GDC State of the Industry: Devs optimistic about Nintendo Switch, shift VR interest from Oculus to Vive

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Results from the fifth annual Game Developers Conference State of the Industry Survey are in, revealing trends in the games industry based on the feedback of more than 4,500 game developers ahead of GDC 2017 in February and March.

The survey has revealed that game developers are feeling optimistic about Nintendo’s upcoming Switch console, and are unsure about the prospects of mid-cycle console refreshes like the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox’s “Project Scorpio.”

Download the 2017 State of the Industry Survey here!

On the VR front, game developer interest has shifted from the Oculus Rift to the HTC Vive, which is now the most popular VR platform to make games for. Ten percent of VR game developers say they’re working on a game that’s exclusive (on an either timed or permanent basis) to one VR platform — and the majority of them are for the Vive.

The 2017 State of the Industry Survey is the fifth entry in the ongoing series of yearly reports and serves as a snapshot of the games industry and illustrates industry trends ahead of GDC in San Francisco. Organized by the UBM Tech Game Network, GDC 2017 takes place February 27th through March 3rd at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California.

Game makers are feeling optimistic about Nintendo’s new Switch console

Nintendo is expected to release its hybrid portable/home console, the Switch, next month, and the game makers we surveyed seem cautiously optimistic about the platform’s chances.

When polled about whether or not they thought the Switch would outsell Nintendo’s Wii U (which has an install base of roughly 13 million, worldwide) in its lifetime, 50 percent said yes, the Switch will outperform the Wii U. 14 percent predicted it wouldn’t, and 37 percent admitted they had no idea.

The Switch’s ability to…switch between a portable mode and a docked home console mode is the console’s core selling point, but survey respondents seem unsure about whether that feature will resonate with the public. 48 percent said they thought it might, but that it doesn’t seem to be world-changing, while 19 percent said yes, the Switch is the right product for the right time.

11 percent figured people wouldn’t be interested in the core premise of the Switch, and 23 percent said they didn’t know how it would be received upon launch.

Most game makers are unsure about mid-cycle console refreshes (PS4 Pro/Project Scorpio), but more are positive than negative

When asked whether or not they thought the prospect of mid-cycle console refreshes (in the form of the more powerful PS4 Pro and “Project Scorpio” Xbox) were good for the game industry, 41 percent of survey respondents were undecided, 36 percent said they were neutral on the subject, and 18 percent said they thought it was a good thing for the industry. Just 5 percent said it was a negative development.

“The consoles did need reinvigoration due to their low performing specs compared to what PCs were capable of at launch,” wrote one respondent. “Although, I do not want the markets to be divided. I also do not want the eventuality of a yearly release of a new console as I believe this could damage the console market severely.”

“Consoles have benefited from being fixed platforms, single specs to focus on. This mid-cycle ‘refresh’ breaks that benefit,” wrote another. “Developers will now either need to build two games, release a lowest common denominator on the more powerful platform, or release a compromised version on the lower-powered platform.”

HTC Vive outpaces Oculus Rift to become most popular VR/AR platform among devs

The majority of those surveyed (61 percent) aren’t currently involved in developing games for VR headsets, but those that are are focusing on HTC and Valve’s Vive headset above any other platform. When asked which VR/AR platforms they were currently making games for, 24 percent of respondents said Vive, 23 percent said Oculus Rift and 13 percent said PlayStation VR.

That’s a significant shift from last year, when 19 percent answered the same question with Oculus Rift, while the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR garnered 6 percent each.

This was the year that all these headsets hit retail store shelves, so for the first time ever we asked State of the Industry survey respondents on what platform they shipped their last VR game on. Most (75 percent) said they hadn’t been involved in shipping any VR game (yet), while 11 percent said they’d shipped their last VR game on the Oculus Rift. Ten percent said their last completed VR game was released for the HTC Vive, and 6 percent said Samsung’s Gear VR headset.

Looking ahead, we asked those surveyed which VR/AR platforms they expected their next game (the one after the one they’re working on now) would be released on. Here again, the HTC Vive won the greatest share of interest, with 40 percent of respondents saying they expected their next project would come to Vive.

37 percent said their next game would release on the Oculus Rift, and 26 percent said PlayStation VR.

1 in 10 game makers is working on a platform-exclusive VR/AR game, predominantly for the Vive

Of course, the conversation around platform exclusives (timed or otherwise) in the VR game industry has been heating up recently, so we thought it would be interesting to ask survey respondents whether their next VR/AR game was being developed exclusively for a single platform.

Half of respondents said they weren’t involved in VR/AR game dev, while 39 percent said no, their next project would not be exclusive to a single VR/AR platform. 11 percent of survey respondents said yes, their next game would be exclusive to one VR/AR platform or device.

Thirty-three percent of survey respondents who said their next project would be a platform-exclusive VR/AR game said they were creating it for the HTC Vive, making it the most popular VR system for exclusives.

24 percent of respondents said their next game would be exclusive to the Oculus Rift, and 15 percent said their next project would be a PlayStation VR exclusive.

Vive is trumping other VR/AR platforms in terms of dev interest

We tried to gauge the general interest levels for each major VR/AR headset among our survey respondents, and the HTC Vive again won out: When asked to mark down the VR/AR platforms most interesting to them as developers, 45 percent marked Vive. 30 percent said Oculus Rift, and 29 percent marked PlayStation VR. Microsoft’s HoloLens headset came in a close fourth, as it was marked by 24 percent of respondents.

When compared against last year’s results for the same question, we again saw a shift away from Rift and towards the Vive. When we asked last year’s survey respondents which VR/AR platforms most interested them, 40 percent said Oculus Rift; 26 percent said HTC Vive, and 26 percent said PlayStation VR. 25 percent said HoloLens.

A more detailed analysis of the survey can be found in the GDC 2017 State of the Industry Survey whitepaper. For more information on GDC 2017, visit the show’s official website, or subscribe to regular updates via Facebook, Twitter, or RSS.