Product performance and quality
Developers are largely optimistic about the quality of their current project; 31% report they are very confident and 36% are somewhat confident, compared to 16% neutral, 11% somewhat unsure, and 6% very unsure. 88% of developers that report being confident in their game's quality also report positive job satisfaction.
Critical and market success
When we ask developers about their perception of their last project's success in the market, they are a bit less optimistic; 25% say they considered it to be very successful, 31% somewhat successful, 23% neutral, 13% somewhat unsuccessful, and 8% very unsuccessful.
They did better with the critics, however; 28% report that their last project was very well received, 37% fairly well, 25% neutral, 8% fairly poorly, and 2% very poorly.
We were somewhat surprised to see that the estimations of critical success and market success were relatively close to each other. This could be because critics are accurately reporting product quality (and evaluating games with standards similar to those the public uses to make purchasing decisions), or because their reviews have a strong effect on sales, or possibly a combination of the two.
Connecting workload to success
Developers on 51- to 60-hour work weeks are the most likely to report their last project as a market success (64%), followed by devs on 40- to 50-hour weeks (60%), 61-70 (50%), 71-80 (43%), and less than 40 hours/week (38%). 70% of devs who never work weekends or holidays report having successful projects, compared to only 43% who worked weekends/holidays at any frequency. Also, about 60% of motivated teams had successful projects, compared to 40% for unmotivated teams.
All in all, we're seeing a fairly strong relationship between motivated, well-treated developers and successful projects.
Shocker: Game development is a chronically late business. Only 49% of developers say their last project shipped on time, while 33% made it less than six months late, 11% between six months to a year late, and 8% shipped over a year late.
Overall, these survey results point to a consistent pattern: Poor product quality and performance is connected to low motivation, morale, and excessively long hours. From our perspective, these statistics stress the importance of effectively managing a project's scope and workload throughout development; long, intense crunch cycles appear to be symptoms of flawed project scoping, planning, and management.
Taking the indie dev pulse
With so many experienced developers deciding to start their own studios after one too many layoff cycles, we thought we'd ask: How are the indies doing?
Indie devs have half the market success rate of other devs. 34% of indies (both individual developers and small independent studios) have successful projects, compared to 70% for publisher-owned studios and 65% for first-party studios.
Indies are far more likely to work less than full-time. 28% of small indies work less than 40 hours per week, compared to 6% of first-party devs, 10% for publisher-owned devs, and 15% for established indies.
Small indies are having the best of times and the worst of times. On one hand, small indie developers are far more likely to be able to work from home (81%, followed by 56% from first-party devs), they're the most confident in their current project's quality (36% of "very confident" responses were from small indies, followed by 30% from first-party devs), and they report that their job has the least negative impact and greatest positive impacts on their family and social life than any other dev studio type.
On the other hand, they're more likely to regularly work weekends or holidays (36% of devs who regularly work weekends/holidays are small indies, followed by first-party devs at 19%), and they report the highest rate of dissatisfaction with benefits and compensation. Also, small indies have the lowest reported rate of shipping on time (39%); publisher-owned studios ship on time 59%, and both first-party studios and established indies ship on time 49% of the time.
In addition to the survey questions, we left an open comment space for the respondents to comment on the industry (or the survey) however they liked. Here are some of the responses.
"Console game development has always been great. But the social/web space I now work in sucks -- I only do it for the money :-("
"I've basically stepped out of mainstream game production into indie games and education. I've taken a pay cut but I work at home and really enjoy the people that I choose to work with. The projects are rewarding and I'm learning new things. I believe that education is a great way to stay in touch with the new generation of people entering the industry and a perfect way to keep in touch with the wonder of working within an incredible industry."
"I'm not sure this survey fits self-employed indie devs. I'm not sure I'll make it as an indie dev but after half-a-dozen work-induced mental breakdowns at a triple-A developer before being made redundant and left unfit for full-time/proper work I don't have much choice anymore. I'll probably be dead in 18 months. Thanks industry. Thanks a bunch."
"Been wanting to get into the industry since early high school and it did not disappoint. I love this industry."
"I co-own and manage production for a studio that does not have ongoing forced overtime. We successfully deliver projects on time and on budget, so it can absolutely be done without the workplace hostility, harassment by management, and lack of basic project management skills I've seen at previous studios."
"My current title is game designer. I got into this after years of art and animation work. I'm a pretty creative person. Recently I've been tasked with gathering data, analyzing the data, creating graphs, reports, scheduling tasks, and tracking work. I have no fucking clue what I'm doing. Somehow my job description and task are not in sync, and the work I'm doing is well outside of my skill set. Yay for my job."
"When I look around the office and notice that there are no older people working at the company, it's easy to understand why. The pace at which we work is going to burn you out until you either have a heart attack or leave."
"Let's stop the crunch and the abuses."
"My company hasn't had a real crunch in two years, a testament to better working conditions through good management."
"I would attribute unreasonably long work hours, over many years, to the recent onset of multiple, serious health problems for me. This includes incredibly painful repetitive-stress injury to both my hands, as well as back and neck problems that will require surgery."
"Got bought by a large publisher. The Eye of Sauron has moved and now we have producers everywhere making us quantify everything. I'm very concerned that this will stifle creativity and push 'polish' out so far it gets cut."
"While my work demands aren't high, the product is served to a very base audience who doesn't expect anything. A large part of my office's work is in free online gambling. It's very frustrating providing a product to a user who is solely interested in winning money, and has no interest in the content you're trying to provide."
"This is a hard job."
"I would like to see improved maternity benefits for women in the game industry. It would be a good way to reach out to the female minority."
"It would have been nice to have an industry mentor growing up."