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Games Industry Wary of Steam, Considering Unionization, According to GDC Survey

A survey of 4,000 games industry professionals revealed wariness around Steam’s revenue model and increased consideration of unionization, among other findings, in a report released Thursday.

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) released its 2019 State of the Industry Survey, its seventh annual survey meant to analyze industry trends before the 2019 GDC in March.

The results show that nearly half (47%) of respondents support unionization in the video game industry. The topic of unionization came to a head last year when #AsAGamesWorker trended on Twitter as developers called for better working conditions. After multiple studio closures and rounds of layoffs plagued the industry, as well as reports of crunch and other issues, like harassment within studios, the solution for some developers seems to be to unionize.

Overtime is a reality for many developers, as 44% of respondents answered that they work more than 40 hours a week.

We’ve looked into what unionization would look like for the industry, but not all developers surveyed are on board with this solution. Many respondents said “Maybe” to unionization (26%), and 16% responded that they don’t think game industry workers should unionize, with the remaining respondents unsure.

Some say “No” because it could mean job loss for unionized developers, according to the survey report.

“There is too much supply: too many people want into the industry,” one respondent wrote. “Those who unionize will be shoved out of the way as companies hire those with fewer demands.”

As for whether or not respondents actually think unionization is coming, only 21% responded in the affirmative. A significant share of participants (39%) responded “Maybe” to the question.

The 2019 State of the Industry Survey also revealed developers shifting opinions on Steam, the dominating PC games distribution platform from Valve which 47% said they sell games on.

Of the developers surveyed, 32% responded that Steam does not “justify Valve’s revenue share,” which is 30%. This is considerably more than newcomer Epic Games Store, which takes a 12% cut from developers. Though several developers/publishers are making the shift to the Epic Games Store, the company is not without controversies. Reports surfaced earlier this month that Epic Games received an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

As for what Steam could improve or add, one respondent wrote: “Take less revenue from sales and curate their store better for visibility for real games.”

Looking to the future, one question reveals that less than 2% of respondents are working on games exclusively for currently unannounced platforms, and 16% are developing titles for existing and future platforms. While we don’t have more than rumors of upcoming consoles at this point, it’s exciting to see that games are in the works for them nonetheless.

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