GDC 2019 survey reveals many game devs want unionization, next-gen titles in development


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Unionization has been a hot topic in the game industry for a long time. It was thrown into the spotlight last year following the closure of Telltale Games, which saw 250 people let go without notice or severance. Out of the near 4000 developers surveyed, 47 percent said they supported unionization, with only 16 percent opposing it. 26 percent said maybe, while 11 percent said they didn’t know.

“It is critical that people who work in games are able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, live normal lives, and be able to enjoy a high quality of life that will work well for their spouses and families,” said one participant.

While almost half the interviewed devs want to unionize, only 21 percent believe it will happen, and 39 percent say it might become a reality. “There is too much supply: too many people want into the industry, Those who unionize will be shoved out of the way as companies hire those with fewer demands,” explained one respondent.

Image credit: Game Workers Unite

Working an excessive amount of hours, known as crunch, is another talking point. Rockstar, which was notorious for engaging in the practice, came under fire after company co-founder Dan Houser made a remark about staff at the studio working 100-hour weeks. But it appears that the industry is addressing the problem: 56 percent of those surveyed said they work 40 hours a week or less, 5 percent do 50-60 hours, while 3 percent work more than 60 hours. Only 1.4 percent said the most they ever worked in one week was 110 hours or more.

The survey also questioned devs about the next-generation of consoles: 16 percent said they are working on games for both current and unannounced machines, while 2 percent are working exclusively on next-gen content.

Additionally, it turns out that only 6 percent of interviewees believe the 30 percent cut Valve takes from Steam game sales is justified. That’s probably good news for Epic Games and Discord, who only ask for about 10-12 percent of the revenue.

Main Image: David Tran via Shutterstock

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"It is critical that people who work in games are able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, live normal lives, and be able to enjoy a high quality of life that will work well for their spouses and families"

This here is entitlement. Don't think you make enough money? Find another job or become skilled/worth enough to make higher earnings. It's what I've done, and at least most of my own country has. It's like how people who flip burgers think they should make $15/hr. What happens? They replace them with robots then you are out on the street and/or become a burden to everyone else. How about instead of flipping burgers, you become skilled enough to build/design or operate/maintain those robots? See how that works? :)
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There has been and/or currently is a big shift going on in attitudes.
to give you an example, I know a little about professional cycling. In the old days (circa 1900 and decades after), the average pro was someone from the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder for whom making it as a pro was their only real chance at real success. They endured brutal races that were designed to be more of a spectacle than a sports event because they had to.
Today, the average pro is a person who has many choices in life, university or college, starting a business etc.
It's this modern pro that is unwilling to accept the conditions the previous generations had to accept. They want their career, but they want "a high quality of life that will work for their spouses and families".
In fact they do make enough money, often millions of euros, but this is the attitude they hold. BTW I read nowhere in this article that devs are unionizing for more money, rather it is the 'quality of life' thing.
If they can develop games I assume they already are educated, but they probably like their work (just not 100 hrs/wk)