technology For Members

Is Sweden's gaming industry running out of workers?

Nele Schröder
Nele Schröder - [email protected]
Is Sweden's gaming industry running out of workers?
Some worry that Sweden's gaming industry is struggling to attract talent; others argue that there is no crisis on the horizon. Photo: Marton Monus/MTI/TT

The Swedish gaming industry is growing fast. This might sound positive, but the industry is now warning that it's running out of people to hire. Why is that, and what does it mean for the sector?


This article is available to Members of The Local. Read more articles for Members here.

In 2017, the number of gaming companies and employees in Sweden increased by almost a quarter in total compared to the previous year, according to a review from industry organization Dataspelsbranschen.

In the same year, 1,000 new jobs were created, and a further increase is predicted. But such speedy growth means that without the right talent to fill those gaps, the industry risks stagnation.

"The companies are expanding and in need of more people, but there aren't enough with the right education and the specifically needed knowledge in the gaming industry," Johanna Nylander from Dataspelsbranschen tells The Local.

Åsa Wilson, Chief People Officer at game developer Avalanche Studios, confirms this: "The industry is growing aggressively – and faster than we can have people properly trained into game developers."

One step that companies often take is to recruit employees from abroad. Foreign talent is needed – and used. Around 35 percent of the employees at Avalanche Studios are people who relocated to Sweden.

"We are an international industry, and always have been," says Wilson, who does not think that the situation has reached a critical point. She adds that while there is a lot of talent inside Sweden, the business needs to widen its pool in order to find the specific skills or level of training it needs.

"The fact that we have been forced to hire international talent has improved our growth. We have become more diverse and can offer more creative and innovative products due to the experience of our employees."

Additionally, the games are released on a global market and the working language is English.

Obstacles: complicated visas and housing

Swedish companies have a good reputation in the gaming industry – but it can be tough getting people to move here, both on the personal level in terms of persuading people to relocate from their home and on the practical level of sorting out the paperwork.

"People from outside the EU need complicated visas," explains Wilson. "And the housing situation in Stockholm is bad; it's become almost as expensive as London to live here. That's what makes it hard to motivate people to come here."

Many of the experts the gaming industry relies on come from outside the EU, including countries such as India and the USA with a large number of highly educated tech workers. But however much these employees are wanted, employing them requires bureaucracy and, specifically, a work permit.

Getting a work permit in Sweden costs the employer time and money, and even once the employee has received it and moved to work in Sweden, keeping the permit is a further hurdle.

Non-EU workers need to renew their permit every few years, and even a small mistake made by their employers can lead to professionals being deported back into their countries of origin. There have been efforts to make the process slightly easier and ensure that a single error won't derail an application, but the cases have persisted, and several tech CEOs have previously told The Local that they worry Sweden is gaining a reputation as a difficult place to move for work.

READ ALSO: What to do if your work permit renewal is rejected

Dataspelbranschen's Nylander is concerned about these developments. "The problem of hiring foreign talents is very critical for us, because we need people so much more than many other industries," she explains.

The same bureaucracy can act as an obstacle during the work itself. In the gaming industry, international trade fairs play a big role, so when employees can't attend fairs overseas due to permit issues (workers can't leave the country while permit renewal applications are in process), that's a problem.

One result is that Sweden's gaming industry is losing employees to other sectors. The skills needed for game design play an important role in many companies, for example if they want to integrate interactive features into their online presence. Technology firms, like Klarna or Spotify, have also started investing in employees with these skills.

What will happen next?

The gaming industry has to learn to deal with the sector's growth and to invest in the acquisitions of new gaming studios and new investments, but also in staff, production and development.

One possibility is to hire generalists and train them to become specialists, Wilson suggests.

"I don't think there will be a crisis," she says. "It's a focus question. We need to work together with other gaming businesses to increase the Swedish market, to support each other in the best way we can."

"There will always be movement in the international industry, but we won't run out of people to hire. If we can offer something unique, we will always be able to attract new talent from around the world."

Nylander, on the other hand, worries about the future: "It will be even harder to find enough employees next year. We have already tried to find as many as possible this year, but they weren't enough. We need new game developers."

Do you want to work in Sweden? Check out The Local's job site.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also