GDC’s State of the Game Industry: NFTs, the metaverse, and more than half of game devs want to unionize


Ahead of the annual Game Developers Conference, GDC organizers poll industry workers and release it all in a state-of-the-industry wrapper, which has landed in our inboxes today. A few notable stats we’ve pulled out of the doc:

More respondents are working on games for PC than for any other platform – twice as many as the next-highest, which happens to be PlayStation 5, followed by Android, IOS, and the Xbox Series X/S. VR is way down in 11th place, below Mac and tied with browser. The numbers don’t change dramatically for “next project,” either, save that Xbox comes up a little bit. Interestingly, when the question is phrased in terms of interest, the Nintendo Switch rockets up to third place. GDC notes here that based on its polling in the last decade, PC has become more popular, mobile has become significantly less popular, VR development is in deep decline (though the Oculus Quest beats its competitors handily), and PlayStation consistently edges out Xbox.

Game devs are as skeptical about the metaverse as you are. A full third of game developers who responded to the surveys believe that “the metaverse concept will never deliver on its promise.” Damn.

“We asked respondents to tell us what UGC platforms they were developing or planning to develop content and/or experiences for. The vast majority (83%) said they were not involved at all. The remaining 17% of respondents were evenly split between Roblox (5%), Minecraft (4%), Fortnite (3%), Dreams (3%), and Core (2%). […] We asked respondents which companies/platforms were best placed to deliver on the promise of the metaverse. Of the companies listed, the most popular was Epic/Fortnite (17%), followed by Facebook (8%), Microsoft/Minecraft (8%), Roblox (6%), and Google (5%).”

Game devs see right through the NFT scheme. 72% of respondents said their studio’s interest in crypto was zero; 70% said the same for studio interest in NFTs. Only 6% and 7%, respectively, said their studios were “very interested.” GDC reps wrote, “When asked how they felt about the possibility of cryptocurrency or NFTs in games, a few called it ‘the future of gaming.’ However, a vast majority of respondents spoke out against both practices—noting their potential for scams, overall monetization concerns, and the environmental impact.”

Social media is still seen as a major driver for marketing. GDC notes that the money being poured into traditional and visual media for marketing isn’t matched by money put into forums. “In fact, forums were seen as the least-effective marketing strategy based on
weighted averages, with email marketing coming in a close second.” (But this makes sense; forums are largely for communicating with the players you have, not marketing.)

Accessibility is not a dirty word. 39% of respondents in the industry said they’d participated in implementing accessibility features in their games, up from last year. Those measures include “colorblind modes, re-bindable controls, closed captioning and descriptive text, dyslexia-friendly fonts, customizable difficulty options, motion sickness settings, and more.”

A quarter of workers said their studios aren’t focused at all on diversity and inclusion. Of those who said their studios were making an effort, 94% said they’d been slightly to extremely successful. “Wouldn’t we all like to know, instead we’re being sued for discriminatory employment practices while being constantly reassured by executives that they totally don’t stand for that sort of thing,” said one respondent, who could, sadly, be from multiple studios in context.

Remote work is probably here to stay. The pollsters note that two-thirds of respondents last year considered working from home during the panic was a net positive for creativity and/or productivity. Over 90% of respondents say they’re at least being offered some form of remote work option if they choose it.

Hey, remember Epic v. Apple? The case would’ve been a showstopper but for all the other disasters 2021 brought. But significantly more developers sided with Epic Games on the ruling – more than a third total. A quarter said they didn’t know, nearly another quarter said neither, 10% said both, and a wee 8% took Apple’s side in the scuffle.

Activision-Blizzard’s scandal is having a ripple effect in the industry. 38% of devs say their studios are addressing misconduct in the industry – and that was before the big news about Kotick broke last fall. However, the write-in responses suggest that many companies are doing little more than talk.

More than half of game devs think they should unionize. 55%, in fact, with another 22% saying maybe and 9% saying they don’t know. Only 14% said no. However, as they say, should and would build no bridges, and only 18% think it will actually happen, with 46% on the fence, 12% clueless, and a full 24% saying it’s not in the cards – actually less hope than last year.

Source: GDC
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