking for their first jobs at the “Proving Your Parents Wrong: Jobs in Games and Esports” panel. “Even in the lockdown, there are opportunities to continue building your resume. You can start a podcast, coach a team, stream yourself playing or analyzing a game and do more,” Shiflet said.

Shiflet said students shouldn’t limit themselves to learning about creating viral content. “Make sure your resume is tight and cover letter is clean because you don’t want to be the stereotypical gamer who can just play games and not provide context to readers,” Shiflet said.

Finding that first job can be hectic, acknowledged another OHIO graduate Kelly McCallan, a digital sales assistant at Bethesda Softworks. Do not get discouraged, she said; something will work out soon.

“There were many times where I was just sitting in my Athens apartment, wondering if things were going to work out. Luckily, they did, but you don’t know that in the moment,” she said.

Still, McCallan said, don’t jump on the first job that comes your way.

“It was a lot of throwing my resume at whatever would stick, but I had to take a step back and realize that it’s not just about that. You also want to enjoy the job and the company you’re going to be in.”

To gain parental support, panelists said, students can educate their parents about professional skills learned from gaming, such as team building and problem-solving.

Above all, students must put in the work every day if they want to be successful in the industry, said alumnus Matt Benson, founder and CEO of eFuse. In his keynote lecture. Benson said his experience at OHIO helped him launch his company, a social network that connects gamers to one another and to opportunities. Since starting eFuse while at Ohio University, Benson has successfully raised a seed round of investment, solidified partnerships with the biggest gaming creators & brands, as well as scaled the business to hundreds of thousands of users

“What I’ve realized is that you don’t have overnight success,” Benson said. “You have to focus on, ‘What I am going to do today to take our business to the next level?’ It’s that compounding effect of focusing on the work and stacking the wins that ultimately sets you apart.”

The free virtual event was hosted by Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies at the Scripps College of Communication. The Center for Entrepreneurship is a partnership between the College of Business and Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

March 10, 2021
Hardika Singh