State of the Industry — The New Direction of Game Development

Published: January 16, 2015 9:30 AM /


GDC research predicts the future

Over 2000 attendees at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco were polled in 2014. There they were questioned about the current state of their business and their intentions. The results were eventually tabulated, and yesterday, they were released. This annual State of the Industry Survey grants us a glimpse at the future of gaming and what trends we can expect in 2015 and beyond.

UBM Tech(United Business Media) performed the polls. They've been around in one form or another for over 150 years and are responsible for putting together the GDC. As one of the largest organizers of tech trade-shows in the world with such a rich history and massive reach; it should be expected that they produce quality statistics.

Xbox One and PS4 to See Nearly Twice as Much Development

Developers were asked: "On which console do you anticipate your next game will be released." We take a look at and examine the answers to that question below.
  • PS4 24% / Last year 14%
  • Xbox One 22% / Last year 12%
  • PC 56% / Last year 53%
  • Smart Phones or Tablets  50% / Last year 52%
There's not a lot of change in the PC and smart phone numbers between now and last year. Though it may be a little surprising that there is a minor decrease in development for tablets and smart phones. However, PS4 and Xbox One are seeing almost twice the attention they received from developers in 2013. Next, let's look at a chart that shows us all the various platforms.

gdc state of the industry report platforms

It's a little startling to see such little development on the handheld side. As for consoles, the dismal 4% for the Wii-U shows just how completely the industry has moved on.

The fact that more developers are releasing their next game for browsers than for PS4 and Xbox-One is a bit of a revelation as well. Browser games must really be bringing in the cash, despite their typical lack of coverage in the media.

While these numbers are very telling; it is important to remember that even with a survey of 2000 developers, this is still just a snippet of the industry as a whole. Actual percentages from all the game developers in the world could be vastly different, but somehow I doubt that is the case.

Digital Sales and Micro-Transactions Overtake Retail in Profits

This year developers were asked a new question. Where do you make the most of your money? The answer may be surprising to some. Developers that claimed to make most of their profits from digital sales and micro-transactions outnumbered those that indicated the majority of their income came from physical sales, by a ratio of over 4 to 1. However, it is important to note that a large group of those surveyed either made no profits, were non-profit, or didn't know which sales method made them more dough.

Below we can see where developers say they are making the most money.

  • Digital Direct Sales 29%
  • Micro Transactions 21%
  • Retail Sales 13%
  • Unknown, Nonprofit, No Profit 19%
Today we find ourselves at a point where physical game sales versus digital game sales are neck and neck. Right now, it's literally too close to call. While researching this subject for the years 2013 and 2014, I found some sources claiming that digital sales trumped physical, and I found some claiming the opposite. At this point, I'm not sure if anyone truly knows which format is actually selling more copies, but with this new info, it seems pretty clear which format is making developers more money.

Whether physical and digital game sales will reach some kind of equilibrium is hard to predict. Could physical copies be going the way of disc-music? It's pretty clear that no matter where physical copies end up, digital is going to be owning the majority of the pie. While it's apparent that this is great for game developers, is it bad for the economy in general? Are the loss of retail sales jobs going to be made up by developers that expand their staff and services?

More Developers Wish to Tap Into The Popularity eSports

Finally, the poll revealed that more than 1 in 10 of the developers surveyed are making an eSports game. Hopefully this means that gamers will be able to look forward to more variety in the genre, instead of just more MOBAs with different skins.

12% of developers claimed to be working on an eSports title, while 79% said that they see eSports as a sustainable business model.

What do you gamers think? Do you want to see more developer attention directed towards eSports, or would you rather they work on something else?

gamers vs developers

Who Decides the Future of Gaming? Gamers, or Game Developers?

The industry is going through a lot of flux right now. All these advances in technology and consumerism are causing developers to change the way they make and sell games and it's good to see the industry adapting to and growing dependably.

So here we have a vision of the future brought to us by the developers of games, but do they clash with your own dreams for gaming? In the end, who really decides where the market goes? Do developers lead gamers with their visions of innovation and change, or are they simply responding to our demands? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Hi, I'm Ben. I am a 35 year old gaming veteran. My first console was a Mattel Intellivision(released 1981, purchased 1983) and I have owned at least… More about Benjamin