44 per cent of game developers suffered a delay due to the pandemic: Report

2020 has been a tumultuous year for everyone including the game developers who had to adjust to remote working, deal with the general stress that comes with a global pandemic, and create games for people who are in similar situations all over the world. The Game Developers Conference (GDC) has released the results of the ninth annual State of the Industry Survey, revealing trends in the game industry ahead of GDC 2021 which will take place virtually 19 to 23 July. 

In the survey, more than 3,000 gaming industry professionals weighed in on what has been the year as developers adjusted to remote work, dealing with pandemic stress and being increasingly isolated, while creating games as means of entertainment for helping people get through feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety. The survey results show that while the pandemic caused delays for close to half of the respondents, studios overall grew or stayed the same over the last year, and that work-life balance evened out after a rough first few months, with most developers now working standard 40-hour work weeks. The report states that 44 per cent of developers said their game suffered a delay due to the pandemic.

Here are the findings:

  •  Studios grew during the pandemic: 47 per cent expanded staff; 34 per cent remained the same
  • Game developers are settling in with developing for next generation consoles. 44 per cent of the respondents said that PS5 is the platform they’re most interested in right now, followed by Nintendo Switch at 38 per cent and Xbox Series X/S at 30 per cent. Among all platforms, the ubiquitous PC led developer interest for yet another year at 58 per cent.
  • PlayStation 5 also led consoles in terms of which platform game developers are creating their current project for at 27 per cent, Xbox Series X/S garnered 24 per cent of responses. When asked a similar question about previous projects, the split between platforms are – PS5 at nine per cent, PS4 at 26 per cent and Xbox Series X/S garnered 24 per cent.
  • When it comes to which platforms game developers actually plan to develop games on next, 30 per cent replied PS5 and 25 per cent replied Xbox Series X/S, with Nintendo Switch trailing at 19 per cent. Mobile platforms remain popular as well with Android and iOS at 31 per cent and PC leads again at 53 per cent.
  • For game developers, PC, iOS, and Android typically lead as the most accessible platforms to develop games for. They’re ubiquitous, don’t require a dev kit like a console, don’t require strict certification, and publishing and distributing games is much easier than “walled garden” console ecosystems.
  •  While the hype surrounding virtual and augmented reality has waned since hitting its peak in the mid-2010s, game developers have continued to push immersive technologies forward. Among our respondents, only 38 per cent said they are or have been involved in VR or AR game development. That’s down from 46 per cent last year.As far as VR and AR platforms that are currently of most interest to game developers, Oculus Quest accounted for 52 per cent of responses, well ahead of PlayStation VR and Valve Index which each collected 30 per cent of responses.
  •  For VR hardware preferences the PC hardware-based Oculus Rift with 45 per cent was the most popular for last-released projects, while the all-in-one Oculus Quest 27 per cent leads in current and next project development at 31 per cent.
  • There was virtually no movement year-on-year when it comes to where game makers get their funding but it’s still worth noting that 51 per cent use their company’s existing funds while the second most popular answer was “Personal funds” 30 per cent. While alpha funding—particularly Steam Early Access—is used for many games and seems like it’s everywhere, it garnered the lowest amount of responses at four per cent.Funding from deals with platform holders such as Xbox Game Pass and Apple Arcade is also relatively scant at six per cent.
  •  When it comes to discoverability of the games Respondents mostly said they made “small investments” across many types of channels, with online forums and social media (like Twitter, Facebook) being the most popular venues for small investments (25per cent for each category). Investment in forums and social media edged out real-time communications (Discord, Slack), outreach to traditional press and bloggers, email marketing, and word of mouth which each garnered 24per cent of respondents who said they made “small investments” in these channels. Least popular here were paid advertising, live events (unsurprising in a year of COVID), and promotion on a digital storefront.
  • 25  per cent of respondents said they made “moderate investments” in social media, handily making it the most popular answer among those polled. Pre-recorded YouTube videos and word of mouth were the next most popular answers under “moderate investments” with each coming in at 20 per cent, followed by promotion on a platform’s digital storefront (19 per cent) and traditional press and bloggers (18 per cent). Least popular for this level of investment were Facebook streamers, forums, and Twitch streamers.
  • When it comes to “large investments” in discoverability channels, 14 per cent of all respondents invested in social media and word of mouth, making them the most popular answers, followed by paid advertising 13 per cent, digital storefront promotion 12 per cent and pre-recorded YouTube videos 11 per cent. The most unpopular answers at this level of investment were Facebook streamers, forums, and email marketing.
  • Twenty per cent found that word of mouth discoverability was “Very effective” in getting a game in front of customers, making it the most popular answer. That’s followed by 18 per cent said a good promotional spot on a digital storefront is very effective and 15per cent who selected social media as their answer.
