Support Grows for Unionizing Video Game Industry, Survey Finds

Playstation Controllers - Getty - H 2020
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The Game Developer's Conference report indicates that the PC remains the most popular platform among game makers, while next-generation consoles are attracting considerable interest.

Ahead of the Game Developer's Conference (GDC) — which is dedicated to the art and science of making video games and set to take place March 16-20 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco — the results of the organization's eighth annual State of Industry report were released Friday. 

Surveying nearly 4,000 video game developers with the intent of highlighting industry trends and forecasts for the future of gaming, this year's report indicates an increasing interest in the games industry to unionize. This was also a major topic of conversation in 2019, amid reports of gaming professionals working extended overtime hours and tolerating poor working conditions.

Among the survey participants, 54 percent said that game industry workers should unionize (a 7 percent increase from last year), 21 percent answered "maybe" and 9 percent said they weren't sure. When the same group was asked whether they thought game industry workers would unionize, only 23 percent said "yes," while 43 percent said "maybe."

Further data proves there is a continued interest in next-generation consoles such as the Playstation 5 (releasing in the fourth quarter of 2020) and Microsoft's Xbox Series X (formerly known as Xbox Project Scarlett, releasing in time for the holidays), with 11 percent and 5 percent reporting they are developing current projects for those consoles. Additionally, 5 percent of respondents indicated they are developing their next game exclusively for next-gen consoles and 34 percent noted they will develop for both next-gen and existing consoles.

PC emerged as the most popular platform, with 54 percent of respondents indicating that their last game was released on that platform and 56 percent indicating that their next game is being developed for PC. In a measure of interest levels — regardless of what platforms they're actually developing games for — the PS5 and Nintendo Switch were high on the list.

Among streaming services such as Google Stadia and Xbox Project xCloud, the percentages of respondents who will be developing their next projects for those services was on the lower end (8 percent and 6 percent, respectively). Asked whether they anticipate Google Stadia being a long-term commercial success, only 11 percent of the pooled candidates said "yes."

As to whether subscriptions services (including Apple Arcade and Xbox Game Pass) are devaluing the value and market potential of individual games, 27 percent of respondents answered "yes," while 28 percent said "maybe." Another 18 percent indicated uncertainty. Considering its future, only 21 percent of developers anticipate Apple Arcade being a long-term success. 

Interest in mobile gaming — namely Android and iOs — has continued steadily, with 40 percent of participants indicating that their previous project was released for mobile devices, and 39 percent noting that their current project is being developed for that platform.

On the Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) side, 7 percent and 15 percent of survey-takers said they will be developing their next project for those headsets, such as the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift.  Asked which format will be the dominant "immersive reality" technology in five years, 32 percent chose AR, while 25 percent landed on VR. 

Loot boxes, which were labeled — due to the addictive nature of "pay-to-win" practices — as an "exploitation of children" by Missouri Senator Josh Hawley last year, have not gained any more popularity, according to the results. Only 8 percent of respondents indicated that they are using the business model for the current game they're developing, while 22 percent said they were using paid in-game items in their current game.

Looking at accessibility features for players with sensory or motor impairments, 48 percent of game makers — a similar result from last year — said that they have not implemented such elements into their current game, while 28 percent have. 

In the area of diversity and inclusion, 24 percent of respondents indicated that their studio has focused on staff inclusion and diversity initiatives "a moderate amount," while 18 percent answered "a great deal." In March last year, reports of a sexist and hostile culture emerged at Riot Games, which resulted in the Santa Monica-based video game company hiring a chief diversity officer to lead new efforts in diversity and equality. They later settled a lawsuit over discrimination and sexual harassment.

Efforts to improve diversity, in particular, have gained visibility in the industry in the last year. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2019, the We Are initiative was present for its third consecutive year, working to continue the advancement of emerging female voices in games. 

Among its major events, the Game Developers Conference includes a 60-minute presentation from Death Stranding creator Hideo Kojima about his journey in making the action-adventure title, as well as the Game Developers Choice Awards and the Independent Games Festival.