The global pandemic that is COVID-19, also referred to as coronavirus, has had a major impact on effectively every industry – and esports isn’t an exception to this. With organisations and companies losing revenue at alarming rates, it’s a tough time to run a business for many.
Employees are being furloughed – or worse, laid off entirely – due to the difficult and unprecedented time. Companies are having to close their doors. People can’t find work.
With those things in mind, Esports Insider spoke to Richard Huggan, Managing Director of Hitmarker, the leading esports job platform, to get some insights into the current landscape of opportunities as part of its ‘Coping with coronavirus’ series.
First, though, we wanted to know about how Hitmarker itself has been affected by COVID-19 and how it’s working around the challenging circumstances the virus has delivered.
“It’s worth discussing the issues around the way the government handled it at the beginning and how much in no man’s land companies found themselves in,” Huggan said. “We saw Ireland locking everything down, bars were closed for Saint Patrick’s Day and everybody was being sent home. At the same time, we had the horse racing on in the office and saw 250,000 people at Cheltenham over the three days.
“Just before the lockdown was announced, Phil [Huggan, Founder of Hitmarker] had been away on the weekend and came back feeling like shit,” he continued. “Emma [Brown, Content Coordinator for Hitmarker] came into work feeling awful too. So, by Monday – the day of the announcement – we knew we had waited too long. We had agreed between ourselves to wait for the government to tell us to go home, but we had prepared for it because it seemed inevitable. Two weeks prior, we made sure everybody had the equipment they needed to work from home.”
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Hitmarker had a challenge ahead, having always conducted business in an office environment instead of having remote workers.
“It was more about getting our processes in place because we’ve always been office-based,” Huggan told Esports Insider. “We hadn’t been very good at tracking things on project management boards, using Asana for example. We got ahead of it by relying on tech, which is always been where our strengths are. We mapped out everybody’s daily workflow and made creative boards.”
Working from an office usually presents a very different environment than working from home, with more distractions typically being found in the latter. This was certainly the case for Hitmarker.
“At the beginning [the decrease in productivity] was definitely a headache,” admitted Huggan. “We knew some people were taking the piss in week one. Everyone had daily work-lists to be getting through and I was noticing that stuff wasn’t getting done. Interestingly, there was no noticeable difference in the work of those who lived by themselves – they’ve done more, if anything. We’re back on top of it now, but the first week it was definitely noticeable.”
It seems like a sensible presumption that the landscape of esports jobs has changed since the pandemic caused country-wide lockdowns. With companies having to lay employees off or shut up shop completely, there are a lot of unemployed people in the industry, and on the other side of things, opportunities are starting to dry up.
“The amount of opportunities available has definitely dropped,” said Huggan. “Of the 5,247 opportunities live on the platform at this particular moment, only 647 of those are classified as esports. There are definitely fewer opportunities available. For all the bullshit on LinkedIn and everywhere else about how great this situation is for esports and gaming, we’ve witnessed a big drop.
“We’ve seen fewer jobs, we’re down from having roughly 6,200 opportunities to roughly 5,200 across both gaming and esports,” he added. “I can’t see it improving in the next month or so either, I imagine we’ll likely drop below 5,000 at some point. It’s still a lot of jobs, but it’s a big drop.”
Hitmarker has functionality for companies to pay to promote their listings, making them prominent and, theoretically, helping to fill a role faster. This source of income for the company has decreased significantly and indicates a change in priorities for businesses.
“We can usually guarantee in a month that there will be 15 companies paying to promote listings on Hitmarker, in March we had just one,” Huggan explained. “Straight away, this gives you a clear indication that either hiring processes are being stopped or companies are shutting up shop budget-wise.
“The fact of the matter is people are losing jobs and companies are closing,” he concluded. “Many companies have put a complete pause on their hiring activities rather than pivoting to start hiring remotely. We’re seeing there’s not much of that going on at all.”
As is second nature to Hitmarker, it’s not only helping companies to advertise opportunities but it’s doing what it can to assist those looking for work. It has stepped up its efforts in this regard, though it’s not going to negate the shift that has happened.
“More people looking for work because a lot of people have unfortunately lost jobs or been put on temporary leave, and you’re relying on companies to have the foresight and budget to be able to give these people opportunities,” said Huggan. “We’re trying to push the candidate signals, we’ve shifted to three ‘candidate spotlights’ a week instead of one because that felt too infrequent in the current climate.
“On the company side, you’ve probably seen me posting on social media trying to find companies that are still hiring and companies that are definitely hiring remotely,” he continued. “We’re trying to help from both sides but there’s only so much we can do in terms of increasing visibility of the available jobs that there are and then the increase in the visibility of the people that need help.”
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With COVID-19 being spread through physical means, and the fact that most businesses can no longer conduct business in brick and mortar locations, some may assume that the percentage of remote work has risen even if the total amount of jobs has fallen, but Huggan informed Esports Insider that that simply isn’t the case.
“I can’t say that there’s been a surge of people hiring remotely,” he said. “At the time of us speaking, there are 139 remote opportunities available. That’s roughly 2.5 percent of the total offering on Hitmarker. That’s about average, if not a little lower than normal.”
Spending most – if not all – of his working hours within the jobs landscape, Huggan has seen the damage done to gaming and esports and had one simple message to those acting as if all is well because esports can continue to host events online.
“When people are acting like everything’s good, they should stop and think for a second about the people that are being affected, not even just by jobs,” he said. “People are losing family members to the virus and people are on LinkedIn speaking about how fantastic it is for gaming and esports. Let’s try and be better.”