Game developers are working on independent projects more than ever and primarily creating games for tablets and mobile, according to data released by the company behind the annual Game Developers Conference.
The survey polled 2,500 North American game developers who either attended last year's convention or have registered for the upcoming one. The findings shared by the UBM Tech Game Network showed a heavy slant toward game developers moving into indie projects.
About 53% of the survey's respondents self-identified as independent game developers and almost all of those said they had been independent for less than two years.
About four in 10 of those transitioning to indie are coming from AAA studios. An example of one of these situations could be Henry Smith, who quit his job as a developer for BioWare last year and has since created the popular Spaceteam for iOS.
Others who claimed indie status were recently graduated students or those moving from other industries into game development. The couple behind the blockbuster Temple Run mobile franchise founded Imangi Studios after they both quit their software developer jobs. And only about one-fifth of all those developers are working with a publisher to distribute and market their current gaming project.
The Future is Mobile
About 38% of those 2,500 game developers responded to the survey saying their last gaming project was on mobile, but more than half — 58% — said they are planning their next project for mobile. iOS took the lion's share of interest, with almost 90% working on a game for the App Store.
The second biggest mobile platform game developers were exploring was Android; three in four were interested in making Android games. That huge increase can probably be attributed to both the rise in popularity of Android phones and tablets, but also the upcoming release of Android-based consoles, like OUYA and GameStick, for the television.
Windows Phone's platform has captured 15% of developers' interest, and smaller platforms like BlackBerry and Playstation Mobile had less than 5% of developers exploring them.
Other platforms aren't left in the dust. PC and Mac games, thanks to distribution networks like Steam and its indie-supporting Steam Greenlight, were a popular destination for future projects. Forty-eight percent of developers are currently working on projects for those platforms.
Consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 had lower numbers, with only about an eighth of respondents saying they were exploring developing on each. There are two explanations for this: the platforms are more closed and require more work for developers and support from Microsoft or Sony. Also, with the announcement of the PlayStation 4 and upcoming next-gen Xbox, it's easy to see why developers wouldn't want to make games for aging systems.
The survey has numbers congruous with that assumption; about one-fourth of the respondents were interested in developing for the next generation of Sony and Microsoft consoles. That next-gen love didn't extend to the Wii U though; only 13% of developers were interested in the console, possibly due to its unsophisticated graphics compared to the upcoming PS4's processing power, or because it hasn't been as widely adopted. The new console sold only 100,000 units in North America in January, according to Gamasutra.
Who's Funding Game Projects?
According to the anonymous responses collected by the survey, the biggest portion of games, about 37%, were funded by the company's existing war chests. But almost a similarly large amount of respondents said they were funding their game projects with their own money.
And while we've heard about a lot of layoffs and bankruptcies lately, from companies like THQ, Zynga and Junction Point Studios, there is good news, according to the survey. About 44% of respondents said their companies expanded, compared to 12% that reported having to reduce staff.
Kickstarter reported gaming was its biggest earning category last year, getting more than $83 million in crowdfunding pledges for funded projects. While only 4% of respondents said they were working on projects funded by some of that crowdfunding cash, the gold rush has attracted 44% to say they would consider crowdfunding their next project. However, the same percentage said they would stay away from crowdfunding.
The survey's creators said they plan to conduct a similar poll every year, to accurately show year-over-year changes in the industry.
The Game Developers Conference is held annually in San Francisco, and attracted 20,000 attendees last year. This year it will run from March 25 to 29.