Game developers think the metaverse, blockchain is bogus

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The metaverse has been much hyped over the last year. But finding the same enthusiasm among game creators — the people often tasked with building it — is tougher. According to the Game Developer Conference’s (GDC) State of the Game Industry 2023 report, which surveyed over 2,300 game developers, game makers don’t believe in the promise of the metaverse. They don’t put much stock in blockchain technology, either.

The games industry can be opaque to onlookers, as employees are bound by nondisclosure agreements and keep company secrets close to the vest. The GDC survey is an annual look at what game makers are thinking. This year, 39% of those surveyed identified themselves as working for an indie studio, while 23% said they worked for a larger, blockbuster studio.

The likeliest candidate for metaverse ambitions is Epic Games’ “Fortnite,” according to 14% of respondents. Meta and “Minecraft” got 7% of the votes each. “Roblox” got fewer votes at 5%. But despite these mild votes of confidence, 45% of respondents — a plurality — believe that “the metaverse concept will never deliver on its promise.”

One anonymous respondent, whose answers represented a common perspective among developers, explained the skepticism: “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?”

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The survey did not indicate if the 45% who were skeptical about the metaverse were also employees who had to work on metaverse-related products, the survey organizers told The Washington Post.

“I don’t think the data goes quite that deep, I would love to know that personally,” said Alissa McAloon, publisher and editorial director at media outlet Game Developer, which collaborated on the report.

Developers were also asked about blockchain technology, another hotly-debated topic in the games industry. Only 2% of developers said they were already using blockchain technology, while 75% said they were not interested. When asked whether their opinion on blockchain technology in gaming had changed within the year, the majority (56%) said they remained disapproving compared to a year ago.

The majority of respondents thought that the trend of consolidating companies, such as Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, will have a negative impact on the industry. Only 17% thought consolidation would benefit the industry, while 44% thought it would have negative effects. One anonymous respondent wrote: “Big companies get bigger. More homogenization. Less originality. But hey, I guess Banjo-Kazooie can show up in ‘Guitar Hero’ now.”

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Support for unionization across the industry has held steady. About 53% said that game workers should unionize, while 13% said they shouldn’t. The survey also asked workers if they or their colleagues have discussed unionizing at their company, to which 22% responded yes. Developers who had 15 years of experience or less were more likely to support unionization than those with 16 or more years of experience. Those who had 30 or more years of experience were least likely to support unionization.

The industry has also been affected by the “Great Resignation,” or the trend of people leaving their jobs in 2022. About 36% of developers have considered switching companies, with 81% of these saying they were considering it for better compensation.

Developers were also asked about being harassed by players, and 91% of respondents agreed that player harassment against developers was an issue.

“Player harassment and toxicity isn’t a new issue in the games industry,” McAloon said. “But one trend we did see last year is studios speaking out about it and supporting their developers who are facing harassment from community members.”

The Game Developers Conference takes place in San Francisco from March 20 to 24th.

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