Despite the inevitable impact of COVID on game development and its worldwide disruption, the Game Developers Conference’s (GDC) annual State of the Game Industry report has found that game developers were surprisingly resilient throughout 2020.
“Game developers have had to adjust to remote working as well as deal with the general stress that comes with a global pandemic, all while making games for people who are in similar situations all over the world. It’s an interesting—if not sadly ironic— situation to be isolated while creating entertainment that helps people get through feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety,” the GDC said in the report.
Every year for the past eight years, the GDC has surveyed thousands of gaming developers on current trends in the industry.
The 2021 data, which was sourced from over 3,000 game developers, was released this week and shows that major delays were seen across the board as a result of the COVID pandemic.
According to the report, 44% of developers cited the pandemic as a reason for game delays.
“We have lost months due to not being able to travel, work in person, and work together more collaboratively,” one developer said.
“COVID basically disrupted our communications and work rhythm,” another added.
But despite delays, 66% of respondents noted that their productivity level either stayed the same or increased during the pandemic.
Furthermore, a majority (55%) of developers worked 40 hours or less per week on average, which means that most developers aren’t working more than the average workweek. All in all, a good thing for developers, especially during the pandemic when the lines between work and home life was blurred.
However, 2% of workers noted working a maximum of more than 90 hours per week, more than double the average workweek.
When asked why they worked more than 90 hours per week, the answers included:
- “Every waking moment.”
- “To protect my team to let them have a good work-life balance, I tend to do all that needs to be done myself rather than delegate. So there have been weeks where I worked around 119 hours per week to make sure we could release what needed to be released.”
- “During the beginning of COVID in March, I worked a couple 100+ hour weeks putting support plans together for our customers.”
Generally speaking, most developers worked overtime as a result of self-pressure (73%), while 33% noted that they didn’t believe their overtime to be “excessive.”
14% of surveyed developers blamed management pressure for their overtime, with an additional 11% noting that they did so because their coworkers did.
“A perfect storm of deadlines, lack of staff to adequately meet said deadlines, and a company where crunch is seen as an inevitability instead of a failure on a management level,” one developer wrote, clarifying they have since left the job.
Another interesting point in the report was the fact that 51% of surveyed developers believe workers in the industry should unionise, but only 20% think they actually will.
As for growth? A whopping 47% of studios expanded during the last year, which is hopefully a great thing for the health of the industry, and the quality of games we’ll be playing in the coming years.
Obviously, the GDC only surveys 3,000 people, so the results will never be indicative of the entire industry, but it appears developers are faring reasonably well amid the COVID pandemic.
You can download the full report here.