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Feature: 'Free Agency: Opening Up the Game Developer Market'

For today's exclusive main feature, veteran lead designer Michael John (Daxter) gives Gamasutra a preview of his upcoming GDC speech, advocating for free agency in the game biz;
For today's exclusive main feature, veteran lead designer Michael John (Daxter) gives Gamasutra a preview of his upcoming GDC speech, advocating for free agency in the game biz; that is, the destruction of full-time employment, and the beginning of per-project contracting. In this excerpt, John explains that while the idea calls for developers to think outside careers with particular studios, companies themselves stand to benefit from their employees' freedom by adding and removing talent as it is needed: "A very important part of this equation is that it is not zero-sum. Though I am asking developers to wrest control of their careers away from their employers, forward-looking studios stand to realize great advantages as well. Studio management across the industry rightly laments a lack of access to good and especially experienced talent. But as more developers become free agents, studios gain easy access to a far greater range of talent and knowledge than they can hope to get in a traditional recruiter-based employee search. This is a significant advantage for a savvy studio, especially one trying to break out of a rut of similar products. The other advantage to studios, one that should not be overestimated, is the economic efficiency of free agency. Studios who rely on in-house talent in the modern era create gigantic overhead loads, and almost inevitably have extensive redundancies, especially as they move between projects. Free agency allows studios to add talent only when it is required, and to remove that talent from the balance sheet as soon as it is no longer required. While it might sound strange for a developer like myself to endorse this kind of cold-hearted approach, tackling the problem of runaway overhead is vital to the future economic health of studios, and without the studios, there are no developers." You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject, including a checklist for talent hoping to move into free agency (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).

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