Game devs favor unionization, PC, and next-gen consoles

developers the unionization of their industry. They consider the PC to be the best platform to develop games for. And they are excited about the coming next-generation from Microsoft and Sony. Those are the results of a new survey of 4,000 game industry professionals.

One of the key results was that 54% of developers now favor unionization, compared to 47% in the survey from a year ago, said Katie Stern, general manager of GDC Events, in an interview with GamesBeat.

The Game Developers Conference 2020 is coming up in March, and the event is releasing its annual survey today on the state of the game industry. The eighth annual survey results suggest a heightened interest in development for next-generation game platforms including PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

“It's not overly surprising with PC kind of being the front runner again,” Stern said. “But what is interesting is where everybody's starting to think of the next generation of platforms and what they're developing for next. The current projects already include 11% for the PS5 and 9% for the Xbox Series X. It's a notable rise in interest in the next-gen platforms.”

We also saw an uptick in interest in VR game development, which was potentially spurred by the release of Oculus Quest last year. Organized by Informa Tech, GDC 2020 takes place March 16 to March 20 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. The GDC drew 29,000 attendees last year, and about the same is expected this year, Stern said.

Next-generation consoles

Sony's PlayStation 5 logo, I guess.

More than 10 percent of respondents are currently making games for next-gen consoles; interest in streaming services remains nascent.

Continuing the trend from previous years, the survey asked respondents what platform their last game was released on, and the results reflect a consistent preference for PC and mobile consoles. But these results get more interesting when respondents detail their current projects.

Developers felt that the PC offered unmatched direct access to customers, but they weren't fond of Valve's Steam digital distribution service (see below).

While the majority of respondents said their current projects are being developed for the PC (56%) and/or mobile (39%), 11% of survey respondents said their current project is being developed for the PlayStation 5, and 9% said they're currently targeting the next generation Xbox Series X (still known as “Project Scarlett” at the time the survey was conducted).

“We're definitely in that transition period of people are moving off of the current platforms and into the next one, and trying to figure out what they're most excited about,” Stern said.

Xbox Series X.

The survey also inquired into how many respondents were working on games for Google Stadia and Microsoft's Project xCloud, two high-profile game streaming services which made waves in 2019. 6% of respondents said they're currently targeting Google Stadia and just 3% said they're aiming to put their current project on xCloud, suggesting that developer interest in making games for these services remains nascent.

“The sentiment around [cloud gaming] is that it's in its infancy,” Stern said. “It's still a bit nascent.”

Developer interest in targeting next-gen consoles increased a bit when respondents were asked what platform(s) they expect to launch their next project on. 23% said they expect their next game will launch on PlayStation 5, while 17 percent expected it would come to the next-gen Xbox. (Our own conference theme for GamesBeat Summit 2020 is “dawn of a new generation.”

This year it seems next-gen consoles are on developers' minds; while 50% said they're most interested in making games for PC, 38% said they're interested in the PlayStation 5 and 25% said they're interested in the next-gen Xbox.

37 percent said they're interested in the Switch, suggesting that while the platform remains high up in developers' estimation, the lure of new tech has taken some of the shine off Nintendo's latest hardware, the GDC said. 72% said that they aren't making any money on the Nintendo Switch.

As for mobile platforms, 50% said they developed for Android, 48% developed for iOS.

The VR faithful

Oculus Quest (left) connected to an Anker USB cable for Oculus Link, alongside the Oculus Rift S (right).

Faith in VR is rising, and current VR are shifting focus from the HTC Vive to Oculus and itsnew Quest headset.

For a few years the survey has been polling game industry professionals about which ‘immersive reality' technology they think will be dominant in five years, and augmented reality has long been the most popular answer.

That held true this year, but surprisingly, the survey showed a significant year-over-year uptick in the percentage of respondents who believe VR will be dominant; one in three respondents (32%) said they think AR will dominate, while one quarter (25%) said VR. 19% expect AR and VR to be equally popular, 16% think neither tech will be important in five years, and 6% admitted they just don't know.

Last year the survey reflected a similar pattern of responses, except back then (in 2018) only 19% threw in with VR as the eventual dominant immersive reality tech. It's a small increase, one which may be influenced by the recent mainstream success of the wireless Oculus Quest VR headset.

Looking ahead, AR/VR devs seem chiefly interested in the Oculus Quest as the target for their next VR/AR game; when asked which AR/VR platform(s) developers expected their next game to release on, the most popular answer (with 24%) proved to be the Quest, followed by the Rift (20%) and the HTC Vive (17%).

However, 32 percent of respondents said they were yet undecided, leaving plenty of room for things to shift as the AR/VR mark et evolves. When asked the same question in 2019's survey, developers gave the HTC Vive 28% of the vote, the Rift received 25% and the Quest received 13%, marking an 11 and 5 percentage point drop for the Vive and Rift, respectively, and an 11 percentage point jump for Quest. The Oculus Quest appears to have picked up that slack to become the most popular answer in this year's survey.

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