Game Developers Conference’s 2023 State of the Game Industry Survey Shows Developer Skepticism Towards Metaverse and Blockchain Projects, Shift Towards Hybrid Remote/In-Office Work and More
Survey of 2,300 Game Development Professionals Reflects Steady Support for Unionization, Over 90% of Respondents View Harassment and Toxicity as an Issue for the Industry
SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Game Developers Conference (GDC) has released the results of the 11th annual State of the Game Industry survey, revealing trends in the game industry ahead of GDC 2023, which will be held at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center from March 20 – 24.
The results of the survey reflect the insights and sentiment of more than 2,300 game industry professionals with a margin of error at +/-3% at a 99% confidence level, and offer a snapshot of the growing (and fading) trends in game development leading up to GDC 2023.
Developers point to ‘Fortnite’ as likely metaverse winner, though some remain skeptical
When asked which company is best positioned to deliver on the promise of the metaverse, Epic Games/Fortnite earned 14% of the vote, the highest of any individual company. Next was Meta/Horizon Worlds and Microsoft/Minecraft (7% each), Roblox (5%), and Google and Apple (3% each), with VRChat and Nvidia also receiving some mentions.
However, developers remain wary. Nearly half (45%) of respondents didn’t select any companies/platforms, instead stating that the metaverse concept will never deliver on its promise. This number is up from 33% in 2022, with many of the responses from this year specifically citing the unclear definition of the concept, the lack of substantial interactivity and the high cost of hardware (VR headsets in particular) as barriers towards sustainable metaverse experiences.
Studio interest in blockchain technology did not grow in the past year
This year, 23% of developers said that their studios have expressed some level of interest in using blockchain technology –including cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and Web3– to support their games. This number represents a very slight decrease from the 27% of respondents from 2022 who expressed interest in cryptocurrency and the 28% who expressed interest in NFTs. Only about 2% of this year’s respondents said their studios are already using blockchain technology in their projects.
Looking into the future, about 17% of developers said they are in favor of using blockchain technology in games, while 61% said they were opposed. One-fourth of respondents said they were unsure or had no opinion. Developers’ sentiment towards the technology appear to be fairly consistent on the topic, as two-thirds of survey takers on both sides of the issue said that they had not changed their minds on blockchain over the past year.
Majority of respondents work for indie studios rather than AAA
This year, the survey sought to determine how many responding developers work for indie or AAA studios, or if they are independent contractors or freelancers. The results of the survey indicate that 39% of respondents work for an indie studio while 23% work for a AAA studio. One-fifth of respondents had write-in responses for their own company descriptions, with descriptions that included ecommerce, charity work, university programs and AA studios.
Hybrid work schedules are on the rise, while remote work appears to be here to stay
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses continue to examine how the past few years have impacted employees and their needs in the workplace. In many parts of the world, remote work is no longer considered an essential health measure, and many workplaces are shifting to a return to the office while others are still working from home.
One-fourth of game developers surveyed said they primarily work remotely with the option to go into the office, which marks a slight decrease from the 29% in 2022. Hybrid work schedules, in which workers split their time between remote and in-office, saw the biggest increase (17% this year, up from 11% in 2022).
Support for unionization remains strong, with a majority of developers supporting, and one-fifth broaching the topic at work
Amidst the recent news of Microsoft’s ZeniMax Studios QA team successfully forming a union, this year’s survey reflects a continued support for efforts to unionize. At 53% support in this year’s survey (close to the 55% in 2022), a majority of developers surveyed expressed support for unionization. Beyond that, more than one-fifth (22%) of developers have said they or their colleagues have actively discussed unionization at work.
Developers cite salary, company culture, and remote work as top factors for considering job switch
This year’s responses seem to align with the growing chatter around the “Great Resignation,” a phenomenon marked by large swaths of employees switching companies in hopes for better pay and benefits. This trend appears to bear out among the game developers surveyed, with more than half of them expressing that, over the past year, they’ve either changed the companies they work for (16%) or have thought about doing so (36%). Among those who said they’ve changed companies or thought about it, the leading motivations include salary, company culture, ability to work on a specific project/franchise, work/life balance, and having remote work policies.
91% of respondents said that player harassment and toxicity is an issue in the industry
For years, developers have spoken at the Game Developers Conference about the cost of not responding to toxic behavior from select players, including harassment and threats. Developers appear to be taking heed of the warning signs of this negative behavior, and many studios are taking steps to address harassment.
The vast majority of respondents believe that player toxicity and harassment are a major issue. Men surveyed were less likely to say they experienced or witnessed harassment than women or non-binary people, and respondents were more likely to say they experienced or witnessed harassment if they identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
In many cases, the problem of harassment has become pervasive enough in the past year to warrant official company responses, with studios of all sizes condemning harassment against their employees by players. To dig further into this topic, the survey asked respondents who had experienced or witnessed harassment whether their companies had addressed the issue. About two-thirds (68%) said their companies have addressed the harassment they experienced or witnessed –either internally (30%), externally (4%), or both (34%). One-fifth said no, while 11% were unsure.
Accessibility efforts in games maintain steady growing support
With the recent announcement of PlayStation’s “Project Leonardo” accessibility controller at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the industry as a whole appears to be making efforts to address accessibility, and the participants of this year’s survey (who were polled ahead of Sony’s announcement in January) echoed that sentiment in their responses.
Continuing an upward trend seen over past surveys, the prioritization of accessibility features in game development is now more common than not. When asked if their current games implement accessibility measures for those with sensory, motor, or other impairments, 38% of respondents said yes, which kept pace with previous years. However, the number of those who said no (32%) continued to decline, down from 36% in 2022. This marks the second year in a row where affirmative responses outweighed the negative ones, suggesting that accessibility efforts are becoming more of a core design value among studios and developers.
PC continues to lead in current and future game development
Every year, the survey asks game developers which platforms they’ve been developing games for, and which platforms they’ll be developing for in the near future. PC once again leads for current (65%) and next (57%) games in development, with PlayStation 5 next up with 33%, compared to 28% for Xbox Series X/S.
The full survey, which includes more insight into the game development community’s thoughts on these topics and a multitude of other facts and details, can be downloaded for free here.
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