European developers are busy making games for the PC and mobile devices, shifting away from consoles — even more broadly than their North American counterparts.
That is the conclusion from a survey of 300 developers in advance of the upcoming GDC Europe conference on Aug. 19–21 in Cologne, Germany. The fifth annual event will provide a pan-European perspective on game development and business trends, and show organizer UBM Tech has conducted a study to capture the unique thinking of European studios.
“The survey showed Europeans are moving away from the consoles to PC and mobile faster,” said Simon Carless, UBM Tech executive vice president, in an interview with GamesBeat.
The survey showed that European devs are embracing mobile and PC/Mac platforms at rates outpacing their North American rivals. About 40 percent recently released a title for the PC/Mac, and 39 percent released a game for mobile. About 49 percent are working on a PC/Mac project, and 59 percent are working on mobile efforts. Fifty-three percent plan to work on the PC/Mac next, and 66 plan on mobile.
By comparison, 34 percent of North American developers said they had recently shipped a PC/Mac release, and 38 percent had shipped on mobile. Forty-eight percent were working on a PC/Mac title, and 55 percent were developing for mobile. And 49 percent planned to work next on the PC/Mac and 58 percent on mobile.
The trend is clearly more pronounced in Europe. When the survey asked which smartphone platforms game makers are supporting, 65 percent said they are targeting iOS, 58 percent said Android, 16 percent said Windows Phone, and 7 percent said BlackBerry.
Consequently, Europeans are focusing less on consoles. Thirteen percent said they were working on PlayStation 4 games, compared to 9 percent working on Xbox One games, and 5 percent on Wii U games. About 23 percent were planning on working on a PS4 title next, compared to 14 percent for Xbox One and 7 percent for Wii U. As a side note, the survey results closed before Microsoft backtracked on an unpopular policy regarding used releases.
Sony’s PlayStation Vita is gaining ground in Europe. Only 2 percent of the surveyed devs released a game for the Vita, but 6 percent are working on a Vita offering, and 9 percent anticipate creating something for the handheld. Only 1.5 percent of Europeans recently released a Nintendo 3DS game, 1.5 percent are working on one, and 2 percent anticipate releasing something for the 3DS next.
As for new markets, 61 percent said that the most interesting one was the tablet space, 53 percent said smartphones, and 39 percent said PS4. About 37 percent also said that boxes based on Valve’s Steam digital-distribution platform were compelling. Thirty-two percent identified Android home consoles as an intriguing market, and 20 percent mentioned Xbox One.
Tax incentives are popular but not satisfying so far. About 10 percent of respondents felt satisfied with their country’s domestic game-development tax incentives, compared to 35 percent feeling unhappy, and 55 percent feeling neutral. About 32 percent thought that the United Kingdom offered the best tax incentives, but the European Union has delayed those breaks. About 19 percent favored France, 12 percent favored Germany, 12 percent favored Finland, and 9 percent favored the Netherlands. Overall, many said Canada had better tax benefits.
“Not competitive with Canada,” one respondent said. “We need more, otherwise Montreal wins,” said another.
The survey found that 71 percent of developers don’t even submit their games to content-rating boards. Of the people who did regularly do so, most submitted to the pan-European PEGI, Germany’s USK, and the U.S. ESRB ratings boards. Many felt it was inconvenient to have a separate rating system in Germany.
“The sooner Germany normalizes with PEGI, the better for everyone,” wrote one respondent. “It’s annoying that Germany has its own rating system,” wrote another.
Lastly, the survey found that the U.K. is no longer the center of European game development. Fifty-nine percent of developers said the U.K. made the best games 10 years ago, compared to 15 percent for Germany, 11 percent for France, and 6 percent for Sweden. But now, the U.K. figure is 20 percent, Finland is at 19 percent (home to new hits like Angry Birds and Clash of Clans), Sweden is at 19 percent (home to Battlefield and Hotline Miami), and Germany is at 15 percent (Crysis).
Asked which country would make the best title five years from now, the survey said Germany at 22 percent (Germans made up 31 percent of the respondents), the U.K. at 19 percent (21 percent of respondents were from the U.K.), Finland at 12 percent, and Sweden at 11 percent.
GDC Europe is co-located with the Gamescom game business/consumer event. Last year, GDC Europe drew about 2,100 attendees.