  • Venues found to be only “Slightly effective” were led by email marketing selected by 23per cent of respondents followed by social media and traditional press and bloggers 22per cent each and forums 21per cent. “Moderately effective” channels were led by social media 24per cent, word of mouth 20 per cent, and YouTube videos and traditional press and bloggers 18 per cent each .
  • Twenty-one percent of this year’s respondents said “Yes,” they were concerned that subscription services will devalue individual game prices, while 30 per cent said “No,” and 48 per cent said “Maybe” or “Not Sure.”  That’s a meaningful shift from the previous year when 27 per cent said “Yes,” 26 per cent said “No,” and 46 per cent said “Maybe” or “Not Sure.” The year-on-year change indicates that as subscription services become more prevalent, developers are feeling less concerned about the devaluation of individual games.
  • PC/Mac/Linux is where 21per cent of respondents make 100 per cent of their moneyin games.
  • 21 per cent of developers said they made 100 per cent of their revenue from Steam, tying with “Direct (via your own website)”. Seven per cent said they made all their money from Switch; only 3per cent said they made all their revenue from the Epic Games Store.
  • Work-life balance and crunch continue to be a point of concern when it comes to opportunities to reform the game industry. 56 per cent of respondents said they worked 40 hours per week or less on average, meaning most of the game industry is working no more than a traditional work week. That’s in line with the previous year’s results that showed 55 per cent of game industry respondents worked 40 hours or less.
  • Maximum hours worked 16 per cent of respondents worked for 46-50 hours per week, followed by 13 per cent claiming 56-60 hours. 30per cent of total respondents worked for 61 hours-plus, two per cent said they maxed out at over 90 hours.
  • 73per cent of people selected Self-pressure as a major factor this year for working more than 40 years vs 59 per cent last year., “I don’t consider the amount of time I worked to be excessive,” garnered 33 per cent of responses for this year vs. 40 per cent last year.
  •  Work-life balance and the topic of unionisation in the game industry tend to go hand-in- hand. 51 per cent answered “Yes,” 14 per cent “No,” and 24 per cent “Maybe.” That’s not much movement from last year when 54 per cent answered “Yes” and 16 per cent answered “No,” with 21 per cent saying “Maybe.”
  • 40 per cent of those polled has suffered a delay due to the pandemic; 49per cent answered “No” and the remainder said they were not currently working on a game. This is a notable increase from last year, where only 33 per cent of respondents said their game suffered a delay from the pandemic.
  • While 32per cent of respondents said their productivity and/or creativity has been “About the same” since working from home (the most popular answer), 24per cent said it has “Somewhat decreased.”
  • Looking at the results another way, 66 per cent of respondents said their productivity and creativity stayed the same or even increased to varying degrees, which goes against the narrative that working from home is inherently negative when it comes to getting work done. These numbers have remained consistent over last year, when 59 per cent of our survey takers said productivity and 65 per cent said creativity stayed the same or increased. It’s a datapoint that game companies may want to consider when offices begin reopening.
  • 47 per cent of respondents said their company expanded in terms of staff over the past pandemic-laden year; 13 per cent say it contracted; 34 per cent say it stayed the same; and just one per cent said it closed entirely. Those figures are virtually in line with the previous year, which was much less burdened by the pandemic and remote working.
  • 20per cent said they worked at studios with more than 500 people, followed by  19 per cent who work alone, and 13 per cent whose companies are two to five people, generally in line with last year’s results.
  • 31 per cent implemented accessibility measures in their current game. 42 per cent said No, 27 per cent replied “Don’t know or N/A”.
  • 60 per cent of those polled said over the past year, their studio focused on diversity and inclusion initiatives ranging from “A moderate amount” to “A great deal” (that’s compared to 56 per cent last year. Still, 25 per cent said they had not focused on diversity and inclusion initiatives at all, which is down from 28 per cent the prior year.
  • Game developers largely rely on third-party digital storefronts such as Steam, GOG, Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and the Epic Games Store to sell their games. Selling games via these services comes at a cost—the standard share has been 30 per cent for the platform holder,  and 70 per cent for the developer.
  • Three per cent said a 30 per cent cut is justifiable and the most popular answer was 10per cent, which garnered 23 per cent of responses, followed by 15 per cent with 20 per cent of responses. Viewed another way, 46 per cent of respondents find a 10-15 per cent cut justifiable.
  •  65 per cent said their company has done “A little” to “A lot” in terms of putting sustainability into practice, leaving 35 per cent saying “None at all.”
  • 22 per cent said that they are involved  in game development, for both three to five years and six to ten years at 22 per cent each. 57per cent of game developers have 10 years or less of game development experience.
  • Men continue to dominate the game industry when it comes to gender with 73 per cent, with women bumping up a percentage point with 21 per cent , and men bumping down two percentage points year on year. Additionally, this year we introduced a non-binary gender option and saw three per cent of respondents self-identify as such.