Bulletins

Most game developers think the industry should unionize, new survey says

The annual GDC survey shows the steady growth of the industry's labor movement.

Activision Blizzard workers protest outside the entrance

Employees at Activision Blizzard staged multiple labor actions last year to protest the company's workplace culture.

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

The game industry as a whole is slowly but surely beginning to call for systemic change to business practices and workplace culture norms, and developers are now more than ever before looking at unionization as the tool for doing so, according to a new survey.


The Game Developers Conference's annual State of the Industry report, released on Thursday and now in its 10th year, surveyed nearly 3,000 active game developers about a wide variety of topics, from the Epic v. Apple lawsuit and the popularity of new platforms to remote work shifts and work-life balance. Like last year, the GDC survey has begun tracking sentiments toward unionization amid a reckoning over sexist and discriminatory workplace cultures at major game publishers like Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft.

In 2021, 55% of developers said they support unionizing game studios, up from 51% the year before, and 18% of those surveyed think it's a potential reality in the future, down from 20% who felt unionization was possible in last year's survey. Still, many of the survey respondents remain either unsure or on the fence about unionization, seeing it as either too difficult a task or an unrealistic expectation of the U.S. gaming industry, given the size and power of many of the largest game-makers.

Notably, the survey was conducted prior to The Wall Street Journal report last November on Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick's prior knowledge of misconduct at the company, which helped instigate Microsoft's announcement this week that it would acquire Activision Blizzard in a record-breaking nearly $70 billion deal.

GDC general manager Katie Stern told Protocol she expects industry developments like those may have pushed attitudes even further toward unionization and improving game developer working conditions.

Other interesting stats from the survey include 34% of developers saying they felt Epic was in the right in its lawsuit against Apple over the removal of Fortnite from the App Store. Just 8% of developers said they sided with Apple, while others were either unsure or felt both were wrong. The survey also asked about sentiment toward non-fungible tokens and blockchain gaming, with 70% of respondents saying they were not interested in NFTs and 28% saying they were somewhat curious about the space.

Among new platforms, the survey found that developers were almost evenly split on their platform of choice for current projects across PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Android and iOS, with PS5 edging out a slight lead over Xbox at 31% of survey respondents. When asked about general interest in gaming platforms, developers said PS5 trailed only behind PC with 43% of developers saying they were interested in PS5 and its capabilities, compared with just 30% for Xbox Series X/S.

PC remained far and away the most popular platform among game-makers, with roughly 60% of developers creating current and future projects for Windows and 62% saying the PC platform was most interesting to them today. The survey also shows growing interest in augmented and virtual reality, with jumps in the number of developers making future AR (4%) and VR projects (11%) and showing general interest in the technologies going forward (13% and 24%, respectively).

But the popularity of and interest in cloud platforms remains flat, with only 3% of developers saying they plan to make a future game for Google Stadia and only 5% of developers saying they were interested in Stadia. The survey showed developers were even less interested in the future of Sony's PlayStation Now and Amazon's Luna, with a slightly better reception toward Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming platform, considering it's bundled with Xbox Game Pass.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the percentage of developers interested in PS5 and the percentage of developers interested in unionization in 2020. This story was updated on Jan. 20, 2022.

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