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The Game Developers Conference recently released results of its fourth annual State of the Industry Survey. It reveals trends in the games industry based on the feedback of more than 2,000 game developers just ahead of the 30th edition of GDC and the inaugural edition of the Virtual Reality Developers Conference (VRDC). (Organized by the UBM Game Network, GDC takes place March 14-18 — and VRDC takes place 14-15 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California.)
Here are some of the highlights of the survey:
VR’s popularity is heating up
The emergence of upcoming virtual reality (VR) devices like the Oculus Rift, Sony’s PlayStation VR and Samsung’s Gear VR, among others, has proven to be alluring for developers on the bleeding edge, with the survey revealing that development of VR titles has more than doubled among participating developers.
This year’s survey has shown that 16 percent of developers are currently creating titles for VR, up from the 7 percent of developers who replied in the affirmative in last year’s survey. Projecting further into the future, 15 percent of participating developers have affirmed that their next game will incorporate VR, up from the 6 percent who affirmed their VR ambitions last year.
PC and mobile are still the top platforms for developers
The platform wars continue unabated, with 52 percent of developers currently working on a game for PC, down from 56 percent from last year. 44 percent of developers are currently working on smartphone and tablet games, down from the 50 percent of developers working on these titles last year.
The consoles continue to be popular platforms for developers, with 27 percent of respondents affirming ongoing work on a title for PlayStation 4, compared to 26 percent last year. The Xbox One has revealed a similarly consistent level of development, with 23 percent of developers working on Xbox One, up from 22 percent last year. Developer interest in Nintendo platforms has dipped slightly since last year, with 5 percent of respondents affirming that they are working on Wii U projects, down from 6 percent last year. And 2 percent of developers have stated that they are working on titles for 3DS, compared to 3 percent in the previous year.
Game makers believe VR/AR is a sustainable business, but debate the rate of device adoption
Still in its infancy, the current generation of VR/AR platforms has garnered strong developer confidence, with 75 percent of respondents agreeing that VR/AR is a long-term sustainable business to be in.
Despite this growing confidence, developers disagree on the future sales rates for these devices. When asked when they believe VR/AR devices will exceed the adoption rate (roughly 40 percent) of game consoles in the U.S. in 2015, 27 percent of respondents said they didn’t believe VR/AR hardware would ever surpass that level of adoption. Just 1 percent of those surveyed said they expected it to happen by 2018, the earliest time period available for selection. 44 percent of respondents expected it to happen by 2026, and a total of 54 percent believed it would happen by 2030.
In a separate, more conservative VR/AR install base question, 38 percent of respondents predicted that VR/AR hardware would be in 10 percent of U.S. households by 2020. 86 percent figure it’ll happen by 2030, and roughly 9 percent figure it will never happen.
Nearly 90 percent of developers believe esports is a sustainable, long-term business
As competitive gaming enters the mainstream consciousness, the developer survey reflects a growing confidence in esports. 88 percent of developer respondents have affirmed their confidence in the sustainability of long-term business of esports. This represents a 9 percent jump from the 79 percent of respondents who affirmed the same position last year.
The full survey results also reflect that on the mobile front, Android and iOS are now neck and neck in ongoing app development, with 55 percent of respondents making Android games and 56 percent saying they are making games for iOS. For the survey participants, self-publishing was still the predominant means of distributing titles, with 57 percent of responding developers working without a publisher, versus 24 percent who are (20 percent said they work at a publisher).
Dig deeper: A more detailed analysis of the survey can be found in the GDC 2016 State of the Industry Survey whitepaper.
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