The majority of game developers aren’t interested in NFTs, Web3 and other blockchain technology.
In the latest annual study commissioned by the organizers of the Game Developers Conference (GDC), more than 2,300 developers were asked about various subjects about their work and the industry as a whole. When asked about their studios’ interest in blockchain, 75 percent of people said they were “not interested,” while seven percent responded with “very interested,” 16 percent noted they were “somewhat interested” and two percent mentioned they were “already using it.”
GDC also asked developers to provide anonymous reasons for why they’re for or against the blockchain. Interestingly, the first response was more balanced. “Like any tech, it has its positives and negatives. I think it became too fashionable to be openly opposed, and score points on social media, yet I know many devs who are exploring its use more quietly.”
“Now that the hype has died down and the scammers have moved on I think now is a good time to seriously investigate its utility for any positive player experiences. I don’t believe something as large as blockchain is entirely without use,” said another.
However, many of the other responses were negative.
“Blockchain is a textbook example of a solution looking for a problem. Despite being well known for over a decade, it has no practical use-cases — outside of cryptocurrency, which itself has a single use-case of enabling finance fraud. I am distrustful of any company that pursues blockchain technology, as it tells me that they either lack a firm understanding of the technology or are acting unethically,” said one respondent.
One developer was much more blunt: “I’ve designed a game for use of blockchain, and having spent three months doing nothing but researching use-cases, I have concluded firmly that there aren’t any worth pursuing.”
Another buzzword in the industry is also not being all that well-received. While companies like Mark Zuckberg’s Meta continue to talk about the idea of shared, all-encompassing virtual worlds, just under half of developers (45 percent) said they think the so-called “metaverse” won’t ever deliver on its promise. This was in response to which companies they think would be best suited to actually succeed with the metaverse concept.
Meanwhile, 14 percent said Epic Games (Fortnite) is best positioned in this regard, with Meta (Horizon World) and Microsoft (Minecraft) getting seven percent of the votes each. Google and Apple, meanwhile, only got three percent each.
Developers cited a variety of hurdles that the metaverse will have to overcome, including proper monetization, cheaper VR hardware and better standardization of controls across experiences. One developer, though, put it best: the lack of a proper definition. “The ‘metaverse promise,’ as it stands, is nothing. The people trying to sell it have no idea what it is, and neither do the consumers. Remember what happened, and keeps happening, with cloud gaming a decade ago?”
Another area of apprehension and uncertainty is the rapid spate of acquisitions. The one that’s on everyone’s mind, of course, is Microsoft’s pending purchase of Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, but others include Sony’s acquisition of Bungie and Embracer Group snatching up several Square Enix studios.
When asked what kind of impact these waves of acquisitions will have, 44 percent of respondents said they’ll have a “negative” one. A further 32 percent said “unsure” or “N/A.” Only 17 percent of people said “positive” and seven percent said “no impact.”
Some respondents were fairly realistic — “Consolidation is going to happen and we should not be afraid of it” — or indifferent (“As long as they pay the bills and let people make the games they want, I’m fine with it.”)
Others were more pessimistic. “Consolidation is bad for innovation, diversity of products, addressing consumer needs, and ability for new voices to compete on an equitable playing field.”
“I’m a Blizzard baby who’s still traumatized by the Activision Blizzard merger. Major acquisitions will always leave a sour taste in my mouth. There is a lot of money to be made in this industry, and business interests know this. If the trends of these past two decades are any indication, these most recent acquisitions will be terrible for the industry.”
Perhaps the most dryly humorous response: “Big companies get bigger. More homogenization. Less originality. But hey, I guess Banjo-Kazooie can show up in Guitar Hero now.”
One area of game development that’s continuing to see increased support, though, is accessibility. When asked whether their games include options for players with disabilities, the number of people who said “yes” was 38 percent (in line with the 39 percent last year), while the percent of people who said “no” dropped from 36 to 32 percent. Specifically, respondents said they’ve added such features as text captions, reduced motion blur, a colourblind mode and an “arachnophobia mode” to alter the look of enemy spiders.
It’s a good trend to see, especially since there are 400 million gamers around the world have some form of disability, according to Microsoft. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of high-profile games lead the charge on accessibility, including Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part I and Part II, Santa Monica Studio’s God of War Ragnarök and Eidos Montreal’s Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Further, PlayStation recently followed Xbox’s suit by revealing an accessibility controller for the PS5.
The full 2023 GDC survey can be found here.
Image credit: Meta