2024 Gaming Survey: Open Source Wins Big, Split Opinions on AI

New survey from W4 Games shows major support for open-source software among full-time game developers (87%), openness to character diversity, and split opinions on AI and job security

DUBLIN & SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–W4 Games, on a mission to help the video game industry reclaim control by strengthening the open-source Godot ecosystem, today announced new survey results showing game developers overwhelmingly support the use of open-source software in their work, with 87% saying they always (17%) or often (70%) use it. The survey also yielded rich data regarding developers’ views on multiple aspects of open-source game building, AI and adjacent technologies, job security, character diversity, online communities, and the psychology behind gaming.

Compared to proprietary software, a large majority of game developers pointed to better features, innovation, value, and adaptation with open source. Specifically:

  • 78% found that open-source software has a higher ratio of useful features than proprietary software.
  • 77% agreed that open-source software sees faster innovation than proprietary software.
  • 76% agreed that open-source software provides higher value than proprietary software.
  • 74% recognized that open-source software is better suited to adapt to advancing technologies than proprietary software.

Notably, the survey found the Godot engine is quickly becoming game developers’ open-source engine of choice — as 74% of respondents rated it better than other game engines. Only 1 out of 100 said it was worse. Godot enables 2D and 3D game creation and has become increasingly popular among indies for its ease of use, very fast learning curve, and permissive license (MIT). In 2023, more than a thousand commercial Godot games were published.

“These survey results confirm what we’ve heard directly from game developers, that they want the freedom of open source, that they enthusiastically support that ecosystem, and that they favor the quality and continuing evolution of the Godot engine,” said Nicola Farronato, Co-CEO of W4 Games. “We’re working fast to deliver that and to reverse a dramatic trend where game developers, both independent and at enterprises, have had to rely on proprietary solutions from an ever-shrinking number of vendors.”

Open-source evolution and challenges

In thinking about how open-source software will evolve in the game development industry over the next few years, respondents largely see more openness and fair competition coming to the ecosystem (56%) and improvements in open-source game engines (52%). Respondents expressed both passionate and pragmatic commitment to open source, with:

  • 58% saying they’re deeply committed now and for the future of game development,
  • 29% saying they’d use both open source and proprietary software depending on use case, and
  • only 13% said they planned to stick with proprietary software alone

Respondents named multiple, primary reasons that they choose open-source software in game development. More cited inclusivity and making games more accessible to all (54%), the ability to freely modify and customize code for their own projects (48%), and contributing to the ecosystem where individuals and companies benefit from each other’s contributions on a level playing field (40%), than other, numerous reasons.

When it comes to improvements game developers want to see in the open-source ecosystem, 58% said they want to see optimized performance of open-source tools to meet the demands of modern game development, 41% want tutorials and courses from beginner to advanced, 37% want standardized APIs and formats, and 36% want clear licensing guidelines, among other asks.

Specific challenges developers face with open source included concerns about quality and reliability (40%), performance issues (35%), licensing complexity (34%), and poor integration and missing third-party tools or formats (28%), among other challenges. Almost every single respondent said that budget constraints were very significant (64%) or somewhat significant (35%) in their ability to select and use game development software and tools.

Split views on AI in game development — and on job security

Concern about the rise of AI in game development was divided, with 44% expressing concern and 55% saying they had none. When specifying the nature of concerns, more were worried about the use of AI leading to copyright infringement (53%) than any other concerns, though some also cited more layoffs (38%), low-quality or derivative games (38%), vulnerabilities and exploits (36%), and stifling of creativity and innovation (33%), among multiple other reasons cited.

Asked about job security in particular, sentiment was split again:

  • 29% aren’t worried about job security at all
  • 38% aren’t too worried but want to diversify their job experience
  • 31% are worried more layoffs are coming to the gaming industry

The companies where respondents work are embracing generative AI in the workplace, with variations on usage and regulation:

  • 40% said the use of AI is mandatory in their workplace
  • 40% said the use of AI is encouraged or permitted in some areas, but regulated
  • 14% said the use of AI is optional in their workplace in many areas, with few restrictions
  • 6% said the use of AI is not allowed in their workplace

Almost a third, 29%, of developers named AI/ML as the adjacent technology they are most excited about beyond gaming software, while 28% named VR/AR/MR/XR/Spatial, 14% the metaverse, and 8% robotics and drones, among other technologies.

Gaming is therapeutic and diversity is welcome

Survey respondents were clear that they want to see diversity integrated into games. The vast majority (76%) said they want to see a greater diversity of characters, including LGBTQ+ characters, in more games, while a handful were uncertain (5%) and a minority (19%) did not want that.

Respondents shared the biggest barriers to building a greater diversity of characters:

  • 57% cited time constraints on being creative
  • 39% were unsure of fit with target audience
  • 36% cited pressure from other team members or leaders not to do it
  • 33% were uncertain how to do it or feared they might get it wrong
  • 22% said it doesn’t fit with prescribed narratives
  • Only 6% said there were no barriers

The survey also yielded key insights on why people play, community participation, and favorite games. Namely, the vast majority of respondents said they think, at least for some, “gaming is therapeutic or a kind of lifeline for players struggling with acceptance or dealing with other life challenges” — with 63% noting it’s probably true for about 25% to 50% of gamers, and 28% noting it’s probably true for more than 75% of gamers.

Asked what they love about game development, developers ranked options, most loved to least:

  • 1 Using my imagination and skill set
  • 2 The games themselves (action, visuals, etc.)
  • 3 My work is also my hobby
  • 4 Escaping to a virtual world
  • 5 The community and camaraderie

Respondents participate in online communities (e.g., Reddit and other forums) related to open-source gaming and game development in large numbers, with 61% participating in multiple online communities and 29% participating only in an online community for their specific game engine. When considering how online communities can improve the user experience, 40% cited better user interfaces and features for communication and sharing, 33% more involvement from game engine developers, and 26% more moderators to maintain communities.

Wondering what game developers said is their own favorite kind of games? Fantasy world and RPGs were most cited (23%), though ten other categories had some level of support. And favorite game turned series? Pokémon (28%), Cyberpunk (16%), The Last of Us (15%), Dota (15%), and Witcher (11%) were most popular.

About the Survey

Propeller Insights conducted a nationwide survey of 102 full-time game developers and gaming technology professionals in March 2024, sponsored by W4 Games. The vast majority of respondents had 4 to 20 years of experience and worked at companies employing between 100 and 1000 people. Almost 60% were between 29 to 44 years of age. Half self-described as male and half as female, and more than 85% had attended college. The share of respondent female game developers is up from 21% in 2017 and 30% in 2021 in a comparison survey. Propeller Insights is a full-service market research firm based in Los Angeles. Using quantitative and qualitative methodologies to measure and analyze marketplace and consumer opinions, they work extensively across industries such as travel, brand intelligence, entertainment/media, retail, and consumer packaged goods.

About W4 Games

Founded in 2021, W4 Games is an Irish startup formed by Godot veterans Juan Linietsky, Rémi Verschelde and Fabio Alessandrelli, and veteran entrepreneur Nicola Farronato. The company plans to revolutionize the game industry by bringing the Commercial Open Source Software (COSS) business model to an ecosystem that has traditionally relied on proprietary solutions from an ever-shrinking number of independent vendors. By providing a commercial services offering anchored in the entirely open and community-developed Godot platform, W4 Games believes that companies will be able to reclaim control of the technology powering their games, with a level of freedom and flexibility they never had before.


Sara Black


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