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GDC State of the Industry: Devs irked by 30 percent storefront revenue cuts

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) has released the results of the ninth annual State of the Industry Survey, revealing trends in the game industry ahead of GDC 2021 which will take place virtually July 19-23.

More than 3,000 games industry professionals weighed in on what has been a tumultuous year as developers adjusted to remote work, dealing with pandemic stress and being increasingly isolated, while creating entertainment known for helping people get through feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety.

Click here to download the 2021 GDC State of the Industry report.

The survey results show that while the pandemic caused delays for close to half of respondents, studios overall grew or stayed the same over the last year, and that work-life balance evened out after a rough first few months, with most developers now working standard 40-hour work weeks.

The survey also showed interesting shifts in larger industry trends, including greater disapproval of the 30% revenue share many digital storefronts employ, justifying newer, more developer-friendly revenue share models being introduced by Apple, Google, and Epic. There’s also growing interest in developing games for PlayStation 5, with PC continuing to reign as the platform of choice.

44% of developers said their game suffered a delay due to the pandemic. Studios grew during the pandemic: 47% expanded staff; 34% remained the same

Complications brought on by remote work have contributed to delayed games, more so than respondents initially thought they would when first asked this question last summer. Forty-four percent of those polled said “Yes” when asked if their game has suffered a delay due to the pandemic (up from 33% last summer); 48% answered “No” and the remainder said they were not currently working on a game.

However, studios continued to grow over the last year, with 47% of those surveyed reporting that they expanded their staffs. Another shift can be seen in responses relating to productivity and creativity. While 41% of respondents polled last July said their productivity had taken a hit because of remote work, 66% of respondents this year said their productivity and creativity stayed the same or even increased to varying degrees, which goes against the narrative that working from home is inherently negative when it comes to getting work done.

Only 3% of those polled think the 30/70 revenue share on digital storefronts is justified

Down from 6% when this same question was asked for the 2020 survey, only 3% of polled developers believe the 30/70 revenue split on digital storefronts is fair. Game developers largely rely on third-party digital storefronts such as Steam, GOG, Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and the Epic Games Store to sell their games. Selling games via these services comes at a cost—the standard share has been 70% for the developer, and 30% for the platform holder.

That standard has come into question in the past few years, so much so that the standard isn’t so standard anymore: Google Play’s fees will soon lower from 30% to 15% for the first $1 million generated by a developer, per year; Apple similarly reduced its cut to 15% for developers that sell under $1 million in a year (though the 30% cut reactivates to affect all revenue if sales go over $1 million); Epic Games aggressively launched its store with a 12% cut, challenging the industry standard; Steam is still holding tight onto 30%--but gives a discount if a game is making tens of millions of dollars.

PS5 most popular console to develop for; PC still most popular platform

Game developers are settling in with developing for next generation consoles and Sony’s PlayStation 5 is leading developer interest when it comes to game consoles. Forty-four percent of those polled said PS5 is the platform they’re most interested in right now, followed by Nintendo Switch at 38% and Xbox Series X/S at 30%. Among all platforms, the PC led developer interest for yet another year at 58%.

The full survey, which includes more insight into the game development community’s thoughts on discoverability, paid game subscriptions and a multitude of other facts and detail, can be downloaded for free here.

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The Game Developers Conference® (GDC) is the world’s largest professional game industry event with market-defining content for programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, business decision makers, and others involved in the development of interactive games and immersive experiences. GDC brings together the global game development community year-round through events and digital media, including the GDC Masterclass, GDC Vault, Gamasutra, Game Career Guide, Independent Games Festival and Summit, and the Game Developers Choice Awards.

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