GDC’s sixth annual State of the Industry report shows VR down, Steam down, and unionizing up

    
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I'm gonna take my horse to the old town road until I get a poncho.

The sixth annual GDC State of the Industry report is an interesting barometer of development; rather than focusing on analysts, it focuses on surveys sent to actual industry developers with anonymous replies, giving a sense of what the industry is working on at the time of its release. And this year’s results have just been released, starting off with the fact that developers appear to be cooling on development for VR. The Nintendo Switch is up, however, as is development for PC over mobile and an increased confidence in esports as a sustainable business avenue.

Equally interesting is the fact that of the developers surveyed, about half of them support the idea of unionizing workers, continuing a trend that we’ve seen on a steady track over the past year. The majority of developers also did not believe that Valve deserves the large cut it takes from games that sell on Steam, which underscores the potential strength of offerings like Epic’s new storefront (which takes a far smaller cut). Interesting stuff if you’re curious about the state of the industry.

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VR will be just fine.

The only reason it may be slowing down is because the customer base is still too small to make quick cash.

A bunch of folks jumped in quick to make some money only to find they couldn’t sell enough copies of their games to make money.

But VR sales are still continuing and headset owners are still enjoying them.

The Oculus Go is an all-in-one headset and requires a phone app to install. The Android store recently listed one million downloads for that app.

The Oculus Quest is a “Go” but with tracking allowing the user to walk around in real space with tracked controllers and no remote sensors. It will be out soon.

That will bring mobile VR to surpass the tech of PC VR (but with mobile level graphics quality).

VR is certainly not dying. Or even slowing down.

Development just isn’t as enthusiastic as it was at the start.

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Anstalt

VR in its current guise (just a headtset…) will never take off big. This should have been obvious right from the start: VR headsets are just a gimick.

They aren’t an upgrade over what we have now, they are a sidegrade, hence their status as a gimick. You get improved visual immersion (the only positive) compared to a massive list of negatives (nausea, worse gameplay, massive price tag, terrible control input, the disconnect between ur head and the rest of ur body).

The only thing VR headsets work well with are games that use interesting controllers (hotas, steering wheels etc) and where the player themselves don’t move. That is the only way that VR headsets are able to create a cohesive experience that feels like virtual reality.

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Emmanuel Carabott

While some of what you say is true some is also pretty off mark. First of all VR isnt a gimmick, it makes a huge different. VR doesnt just provide improved visual immersion it far more then that, its complete immersion. Example, how many people have you heard scream just because you come face to face with say a zombie on a monitor? Not 1 in my case. In VR? Every single person who tried it ! Are you familiar with the game fruit ninja? Its a pretty popular mobile phone game and while using your finger to simulate a knife stroke works and is pretty intuitive it most definitely doesnt feel as satisfying or nearly as immersive compare to VR where you’re actually wielding and swinging a katakana. Same story with shooting games, you have to try it yourself to realise how infinitely more immersive it is you draw a bow and hit with an arrow you fully aimed yourself.

Not sure what you mean by terrible control input because I assure you at least for the Vive which is what I have personal experience with, controller tracking is pixel perfect. You dont even have to take my word for it, you can even find a video on youtube of someone juggling 3 vive controllers while wearing the headset (IE seeing them in VR through the headset) yeah its that precise.

Also you have it backwards, nausea and such happens because your eyes are seeing movement while your body is standing still. Hence games like driving games are actually the worst. The best experience you get in VR is with games that are designed for roomscale, IE were you actually get to move around yourself, you get 0 nausea there.

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Emmanuel Carabott

Arent we being a bit all doom and gloom here with the whole VR is dying thing. All the survey said was that developer’s interest in developing VR seems to be waining and thats based that the previous year 75% of the developers said VR was a sustainable business model while this year the number was 71%..

19% are still developing games for VR while another 7% are developing games for AR, together thats 26% which is like the same amount of developers thats are making games for XBOX one… is XBOX one death? what about PS4? sure they have 4% more so does that make them on there death bed?

What about the switch with 11% should we consider that decomposing?

This not to say that VR is doing great, obviously there are many barriers to entry. Price, technology (you just need way too much horse power for it, more then any GPU or even SLI setup can provide for VR to be as good as we want it to be), cables, bulkiness, space requirement etc…But it certainly in a much better state that a lot of people make it out to be.

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JC Denton

The overwhelming majority of devs complaining about Steam’s cut don’t realize that no other storefront will take their games (except maybe itch.io).

Steam has long been something that has provided little benefit for either gamers or developers. As a Linux Mint user, I’m long used to auto-updating and easy-installs and all that stuff for both games and every other piece of software on my computer. The unfortunate fact is that Windows has none of that and there’s no built-in easy system because 99% of Windows software has strict copyright rules against redistribution.

Steam takes advantage of the closed-source Windows-based software ecosystem and offers a better solution. The main benefit they offer is to twist the arms of developers and force them to use the Steam installer instead of making trashy custom installers or using InstallShield or other similar junkware. Good riddance to that rubbish.

If devs are sick of the 30% cut then they should make games that are worth the digital shelf space of other storefronts and offer them there as well. Also doesn’t hurt to link to your website on Steam and offer games for sale directly (with bonus incentives on the website for buying directly).

