Every year the Game Developers Conference (GDC) releases its State of the Industry Survey of 4,000 gaming industry professionals – and 2020's has landed today. The survey is a good way to do a vibe check on a industry that is constantly finds itself choking down innovation and changing financial models.
Ahead of their event in March, GDC is setting the tone for the year with some key trends. Here's some takeaways from this year's data:
- 11 percent of respondents are currently developing for for the PS5 while 9 percent are working on a project for the Xbox Series X, with the rest divided between the evergreen PC and mobile platforms. The Xbox platform is holding its own against the PlayStation 5, which is expected to be another hit for Sony in territories where Microsoft struggles to get a foothold. It's also interesting to note that none of this seems to even matter under the weight of mobile and PC gaming's continued place as industry rainmaker and mainstay, respectively.
- Belief in the eventual dominance of VR and AR in the industry is growing again after taking a hit last year. Probably due to the success of Oculus' critical darling, the Quest, and the resurgence of conversation about AR by companies like Apple and Niantic. Will a pair of Pokémon GO glasses drop soon and change the landscape of gaming forever?
- 54 percent of respondents believe the industry should unionize, while 21 percent said maybe, 16 percent said no, and 9 percent said they weren’t sure. This is a 7 percent increase in "yes" since 2018. After multiple studio closures, the plague that is "crunch" time, and a lack of job security, unionization is probably looking like a better answer.
- Developers are still unsure if subscription services like Xbox Game Pass and Apple Arcade will "devalue" their individual games. Though they're plenty popular, subscription services still have a bit of a stink on them efter Google's failures to find a foothold with either Stadia or it's Android Play Pass.
- Nearly half of developers don't incorporate accessibility features into their projects. This is disappointing and unsurprising. Despite the fact that accessibility features make games better for all users by testing and iterating in-game systems to make sure they're rock solid, communities like those with special needs are usually the first to be overlooked by developers working under intense financial and time constraints.
- 28 percent of developers say they spend "not time at all" addressing diversity issues within their companies despite the fact that 96 percent of companies with programs addressing the issue feel they've been successful. In an industry with such a severe monoculture and such a high profile problem with representation, this is particularly disheartening.
With the increasing shifts in the dynamics of the industry, from streaming to subscriptions to the rise of retro and indie gaming, it'll be interesting to see how these forces impact what developers cook up at this year's Game Developers Conference.