Survey of More Than 3,000 Game Developers Also Shares Frustrations with Twitter/X, an Increased Focus On Accessibility Features and Highlights More Major Game Industry Trends and Changes Ahead of The Largest Gathering of Game Makers Each Year At GDC 2024
SAN FRANCISCO – January 18, 2024 – The Game Developers Conference (GDC) has released the results of the 12th annual State of the Game Industry Survey, which reflects key trends and changes within the games industry based on responses from more than 3,000 game developers who took part in the survey. The State of the Game Industry Survey sheds light on industry-wide sentiment and insights in the lead-up to GDC 2024, which takes place at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center from March 18 – 22.
This year, GDC and GameDeveloper.com have partnered with one of the leading global research firms, Omdia, to dissect and analyze the survey data, providing more detailed insight than ever before. The analysis of the State of the Games Industry Survey results revealed that developers are concerned about the increasing number of layoffs, the ethical uses of artificial intelligence and changing game engine policies and pricing. Game makers have also noted that they’re incorporating more accessibility features in games, have seen an increase in return to office policies and widely use Twitter/X for word-of-mouth marketing, though many have grown frustrated with the platform and owner Elon Musk’s policies.
One-third of developers have been impacted by layoffs, and half are concerned there could be more
One-third of developers (35%) said they’ve bee impacted by layoffs—either by having some layoffs take place within their team or company or by being laid off themselves. Quality assurance developers appear to have been hit the hardest, with 22% of them saying they were laid off this year (compared to 7% of all developers). Business and finance professionals reported the least layoffs (2%).
Over half of respondents (56%) expressed some level of concern that their company could see layoffs in the next 12 months, while one-third said they weren’t at all concerned. When asked to share their thoughts on the rise of layoffs in the game industry, many developers cited post-pandemic course correction, studio conglomeration, and economic uncertainty as possible explanations, and some expressed a desire for unionization to better protect workers.
As a clarifying note, the tSate of the Games Industry Survey was conducted in October 2023 and as such, these survey results pre-date the latest wave of industry-wide layoffs that took place at the end of 2023 and beginning of 2024.
One-third of developers have switched game engines in the past year or thought about doing so
According to the survey, Unreal Engine and Unity are the most used game engines, with 33% of developers each classifying them as their main toolset of choice. These were followed by proprietary/in-house engines and the open-source game engine Godot.
However, in October 2023, Unity announced it would begin collecting a “Runtime Fee” based on the number of game installs, which resulted in considerable backlash and the amendment of the new policy. Following these developments, it looks like some developers are thinking about changing things up.
One-third of respondents said they’ve either considered switching game engines within the past year or they’ve already done so, while almost half said they haven’t considered switching. When asked to explain their reasons for possibly switching game engines, many developers cited Unity’s policies as their main motivator. According to an analysis of open responses conducted by Omdia, 51% said they were interested in switching specifically to Godot, either from Unity or Unreal Engine.
Four out of five developers are worried about the ethical use of AI
Developers shared a range of potential issues regarding the technology. Some worried that Generative AI usage could lead to more layoffs at game companies whereas others expressed concerns about how the tools could supercharge copyright infringement of intellectual property and whether AI toolmakers would train their models using data obtained without the creator’s consent.
Half of developers work at companies with policies on Generative AI use
Over half (51%) of developers said their companies have instituted some sort of policy regarding the use of Generative AI in the workplace, with many of them saying their companies have made use optional. Only 2% said Generative AI tools are mandated in their workplace, while 12% said they’re not allowed to use any of them.
AAA studios were more likely than indie studios to have company policies regarding the use of Generative AI tools, especially when it comes to restricting them. One-fifth (21%) of AAA developers said their companies have banned the use of such tools, compared to 9% of indie developers.
Half of developers say their companies implement accessibility measures in their games
Almost half (48%) of respondents said their companies have implemented accessibility measures into their current projects (up from 38% in 2023), while 27% said their companies have not implemented any of those features (down from 32%). The most popular accessibility features being added were industry standards like closed captioning, colorblind mode, and control remapping. Other notable features included content warnings, accessible hardware and controls, and phobia accommodations.
Social media is the biggest marketing draw, but developers are frustrated with Twitter/X
Word of mouth and social media were the most-used marketing tools for game developers, with 76% of developers saying they utilize Twitter/X compared to other platforms, however many developers expressed that they aren’t happy with the platform itself. When respondents explained how their use of social media marketing has changed in the past year, 97% of the ones who mentioned Twitter/X expressed negative views about the platform, according to an analysis of open responses conducted by Omdia. Responses included frustration about Twitter/X and its owner Elon Musk, the sheer number of apps and platforms companies must navigate, and a general lack of knowledge or interest in social media marketing.
AAA developers are more likely to have mandatory RTO policies
One-fourth (26%) of developers said they have some form of mandatory return-to-office (RTO) policy at their company, either working full-time in the office or a hybrid schedule, while the rest (74%) either don’t have an RTO policy or say the ones they have make in-office work optional.
AAA developers appear to be far more impacted: 40% of them said they currently have mandatory return-to-office policies (most of them being hybrid), compared to 15% of indie developers and 28% of AA developers. Respondents working in business and finance were most likely to say they work a hybrid or 5-day in-office schedule, while those working in narrative reported the most remote flexibility.
According to an analysis of open responses conducted by Omdia, developers with the option to work from home reported the most satisfaction with their arrangement, while those with mandatory RTO schedules (especially hybrid schedules) reported the most dissatisfaction.
Those in favor of mandatory RTO noted how in-office work is better for productivity and team collaboration, while those opposed said the practice has led to mass resentment and contributes to employee attrition.
More statistics and insights can be found on the full State of the Game Industry Survey
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