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Game development trending toward mobile and open platforms over consoles, says pre-GDC survey

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

An increasing percentage of game developers are independent, and they're primarily interested in making games on mobile platforms and PCs as opposed to consoles, according to a survey conducted by the organizers of the Game Developers Conference.

More than 2,500 North American developers sent in responses for the first "State of the Industry" report, which GDC showrunner UBM Tech Game Network plans to compile annually from now on.

The majority of them, 53 percent, characterized themselves as indie developers, while 46 percent of the respondents work on teams of 10 people or less. And 51 percent of the indie developers have been indie for less than two years. On the other side, 24 percent of the developers worked with a publisher for their previous game, and one-fifth are doing so for their current game.

Another major trend is the growth of mobile development. While 38 percent of the developers released their previous game on a smartphone or tablet, 55 percent are making their current game for mobile platforms, and 58 percent plan to launch their next game on mobile devices. Most are developing on iOS (89.5 percent) and Android (75.3 percent), with 15.6 percent working on Windows Phone; no other mobile platform, including PlayStation Mobile or BlackBerry OS, has support from more than 5 percent.

The next segment below mobile platforms is the open space of PC development: 48 percent of the respondents are developing their current game on PC/Mac (versus 34.6 percent for their previous game), and 30 percent are working on browser-based games with Facebook, HTML5 or Flash (versus 21.5 percent for their last game).

53 percent characterized themselves as indie developers

Console support trails behind the aforementioned platforms. About one-seventh of the surveyed developers, 14.6 percent, released their last game on Xbox 360; the proportion was 13.2 percent on PlayStation 3. And 13.2 percent are currently working on an Xbox 360 game, with 13 percent making a PS3 title. Only 4.6 percent are working on a Wii U title, and 6.4 percent are making their next game on Nintendo's new console.

The handheld situation is even more dire. Just 4.2 percent of the developers are making a PlayStation Vita game, and 2 percent are currently working on a Nintendo 3DS title.

But the survey also asked developers about the platforms they're excited or interested in working on. For that question, 45 percent said they're interested in the Steam box (or other living room-based consoles), and 37 percent said they want to develop for Android consoles like Ouya and GameStick.

Microsoft's and Sony's next-generation consoles were next on the list, at 29 percent and 27 percent, respectively, though the survey appears to have been conducted before the official announcement of the PlayStation 4. And Nintendo platforms lagged behind, with Wii U interest at 13 percent and 3DS interest at 5 percent.

the handheld situation is dire

Last year also saw the rise of Kickstarter as a new avenue for funding game development, and that was borne out in the survey results. Of the respondents, 8 percent had worked on a crowdfunded game and 44 percent plan to do so. And 4 percent of games being made by the respondents are primarily crowdfunded.

Only one-tenth of the developers' games are publisher-funded, and venture capital accounts for 9 percent of the developers' funding. Instead, the majority of titles in development are being paid for by studios and developers themselves: 37 percent are funded from a company's war chest, and 35 percent are personally funded.

Update: Check out the findings of the survey below.

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