GDC State of the Industry report highlights layoffs and generative AI concerns

A new GDC report has highlighted a growing number of concerns within the global games industry.
video game development gdc state of the industry 2024

The latest GDC State of the Game Industry Survey has revealed a raft of major concerns hitting the games industry, with 3,000 survey respondents highlighting growing issues in studios around the world. Layoffs were highlighted as a major concern among developers, with around one-third of all developers surveyed indicating they’d been impacted by layoffs in the last year, but generative AI was equally worrying, as was the unfortunate downfall of Twitter / X.

Here’s the breakdown of the latest survey results.

Layoffs have impacted one-third of all game developers

As revealed in the GDC survey, one-third of all developers surveyed were impacted by layoffs in some manner, either personally, or due to their employer initiating layoffs. Quality assurance developers were seemingly the most impacted, with business and finance professionals being the least impacted.

The fear of impending layoffs is also having a major impact on game developers, with around 56% of respondents expressing fears of future layoffs, and believing their company could initiate more job cuts in the coming months. One third of respondents were not concerned, and did not believe their company would need to undergo changes.

In analysing the reason for layoffs, many respondents highlighted “post-pandemic course correction” as the main reason, as well as studio conglomeration. Some believe the best course of action to overcome this is for developers to continue to unionise, and to fight for their rights as employees.

Generative AI is a rising concern

One of the other major concerns facing developers is the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI), and its ethical use in game development. 84% of developers surveyed are reportedly concerned about the ethics of using the technology, with many worrying it could lead to more layoffs and “supercharge copyright infringement of intellectual property,” as many generative models use data (images and text) taken without consent.

Notably, around 51% of developers indicated their employers had policies regarding generative AI usage, with only 2% of respondents indicating it was a mandatory part of their workflow. 12% of developers reported they were not allowed to use generative AI in any capacity.

In the coming years, it’s likely these statistics will shift – and as new laws and restrictions come into play, we may see the use of generative AI advance or decline.

Unity’s dominance may be in jeopardy

In mid-2023, software company Unity indicated it would be changing its pricing structure in a way that would significantly impact the potential profit of its user base – and while this decision was swiftly reversed following major backlash, it seemingly still made an impression on developers.

In the GDC State of the Game Industry Survey, one-third of respondents indicated they had considered switching game engines within the past year, with many reportedly citing Unity’s change in policies as their main reason. Godot, a major competitor to Unity, was listed as a potential candidate for switching, with developers expressing a desire to leave behind Unity or Unreal Engine.

Beyond these major concerns, developers also revealed a range of other growing issues they believe have caused disruption to their work. One of these is the fall of Twitter / X – with 97% of developers who discussed social media marketing expressing “negative views” on the platform, and how it’s become barely useable since being taken over by new management.

In addition, developers also expressed concerns about mandatory Return-To-Office conditions, with many under RTO restrictions reporting dissatisfaction with a lack of company flexibility.

You can read more about the sentiments backing the modern games industry, and learn more about these rising concerns, in the GDC State of the Game Industry Survey for 2024.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.