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Retail losing importance, finds GDC survey

Third annual State of the Industry Survey shows that only 13% of developers get the majority of their profits from retail as digital rises

According to a poll of 2,000 North American game developers who attended GDC 2014, retail isn't what it once was to the business of games. The third annual State of the Industry Survey has revealed that only 13 percent of developers said they saw the majority of their company's profits from sales at retail. Digital has clearly been gaining momentum, as 29 percent said they made the bulk of their profits from direct sales to consumers, and 21 percent cited micro-transactions as their primary profit driver.

And speaking of profits, as the U.S. econony continues to rebound, many developers reported enjoying better income in 2014. Of the developers surveyed, 42 percent said profits were higher in 2014, and 20 percent said profits remained the same year-over-year. Furthermore, 44 percent of developers noted that their company had expanded during the year, while 16 percent said they lost some staff. Another 38 percent said headcount remained the same, while an unfortunate 2 percent said their company closed entirely.

As for where developers are focusing their efforts, it's clear that the digital revolution is being fueled by the PC and mobile scene. 56 percent of respondents said their current game will be released on PC and 50 percent said their current project will release on smartphones or tablets (compared to 53 and 52 percent, respectively, a year ago). That being said, there is some traction building up with the new consoles, as 26 percent of developers said they're currently working on a PS4 game (up from 14 percent last year) and 22 percent said they're working on an Xbox One title (up from last year's 12 percent). Of course, many of these titles are being developed across multiple platforms.

Interestingly, with the rise of broadcast media like Twitch and others, eSports has also gotten a lift, it seems. 12 percent of developers surveyed said they're working on a game they consider to be an eSport, and 79 percent said they do indeed think of eSports as a long-term, sustainable business.

"Creating a game as an eSport causes it to become a hobby and an interest outside the act of playing it," said a developer in the survey. "This increased engagement is one way of allowing a game to become part of a player's life in ways that [don't] require them to always be investing their time into playing it."

GDC 2015 will take place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from March 2-6. will be in attendance to bring you full coverage.

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James Brightman avatar
James Brightman: James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.
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