Game Developers Want To Unionize According to GDC Year in Review 2019

Published: January 26, 2019 12:44 PM /



This year, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) surveyed around 4,000 game developers ahead of their annual conference in March. The results provide a decent view of the industry as a whole, with perspective from those deepest within it.

A major finding is that nearly half of all surveyed developers support unionization within the industry. 44% of respondents reported working more than 40 hours a week on development, on average. 24% of devs claimed a 36-40 hour work week, 21% said 41-45 hours, and 17% reported 0-20 hours a week. 3% of developers reported working over 60 hours a week, with 5% averaging 51-60%.

On top of this, 2% of respondents said they worked 91-100 hours in one week. 1% claimed 101-110 hours, and another 1% reported they’ve worked over 110 hours at least one week within the past twelve months. “Self-pressure” is the most common reason for overtime.

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No matter the reason, developers are overworking themselves.

Otherwise, the report noted that Steam is still the most popular digital storefront. That said, with the reveal of Epic and Discord's stores, we can expect some competition over the next few years.

47% of developers claimed to sell their games on Steam. Interestingly, the second most popular answer was selling on one’s own website, with 26% reporting this. Itch and publisher storefronts made up 18%, according to GDC's survey. Despite Steam dominating sales, a majority of devs claimed that Valve does not deserve its 30% cut from sales. 6% of surveyors believe that Valve is justified in their percentage cut, with 32% claiming the opposite. 27% voted probably not, and 17% said maybe.

One respondent wrote in their response, stating that Steam should “take less revenue from sales and curate their store better for visibility for real games” to better help game developers. Another wants “better support for amateur, hobbyist, and independent creators. More fostering of things like game jams and actual development communities to be created on the platform.”

An additional developer went all out:

“[Valve needs] to have visibility for low-budget games. They need to fix the broken troll review system. They need to only charge 5 percent for games that are simply hosted with achievements and make less than $10,000 per month."
Back on the topic of unionization, 47% claim the industry should unionize, reads the GDC report. 26% felt maybe, with 16% saying no. That said, only 21% of developers believe the industry will actually do so. 39% think it may unionize, while 24% don’t think so at all. One developer explained their reasoning:
“Companies will just do what Walmart does when they vote in a union: they close the Walmart/game studio and open a new one a mile down the road across the city limits.”
Another respondent:
“It is critical that people who work in games are able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, live normal lives, and be able to enjoy a high quality of life that will work well for their spouses and families. People who work in games should not have to work an unhealthy number of hours and be subjected to poor working conditions just because someone up the chain of command can't schedule an appropriate release date or because they need to show their ‘passion.’ Poor decisions made by those who wield power should NOT be the reason why game workers are having to look for new jobs to replace the ones that just went up in smoke.”
While males still dominate the industry, females are slowly gaining ground. Respondents claimed to be 19% female, up 17% from last year. It is also worth noting that 2% voted other and 2% chose not to answer.

Developers still release on PC and mobile the most, PC is taking a lead over mobile. 56% of devs launch on computers, with 33% on mobile devices. 24% of developers reported releasing on PlayStation 4/Pro, with 20% on Xbox One/One X. The numbers are identical to last year, aside from Switch developers jumping from 5% to 9%.

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Switch numbers are only going to grow as time goes in.

Finally, nearly 1 in 4 developers claim their game performs best on Switch compared to the other consoles. While only 13% have launched a game on Nintendo’s latest platform, 24% claimed sales were greater than average. 20% reported average sales on Switch, with 12% reporting less than average. Keep in mind that only 13% of developers have even launched a game on Switch, acording to GDC.

What do you think of the findings of this developer survey? Anything surprise you? Let us know in the comments below!

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Max Moeller
Author: | Content Writer