GoG hates (most) visual novels and I’ve seen proof of this directly from a game dev. They eventually release a few at a time for PR purposes but it is less curation and more tomfoolery on that end. Meanwhile, Humble Store sells many things and itch.io sells whatever you wanna upload.

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Arktouros

Not really surprising with VR. VR was never going to be that hockey-stick graph of user growth that Oculus was preaching. All that did was create some sort of absurd unrealistic expectations from a more modern take on the technology. It’s a cool concept that lets you interact and play new games in new ways and offer new experiences but predicting that kind of growth is just asinine. Even if they released 8k per eye headsets with super realistic displays the kind of power you’d need in a computer to run it just isn’t even remotely readily available out there yet. There’s lots of room to grow there over time, and hopefully people keep working through all the kinks and issues so eventually it’ll be ready for mass consumption.

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Wilhelm Arcturus

Surprise, devs code for more popular things and stop coding for less popular things. It is almost like they’re in it for the money.

And speaking of money, Steam takes significantly less of a cut than going through the retail channel with physical media ever did. In that scenario the studio was lucky to see 30%.

I don’t know objectively if Valve “deserves” as big of a cut as they get, but the devs are free to walk away. There are other options now. Will they? Or will we hear a bunch of excuses about how if you’re not on Steam you don’t have a chance… in which case I guess Steam does deserve their cut.

As for unions for game devs, I’ll believe in that when I see it happen. There are too many willing fools out there keen to do what they love.

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cursedseishi

Not too surprising with Steam. It’s a bloated mess, and especially for new independent developers and companies without the requisite financial Spartan Kick to clear the trash out, getting noticed is difficult. As well as considering just how… unevenly Valve’s policy of “All is Allowed” is applied to games of certain genres, and people don’t feel safe trying to utilize that platform when it’s just as likely they’ll get denied for no reason. Upside to this then, with attention being put elsewhere and with an actual heavyweight to contend with (love you CD Projekt, but by virtue of owning likely the most popular engine in development Epic has the market edge here)? Valve needs to stop dipping their pinkies into caviar and acting like they are too good for the market they trade in if they want to hold a meaningful edge in a couple years time.

Also good to see some traction in the ‘Union” field. I doubt it will get anywhere given just how… expendable… most positions in the industry are though. Said elsewhere, but for every individual low-mid tier worker in these companies who aren’t happy with things and most likely to push for this, there are ten fresh faces just out of college far cheaper to hire and still naive enough to the industry to not understand they are on a conveyor belt towards a meat grinder. For any sort of meaningful shift or chance at proper unionization, things need to start at college for them…

And given how deeply in bed a lot of said colleges and institutes are with the industry? That likely isn’t going to happen too soon either.

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Godnaz

VR will only become interesting when the headsets become the size of a pair of side block sunglasses. Many users struggle with balance, vertigo and spatial awareness, which really hinders enjoyment from a cool tech. Adding an exterior viewing camera and refocusing field of depth helps a bit but the headsets are still far too big. Still got a long way to go.

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hardy83

Size and price.
Every headset costs too much now. 200-250 for an all in one set that’s cable free and no screen door effect. With visuals on par with 360 ps3 at least.
Even then… It’s still an uphill battle.

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rafael12104

Interesting. So according to individual devs PC development is up. But according to AAA marketing and even Superdata mobile releases continue to ramp up; aka. You Do Have Phones Syndrom

Could we be reaching a plateau in mobile gaming? It seems logical. But in my layman’s experience, video game conglomerates don’t ramp down on trends like mobile until they are saturated beyond redemption.

The rest? Meh. Pretty much as expected including the union question. It’s not my morning for political debates so I will simply leave it at 50 percent don’t support unions. And on we go.

VR is going the way of 3D TV. Seems like there is a pattern emerging. Heh.

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McGuffn

Pay to download is not a needed phrase. In the slightest.

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rafael12104

Heh. I found it odd as well. They went out of their way to avoid Buy To Play and Free To Play, but why?

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IronSalamander8 .

VR has potential but its still mostly in the gimmick phase judging by the offerings I see, although Subnautica has to be terrifying in VR!

Unionizing may be the best thing for the devs that are expected to work themselves so damn hard ala RDR2 and other titles.

I do like the idea of competition to Steam for many reasons but Steam is still the big one on PC right now, maybe that will change in the future though.

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Armsbend

I’ve said this earlier but if you have an entire generation of coming of age teenagers only playing fortnite – and as they naturally get bored they see a few new games on the launcher they use to buy as they become earners for the first time? They won’t know or care that Valve ever existed. To a 13 year old Valve is meaningless. There is no nostalgia, no humor, no nothing. There won’t be a transition they will just buy games on the thing they have.

I expect Valve to annouce they are working on an awaited sequel as much bigger players than them get into the game. They can’t keep up with the braintrust of Google, MS, Disney, Netflix etc.

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IronSalamander8 .

Yeah, they filled a niche better than Origin or whatever the Stardock store is called for a long time but hubris is a harsh mistress and it can easily come back at them hard if the newer competitors, like Epic’s and Discord’s stores can become viable alternatives. GoG is pretty solid too but is largely in Steam’s shadow still.