Social games developer SciPlay on growth during a pandemic

The social and hyper-casual market has been thriving during lockdowns, and the Austin-based studio is taking advantage.

The world has been grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic for months now, which has pushed people and businesses alike to rethink their day-to-day operations. This includes the game industry, which has been adjusting development schedules and processes that stemmed from a shift to working at home.

While game developers and publishers are dealing with a new approach to how to function, gaming in general has seen a boon. With millions staying at home to flatten the pandemic's curve, people have more time than ever to play games. Global data analytics group Nielsen confirmed this with their recent poll, which showed that 83% of respondents have experienced an uptick in game time since the pandemic arrived.

Numerous game companies have experienced some form of growth during this period, including Austin-based social game developer SciPlay. The social gaming leader has seen a significant increase in its monthly active users, jumping from 7.5 million in Q1 to 8.1 million in Q2. This rise in players and participation has led to something quite rare during the pandemic; a round of new hirings.

In order to keep their employees safe, SciPlay shifted to remote work at the start of the pandemic. This quick change paved the way for 40 new hires at the company, which has helped them keep up with increased traffic from players. As demand continues to grow, SciPlay is now looking to bring in another round of 30 new employees for their Austin offices.

"It has been an absolute joy to watch our SciPlay family grow with the addition of dozens of our city's brightest and finest game developers," said Karen LeBlanc, lead recruiter for SciPlay's Austin office. "We are passionate about creating an inclusive culture that celebrates creativity, new ideas, innovative technology and our individual weirdness. Together, we will continue to create industry-leading games by collaboratively embracing each other's unique backgrounds and talents."

With new hires coming in left and right, SciPlay had to adjust their vetting process on the fly. Instead of traditional in-person interviews, SciPlay moved to multiple rounds of virtual interviews in order to get a feel for who can best fill positions. According to Micayla Federspiel, manager of talent acquisition for SciPlay, the company has even included some game time during these sessions.

“The final candidate assessment—typically an onsite interview—is difficult to do without meeting them. To solve for that, we’ve incorporated additional rounds of video meetings so we can gain a full scope of opinions, while also adding in playing a game virtually with apps like HouseParty, Jackbox Party, and others. Recruiting is a top priority for SciPlay and as much as possible, we can’t let the odd state of the world stop us."

Even with challenges unlike any seen in the past, it's clear that SciPlay is thriving. This comes from the company recognizing how powerful gaming can be, as it allows people to take their mind off things from time to time. Respites like those are extremely important no matter what the situation, but they serve an even greater purpose in the current climate.

“At SciPlay, we are programmed to think untraditionally," said LeBlanc. “From our yearly development conferences, shindigs, and new game launches, we believe in doing what you love and doing it well. We take great pride in our ability to create authentic experiences for players and we are excited to continue investing in our workforce, technology, and our data-driven approach, all with the mission of delighting our players long into the future."

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