Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

COVID-19 and the impact on remote work in the games industry

By David Darling CBE, CEO of Kwalee

I’ve been working in the games industry for over 30 years, and in that time there has of course been a lot of change across all areas of the industry. When me and my brother started making games, it was on cassettes and cartridges and they were played by more ‘niche’ groups of gamers.

Now at Kwalee, we make games that can be downloaded and played on your phone wherever you are in the world, and are played by millions every day.

The past few months however have seen huge change in the industry and forced us, like many others, to look inwards and think about how we actually create these games, and more importantly, where we create them.

Our Shift to Remote Work

Since we started in 2011, Kwalee has always been a studio-based business, and have grown to over 75 staff in our Leamington Spa studio. Myself and the senior team believed that the best way to create games and work efficiently was to all be together in one space and have that close contact of bouncing ideas off of one another.

It goes without saying that the coronavirus has challenged that, and while our challenge as a business pales in comparison to what this pandemic has meant for many others, we needed to adapt quickly and ensure work could continue as well as it was doing.

In this period, what stood out to us the most was the ease in which we could make this seemingly gigantic shift to a fully remote workforce, and beyond that, how our productivity has been maintained, with us trading the ease of popping over to someone’s desk, for Zoom calls and ‘always on’ comms via Discord for certain teams during the working day.

It is through this learning (that has now lasted over two months so far) that we recently decided to open up permanent remote work as an opportunity on many of our vacancies, and will continue to do so going forward. This shift is one I feel many areas of not only the gaming world, but other industries will follow.

How Remote Work Could Become a New Norm

Our move to opening up certain vacancies to permanent remote workers doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll eventually make the move to becoming a fully remote business. We are looking forward to getting back to our face-to-face idea sessions, but we do feel that becoming a partially remote working company will benefit us, and many other businesses be it in gaming or elsewhere, will follow suit.

The key benefit of this is having no boundaries when it comes to who you can hire. In the past, we’ve wanted to offer a role to a particular candidate, but they’ve not been able to relocate to the UK and therefore not work for us. For these roles, this concern is now removed, and we can offer our roles to a much larger talent pool, which is only going to benefit us in our aim to get the best person for the job.

Beyond this, every office based business has been able to test first hand how remote working looks for their workforce. We now have so much technology at our disposal, that we’re still able to feel close to our colleagues and communicating constantly is entirely possible.

It’s so different to how this would have played out for businesses in the 80s or 90s and I feel many business leaders will be thinking in a similar way as we have done.

Finally, there is also a knock on benefit where space is confirmed. Our HQ is based in Leamington Spa, a place where studio space is at a premium, with so many growing games companies like ourselves. We’re happy where we are in our current studio, and hiring certain staff remotely will mean we can stay here for longer, and not have to start looking into the upheaval of finding new premises, moving everyone into it and dealing with the expenses that come with it.

In short, the COVID-19 pandemic can only be seen in a negative light, with it having caused a huge amount of tragedy around the world, but the knock-on effect of enforced remote work has brought about some positives that I feel will soon be adopted by many in the games industry and beyond.

Going back to exactly as we were before makes no sense, when we’ve learnt this is possible and we can now tap into a wider talent pool, make the most of tech and save costs while doing so.

Kwalee is currently hiring for remote staff across a range of positions. To find out more, visit: