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GDC 2024 State Of The Game Industry: Devs Discuss Layoffs, Generative AI, and More

This past year has been challenging for the game industry: Several studios have closed their doors, thousands of developers have been laid off, and increased studio conglomeration impacts the work landscape and prospective job market. But with challenges come opportunities. The 2024 State of the Game Industry report shines a light on all of this and more.

The Game Developers Conference has released the results of the 12th annual State of the Game Industry survey, revealing trends and insights in the game industry ahead of GDC 2024, which will be held at San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center from March 18-22, 2024.  

Register for GDC 2024 here—prices increase Jan. 26

This year's survey, conducted from Oct. 11 to Oct. 29, 2023, reflects the perspectives of over 3,000 game industry professionals. We found that developers are concerned about the increasing number of layoffs, the ethical uses of artificial intelligence, and changing game engine policies and pricing. They're also incorporating more accessibility features in games, have seen an increase in return to office policies and widely use Twitter/X for word-of-mouth marketing, though many have grown frustrated with the platform and owner Elon Musk’s policies.

This year, GDC and Game Developer partnered with one of the leading global research firms, Omdia, to dissect and analyze the survey data, providing more detailed insight than ever before. Here are some highlights from the 2024 State of the Game Industry Report.

Click here for free download of GDC 2024 State of the Game Industry report

One-third of developers have been impacted by layoffs, and half are concerned there could be more

One-third of developers (35%) said they’ve been impacted by layoffs—either by having some layoffs take place within their team or company or by being laid off themselves. Quality assurance developers appear to have been hit the hardest, with 22% of them saying they were laid off this year (compared to 7% of all developers). Business and finance professionals reported the least layoffs (2%). 

Over half of respondents (56%) expressed some level of concern that their company could see layoffs in the next 12 months, while one-third said they weren’t at all concerned. When asked to share their thoughts on the rise of layoffs in the game industry, many developers cited post-pandemic course correction, studio conglomeration, and economic uncertainty as possible explanations, and some expressed a desire for unionization to better protect workers. 

One-third of developers have switched game engines in the past year or thought about doing so

According to the survey, Unreal Engine and Unity are the most used game engines, with 33% of developers each classifying them as their main toolset of choice. These were followed by proprietary/in-house engines and the open-source game engine Godot.

However, in September 2023, Unity announced it would begin collecting a “Runtime Fee” based on the number of game installs, which resulted in considerable backlash and the amendment of the new policy. Following these developments, it looks like some developers are thinking about changing things up. One-third of respondents said they’ve either considered switching game engines within the past year or they’ve already done so, while almost half said they haven’t considered switching. 

Four out of five developers are worried about the ethical use of Generative AI 

When it comes to how Generative AI will impact the game industry as a whole, game makers appear to be mixed. Those working in business, marketing, and programming were more likely to say the technology would have a positive impact while those in narrative, visual arts, and quality assurance were more likely to say the impact would be negative.

Even though many developers seem to be uncertain about the industry impact of Generative AI, they are quite certain about the ethical impact. A large majority (84%) of developers indicated they were somewhat or very concerned about the ethics of using Generative AI, while only 12% stated they had no concerns.

Half of developers say their companies implement accessibility measures in their games

Almost half (48%) of respondents said their companies have implemented accessibility measures into their current projects (up from 38% in 2023), while 27% said their companies have not implemented any of those features (down from 32%). The most popular accessibility features being added were industry standards like closed captioning, colorblind mode, and control remapping. Other notable features included content warnings, accessible hardware and controls, and phobia accommodations.

Social media is the biggest marketing draw, but developers are frustrated with Twitter/X 

Word of mouth and social media were the most-used marketing tools for game developers, with 76% of developers saying they utilize Twitter/X compared to other platforms, however many developers expressed that they aren’t happy with the platform itself.

When respondents explained how their use of social media marketing has changed in the past year, 97% of the ones who mentioned Twitter/X expressed negative views about the platform, according to an analysis of open responses conducted by Omdia. Responses included frustration about Twitter/X and its owner Elon Musk, the sheer number of apps and platforms companies must navigate, and a general lack of knowledge or interest in social media marketing.

AAA developers are more likely to have mandatory RTO policies

One-fourth (26%) of developers said they have some form of mandatory return-to-office (RTO) policy at their company, either working full-time in the office or a hybrid schedule, while the rest (74%) either don’t have an RTO policy or say the ones they have make in-office work optional. 

AAA developers appear to be far more impacted: 40% of them said they currently have mandatory return-to-office policies (most of them being hybrid), compared to 15% of indie developers and 28% of AA developers. Respondents working in business and finance were most likely to say they work a hybrid or 5-day in-office schedule, while those working in narrative reported the most remote flexibility. 

The full survey, which includes more insight into the game development community’s thoughts on these topics and a multitude of other facts and details, can be downloaded for free here.

Sign up for GDC 2024 here—prices increase Jan. 26

GDC returns to San Francisco this March 18-22, 2024—and registration is now open! For more information, be sure to visit our website and follow the #GDC2024 hashtag on social media.

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