New State Of The Industry Report Provides Developer Thoughts On Layoffs, Acquisitions, A.I., And More

By admin Jan 18, 2024

Introduction

Last year was a fantastic year for games, with standout triple-A releases like Baldur’s Gate 3, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, and great independent games like Jusant, Sea of Stars, and countless others. But in 2023 alone, more than 10,000 developers and people in games-adjacent industries were laid off. Plus, the unchecked rise of A.I. continued, and Unity burned developers with its controversial new game engine policies, not to name a few other not-so-great parts about 2023 – it was a great year for games but one of the worst for those who make them. 

Now, just as 2024 has begun, the Game Developers Conference has released its 12th annual State of the Game Industry report. Its data was collected from 3000 developers surveyed back in October of last year. GDC and GameDeveloper.com partnered with Omdia, a research firm, to dissect the data. In its State of the Game Industry 2024 report, which you can view in full here, developers share their thoughts on A.I., layoffs, social media, and its role in marketing, game engines, and more. 

“The most striking observation derived from job losses in the industry – naturally a pressing concern for many,” Omdia research director Dom Tait writes in the report. “Among the insightful developer comments on the subject was the following: ‘Studios grew too quickly during the pandemic.’ This statement is born out of games industry data, which shows a Covid-driven hump of extra revenue in 2020 and 2021, collectively totaling $50 billion over expected figures.

“But 2022 and 2023 showed a reversion to the spend treeline seen prior to 2020, thus this reduction in headcount is partly caused by companies belatedly adjusting to the new, less positive market reality. However, with the forecast returning to steady growth to 2027, this ought to present a more stable picture for employment levels in the future.” 

Below, we’ll break down some of the highlights of the State of the Game Industry 2024 report. 

Demographics

Demographics

Here are the ages of the 3000 developers surveyed for this report: 

  • 18 to 24: 9 percent
  • 25 to 34: 35 percent
  • 35 to 44: 33 percent
  • 45 to 54: 17 percent
  • 55 to 64: 5 percent
  • 65 or older: 1 percent

And here are the races/ethnicities of the 3000 developers surveyed for this report: 

  • White/Caucasian: 65 percent
  • Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin: 9 percent
  • East Asian: 7 percent
  • South or Southeast Asian: 5 percent
  • Black/African/Caribbean: 3 percent
  • Middle Eastern or North African: 1 percent
  • American Indian or Alaska Native: less than 1 percent
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: less than 1 percent
  • Multiple ethnicities/not listed: 5 percent
  • Prefer not to answer: 5 percent

Here are the genders of those surveyed:

  • Men: 69 percent
  • Woman: 23 percent
  • Non-Binary: 5 percent
  • Not listed: less than 1 percent
  • Prefer not to answer: 3 percent

And here are the regions of the world where the developers surveyed reside: 

  • North America: 62 percent
  • Europe: 26 percent
  • Asia: 6 percent
  • South America: 3 percent
  • Australia/New Zealand: 3 percent
  • Africa: less than 1 percent
  • Not listed: 1 percent 

87 percent of game developers with 21 years or more of experience in the games industry surveyed for this year’s report are men, and 92 percent of those men are White. Asian men represent 15 percent of game developers with 21 years or more of experience, Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish-origin men make up 8 percent, and Black men make up 6 percent. White women represent 5 percent of game developers with 21 years or more of experience, as do Asian women. Zero Black women or Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish-origin women are represented in this category. 

The majority of those surveyed – 56 percent – have 10 or fewer years in the games industry. 

Platforms

Platforms

66 percent of developers surveyed said PC remains their platform of choice for developing current projects, and 57 percent said the same for developing upcoming projects. 

Here’s how the other platforms fair: 

  • PC: 66 percent
  • PlayStation 5: 35 percent
  • Xbox Series X/S: 34 percent
  • Android: 24 percent
  • iOS: 23 percent
  • Nintendo Switch: 18 percent
  • Xbox One: 18 percent
  • PlayStation 4: 16 percent
  • Mac: 16 percent
  • VR: 10 percent
  • Web browser: 10 percent
  • Nintendo Switch successor: 8 percent
  • Linux: 7 percent
  • Cloud services like Xbox Cloud Gaming, PlayStation Plus, etc.: 7 percent
  • AR: 4 percent
  • Tabletop: 3 percent
  • Media platforms like Netflix: 2 percent
  • UGC platforms like Roblox and Minecraft: 1 percent
  • Playdate: less than 1 percent
  • Other: 4 percent
  • Not involved in development: 13 percent

Layoffs

Layoffs

According to the report, 35 percent of developers surveyed have been impacted by layoffs personally or have worked at a company where layoffs occurred, with quality assurance testers affected most. 22 percent of QA developers said they were laid off in 2023, compared to 7 percent for all developers. Those in game development business and finance were affected the least, at 2 percent. 

However, more than half of those surveyed – 56 percent – expressed some level of concern that the place they work could be hit with layoffs in 2024. GDC says one-third of responders said they aren’t concerned about layoffs at their company at all. When asked about the rise of layoffs that gained widespread attention last year, developers cited “post-pandemic course correction, studio conglomeration, and economic uncertainty,” with some expressing a desire to unionize. 

