It probably comes as no surprise that the pandemic had a major impact on the video game industry. This is especially evident in 2021 as there are major sports delays every week. Companies like Ubisoft have completely shifted their release schedules as studios adapt to work from home development.
This leaves gamers with a lot of worry about how long we will feel the effects of the pandemic in the gaming industry. If games that were nearing completion needed to be delayed by a full year, what does this mean for games that were early in their development cycle?
GDC 2021. We now have some clear answers to those questions, thanks to state of the game industry report. GDC this year surveyed more than 3,000 developers who shed light on how the pandemic affected their games. While the short-term effects have been dire, a move to remote working could be a net positive for gaming in the future.
The immediate impact of the pandemic on gaming has been quite evident. With the studio suddenly being forced to do remote work on a penny, the game’s development hit a snag back in March 2020. like games The Last of Us Part 2 Their release date was changed a few months back to deal with that change, but the real scope of the setback was not felt until 2021. After all, the games that were supposed to launch in 2020 were already close to the finish line. It’s the games that weren’t far enough away that could be affected the hardest.
GDC’s State of the Game survey echoed that result. In the 2020 poll, only 33% of respondents said their sport suffered delays related to the pandemic. This year that number rose to 44 percent. While most developers surveyed said their games have not been delayed, it is still a significant increase from last year.
Game developers have faced a lot of challenges at various stages of the process, from playtesting to prototyping new ideas. I spoke to GDC Content Marketing Lead Chris Graft about the survey findings, who gave a specific example of the obstacles developers face.
“At the start of the pandemic, we were talking to the people at Jackbox and they were talking about how they make games,” Graft says. “Those stuff is so community-based and interactive with other issues. They had a problem with playtesting. I’m an advocate of remote work, but I understand that you can’t devalue face-to-face time.”
Logistics isn’t the only problem game developers have faced over the past year and a half. Several developers cited that childcare also caused some headaches. The work-life balance between juggled from challenging, as developers found themselves hampered by kids who were learning from home. Others lost access to some of their contractors because they had to pivot to taking care of their children full time.
With a year and a half of challenges looming, one has to wonder whether gaming will continue to struggle with delays (both internal and external) after 2021. Luckily, Chris Graft believes we may be past the worst of it as studios restart and formally adopt hybrid workflows.
“If a sport is in its early stages right now, I don’t think five years from now people are going to say that it is because of COVID-19 that it has been pushed back,” Graft jokes. “As people get used to the new processes, things tend to run more smoothly. Once offices start to open safely and people start doing hybrid or in-office work, I don’t Guess why the past year and a half would continue to influence the game release dates.”
If anything, the survey suggests that remote working could be a net positive for the industry in the long run. Developers largely felt that their productivity was not affected while working from home. In fact, 35% said that their productivity had increased either somewhat or greatly, while 32% said it remained about the same. While others found it more challenging, the results showed that developers were more than capable of working outside the studio.
The work done by developers over the course of a week remained stagnant compared to the turnout of 2020. Most of the respondents said they were working somewhere between 36 and 45 hours a week, which is a positive sign that developers were able to create limits in their work-life balance.
One aspect of remote working has been particularly positive for gaming. Studios are less restricted in who they can hire. Instead of simply hiring local talent who can come to an office, companies can expand their talent search because the work can be done remotely. This means studios can hire more diverse, as well as nab powerhouse talent who may not be willing to move on to the job.
Despite the delay, Graft finds that forced shifts to work from home are ultimately good for the industry. The long-term effects may seem troubling in theory, but survey data indicates that remote working is capable of helping game developers, not hindering them.
“I think it’s good for companies to have this option now,” Graft says. “I don’t think remote working is ever going to replace all that personal stuff, but you can strike a balance and expand the talent pool. I think it’s really good for the games industry; getting more people.” Bringing in and not forcing them to go out to the bay or something.”
The video game industry was forced to change over the past year and a half. While some of that was tough, companies shouldn’t put out the work they do for developers. The industry should come out of this strong, not the weak.