With responses from nearly 4,000 participating game developers, the survey reflects current sentiment among game makers on a wide variety of topics affecting gamers and makers alike. The survey results suggest a heightened interest in development for next generation game platforms including PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, as well as an uptick in interest in VR game development, which was potentially spurred by the release of Oculus Quest. The year-on-year survey results also reflect trends spanning a few years, including a gradual increase in support for industry unionization.
The State of the Game Industry Survey is the eighth entry in the ongoing series of yearly reports and serves as a snapshot of the game industry, illustrating industry trends ahead of GDC. Organized by Informa Tech, GDC 2020 takes place March 16-20 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California.
More than 10 percent of respondents are currently making games for next-gen consoles; interest in streaming services remains nascent.
Continuing the trend from previous years, the survey asked respondents what platform their last game was released on, and the results reflect a consistent preference for PC and mobile consoles. But these results get more interesting when respondents detail their current projects.
While the majority of respondents said their current projects are being developed for the PC (56 percent) and/or mobile (39 percent), 11 percent of survey respondents said their current project is being developed for the PlayStation 5, and 9 percent said they’re currently targeting the next generation Xbox Series X (still known as “Project Scarlett” at the time the survey was conducted).
The survey also inquired into how many respondents were working on games for Google Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud, two high-profile game streaming services which made waves in 2019. 6 percent of respondents said they’re currently targeting Google Stadia and just 3 percent said they’re aiming to put their current project on xCloud, suggesting that developer interest in making games for these services remains nascent.
Developer interest in targeting next-gen consoles increased a bit when respondents were asked what platform(s) they expect to launch their next project on. 23 percent said they expect their next game will launch on PlayStation 5, while 17 percent expected it would come to the next-gen Xbox.
This year it seems next-gen consoles are on developers’ minds; while 50 percent said they’re most interested in making games for PC, 38 percent said they’re interested in the PlayStation 5 and 25 percent said they’re interested in the next-gen Xbox. 37 percent said they’re interested in the Switch, suggesting that while the platform remains high up in developers’ estimation, the lure of new tech has taken some of the shine off Nintendo’s latest hardware.
Faith in VR is rising, and current VR devs are shifting focus from the HTC Vive to Oculus and its new Quest headset.
For a few years the survey has been polling game industry professionals about which ‘immersive reality’ technology they think will be dominant in 5 years, and augmented reality has long been the most popular answer.
That held true this year, but surprisingly, there was a significant year-over-year uptick in the percentage of respondents who believe VR will be dominant; one in three respondents (32 percent) said they think AR will dominate, while one quarter (25 percent) said VR. 19 percent expect AR and VR to be equally popular, 16 percent think neither tech will be important in 5 years, and 6 percent admitted they just don’t know.
Last year the survey reflected a similar pattern of responses, except back then (in 2018) only 19 percent threw in with VR as the eventual dominant immersive reality tech. It’s a small increase, one which may be influenced by the recent mainstream success of the wireless Oculus Quest VR headset.
Looking ahead, AR/VR devs seem chiefly interested in the Oculus Quest as the target for their next VR/AR game; when asked which AR/VR platform(s) developers expected their next game to release on, the most popular answer (with 24 percent) proved to be the Quest, followed by the Rift (20 percent) and the HTC Vive (17 percent). However, 32 percent of respondents said they were yet undecided, leaving plenty of room for things to shift as the AR/VR market evolves. When asked the same question in 2019’s survey, developers gave the HTC Vive 28 percent of the vote, the Rift received 25 percent and the Quest received 13 percent, marking an 11 and 5 percent drop for the Vive and Rift, respectively, and an 11 percent jump for Quest. The Oculus Quest appears to have picked up that slack to become the most popular answer in this year’s survey.
The majority of game makers think game devs should unionize; few think they will.
Unionization and labor practices remain hot topics in the game industry, and this year the survey found that when asked whether game industry workers should unionize, the largest share of respondents (54 percent) said yes. 21 percent said maybe, 16 percent said no, and 9 percent said they weren’t sure.
However, when asked whether they thought game industry workers would unionize, only 23 percent said yes; 22 percent said no, and the largest share (43 percent) said maybe. 12 percent said they just didn’t know.
When compared to last year’s survey, in which respondents were asked these questions for the first time, there is a small but significant uptick in confidence that the game industry should and will unionize.
Last year, when asked the same pair of questions, just 47 percent of respondents said that yes, game industry workers should unionize; only 21 percent of respondents then predicted they would unionize, while 24 percent felt they wouldn’t unionize.