A.I.

A.I.

When asked about A.I. and its rise in game development, 84 percent said they are somewhat or very concerned about the ethics of generative A.I., while 12 percent said they have no concerns with it. GDC notes that those working in business, marketing, and programming were more likely to say the use of A.I. would have a positive effect, while those on the creative side of development, such as narrative and quality assurance, were more likely to say it would have a negative impact. 

Developers noted in surveys that they are concerned generative A.I. could lead to more layoffs, while others worried about how it affects copyright infringement, especially in regards to how the training material this kind of A.I. uses is obtained. 

51 percent of developers said their companies have implemented some kind of workplace policy regarding the use of generative A.I., “with many of them saying their companies have made use optional,” GDC writes in a press release. 2 percent of responders said generative A.I. is mandatory in their workplace, and 12 percent said it’s not allowed. 

Triple-A studios were more likely to have policies regarding the use of generative A.I. in place compared to indie studios. 21 percent of triple-A developers said it’s banned at their workplace; 9 percent of indie developers said the same. 

However, 37 percent of indie developers said they are using generative A.I. compared to 21 percent at triple-A and double-A studios. 

Digital Downloads

Digital Downloads

51 percent of developers who responded to the survey said the game they’re currently developing will be a “digital premium game.” Here’s how other models fair: 

  • Digital premium game: 51 percent
  • Free to download: 32 percent
  • DLC/Updates: 24 percent
  • Physical premium game: 21 percent
  • Paid in-game items: 21 percent
  • Paid in-game currency: 19 percent
  • Inclusion in a paid subscription library like Xbox Game Pass: 10 percent
  • Paid item crates/gacha: 6 percent
  • Community-funded like Kickstarter: 6 percent
  • In-game product placement: 5 percent
  • Premium tier subscriptions like in Fallout 76: 4 percent
  • Blockchain-driven monetization: 3 percent
  • Other: 6 percent
  • Not involved in game development: 14 percent

Game Adaptations

Game Adaptations

10 percent of respondents said their company has a game that has been or is being adapted, while 20 percent have said their company has talked about it. 6 percent have been approached for an adaptation, while 2 percent have pitched an adaptation. 44 percent said they aren’t adapting a game, while 13 percent don’t know. 4 percent responded with N/A. 

63 percent of developers surveyed think film and TV adaptations are good for the game industry, 26 percent said maybe, 4 percent said no, and 7 percent had no opinion. 

Acquisitions

Acquisitions

According to GDC’s survey, 5 percent of developers believe the ongoing wave of acquisitions happening in games is good for the industry, down from 17 percent in last year’s report. 43 percent think it will have a negative impact, and 2 percent think it will have no impact; 42 percent responded with “mixed impact,” noting negative and positive feelings about it. 

Game Development Engines

Game Development Engines

Epic’s Unreal Engine and Unity’s engine are the most-used game engines, according to the report; 33 percent of developers said one of these engines is their primary development engine. In third place (technically second since Unity and Unreal were tied ) were proprietary in-house engines (think EA’s Frostbite engine), with open-source engine Godot in fourth. 

Following Unity’s runtime fee fiasco that happened last year, one-third of developers surveyed said they considered switching engines within the past year (or that they have already done so); almost half said they haven’t considered switching. Developers cited Unity’s policies as the biggest motivator for switching, and 51 percent of responders said they were interested in switching from either Unity or Unreal to Godot. 

Accessibility

Accessibility

48 percent of developers who took part in the survey said their companies have implemented accessibility options into their games, which is up from 38 percent in 2023’s report. 27 percent of responders said their companies have implemented zero accessibility measures, which is down from 32 percent in last year’s report. 

The top accessibility measures include closed captioning, control remapping, and colorblind modes, according to the report. Other features include phobia accommodations, accessible hardware and controls, and content warnings. 

Social Media and Marketing

Social Media And Marketing

Developers said that social media and word-of-mouth are the “most-used marketing tools,” with 76 percent saying they utilize X (formally Twitter) the most compared to other platforms. However, GDC says many developers noted they aren’t happy with the state of X. When asked about how their approach to social media marketing has changed, 97 percent of developers touched on changes to X and expressed negative views about it and its owner, Elon Musk. 

Remote Work

Remote Work

26 percent of respondents said their company has some kind of mandatory return-to-office policy, be it a full-time return to the physical workplace or a hybrid schedule that includes remote/work-from-home. The other 74 percent of developers said they don’t have a return-to-office policy or make working in-office optional.

The report notes that 40 percent of triple-A – the largest group affected by these kinds of policies – said they have mandatory return-to-office rules, although the majority of this 40 percent said it’s a hybrid mix. 15 percent of indie developers and 28 percent of double-A developers work somewhere with a mandatory return-to-office policy. 

Developers with the option to work from home reported the most satisfaction with their work schedule, the report notes, while those with mandatory return-to-office policies in place reported the most dissatisfaction. 

You can check out GDC’s full State of the Industry 2024 report here for additional information on these topics and more. 


What is the most surprising statistic in this report to you? Let us know in the comments below!

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