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Project Manager / Producer - Computer Games

The Project Manager is responsible for ensuring the successful delivery of a game, on time and within budget.

They control the financial and other resources needed for a project and co-ordinate the work of the production team, making sure that the quality and vision of the game is maintained, whatever problems may arise.

The Project Manager has to know the value of everybody’s contribution to a game and keep an overview of the entire process from start to finish.

This is an increasingly important role as production schedules lengthen and development costs increase. Game development is a highly complex process often lasting up to 2 years and requiring teams of programmers, designers, artists, writers, musicians, and even actors.

A typical development team might start off small but by the end of the project could involve 30 people or more, and game projects increasingly require investment in excess of £2 million. Managing this is a big job which carries considerable financial responsibility.

Project Managers are employed by development studios and within publisher’s in-house development teams. The work can involve long hours and might be stressful, particularly as launch dates approach.

What is the job?

Project Managers ensure that a game project is completed on time, within budget, and using the right resources. Prior to production they carry out a detailed analysis of the game design specification and work out the project ‘milestones’ (specific targets that have to be met by certain dates), agreeing these with the key technical and creative managers, such as the Game Designer, Lead Artist and Lead Programmer.

They then work out a schedule for the project and decide the teams and equipment needed. They control the financial resources and negotiate all contracts with suppliers and contractors.

Once development is underway the Project Manager monitors progress against the schedule. They are the central point of contact for all aspects of a production, liaising with senior management, publishers, PR and marketing departments, QA, as well as the programming, design and art teams, which can include any outsourced personnel.

They oversee all aspects of the game’s development and delivery, and often localisation requirements (different versions for different territories). Project Managers need to be able to prioritise when production deadlines are a concern, manage risks, and plan for contingencies.

The Project Manager might also have to oversee on-going maintenance issues even after the game is launched, involving updates, add-ons and customer support.

Typical career routes

This is not an entry level role. Project Managers often move into the role from a team leading or management role within the industry or from outside.

Some are successful programmers, designers, or Quality Assurance Technicians who have demonstrated management skills, including leadership qualities, interpersonal skills, and the ability to control budgets and schedules.

Essential knowledge and skills

Game development can be a lengthy process with a multitude of technical, financial and personnel challenges to be faced along the way.

Project Managers must be able to inspire and motivate the teams working on the game, provide strong leadership when difficulties arise, and maintain enthusiasm for the project.

They have to be able to deal with many and various things at the same time, and create good working relationships with everyone involved.

Key skills include:

  • ability to manage people, time and resources;
  • excellent communication and presentation skills;
  • strong leadership and interpersonal skills;
  • good organisational and problem solving abilities;
  • good negotiation, conflict resolution and decision making skills;
  • good client handling ability;
  • good knowledge of games and the games industry;
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.
Training and qualifications

There are no specific qualifications required for this role – experience is the key. Project Managers need to be able to demonstrate a track record gained across the whole life cycle of a project. Management experience acquired in other sectors is also valuable, but it should be backed up by an enthusiasm for and detailed knowledge of the games industry.

The ability to use project management software, such as Microsoft Project, is desirable. A lot of training is carried out on the job in the games industry, but there are some short courses available, particularly in areas where there is an active games business community, eg Scotland, the Midlands and the North West. Creative Skillset’s regional training partners can advise about local opportunities.

Where to go for more information

Creative Skillset Careers is the UK’s only specialist media careers advice service; visit Creative Skillset's careers services

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