Survey: Support for Game Developer Unionization is Growing

Survey: Support for Game Developer Unionization is Growing

Plus, about 10% of GDC attendees are currently developing for next-gen consoles.

Ahead of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) each year, the event puts out a survey that gives a snapshot of current trends and speculation in the industry. With new consoles on the horizon and streaming services taking shape, the survey has some intriguing takeaways regarding where studios are focusing their efforts in the coming year, and on how developers feel about their working conditions.

The most notable statistic from the 2020 GDC survey, which approximately 4,000 prospective attendees responded to, is that 54% of respondents say the games industry should unionize. That's a sizeable jump up from last year's percentage in favor of unions (47%), but there's still a wide disconnect between support for unions and belief that unionization will come to pass. Only 23% of survey respondents think game workers will unionize, while 43% think unions might happen and 22% think they won't.

While it seems that some pro-union developers are pessimistic about the prospects of organization efforts paying off, it seems that plenty of workers are beginning to take action. Emma Kinema, campaign leader of the Communication Workers of America Union's new effort to unionize the game industry (CODE-CWA), recently told USgamer that it isn't having a recruitment problem. "We have people reaching out to us, asking how best to organize and how to start making changes in the workplace," says Kinema.

As for where all those workers are focusing their development efforts, the next PlayStation and Xbox are both attracting significantly more attention than streaming services. 11% of respondents say their current project is targeted for release on the PlayStation 5 and 9% say they're developing for the Xbox Series X. About a third say their next game will likely come out for both current and next-gen consoles. Meanwhile, developer support for Google Stadia (6% for current projects, 8% for the next) and Microsoft's Project xCloud (3% and 6%, respectively) trail far behind. However, it's worth noting that Microsoft insists that most games developed for Xbox hardware don't require extra work to get running on xCloud.

The full results of the survey, which also cover topics including industry diversity efforts, the popularity of loot boxes, and whether subscription services will devalue games, can be downloaded here. GDC 2020 itself will run from March 16–20, and as always, we'll be on top of the biggest news from the event.

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Mathew Olson


Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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