Each year, the team here at Unity dives deep into first-party data to give creators a comprehensive look at the trends that are shaping the gaming industry. Download the 2023 Unity Gaming Report to get data, insights, and helpful tips from Unity and successful creators.
This year, we surveyed** over 350 people working in the gaming industry (mostly developers) and interviewed 29 studios including Zynga, Second Dinner, SYBO, and many more. The result is a report that includes over 90 creator insights and many different voices from the community. In fact, there was so much valuable creator wisdom that we couldn’t fit it all in the report. Keep reading for more insights on topics that are top of mind for successful studios.
One of the forecasted trends from the report is that user-generated content (UGC) will become more of a priority for both studios and players. UGC is content created by players and can include custom maps, mods, skins, and even entire games within a game. UGC adds an extra layer of depth and creativity, and provides players with a sense of ownership and control over their gameplay experience.
UGC is also a part of your game’s monetization strategy. Studios can create marketplaces where content can be bought and sold. This helps expand revenue streams while also providing players with a way to monetize their creativity.
Multiple creators cited UGC as a technique to keep players engaged. Kellee Santiago, Director of Production at Niantic, had this to say:
“User-generated content is such a powerful tool to engage a community around a particular game. Being able to empower players to continue to breathe life and grow a game by making it very personal to them in their local communities is really interesting to Niantic and is something that we look at a lot.”
And Kellee isn’t alone. Matt Wyble, EVP of Product and Business at Second Dinner, also had some thoughts on UGC:
“The games that I feel the deepest connection to are those where I made something in it. To me, it’s the final tier of player connection and can be really powerful. This is especially important to younger users, who conceptualize games as creation tools.”
UGC came up in our survey data as well. Over 18% of survey respondents reported that they are using UGC as a technique to keep players engaged in their game.
|Takeaway: UGC can be an effective tool for establishing a connection between your players and game to improve retention and engagement. It can also be used as a way to diversify your game’s monetization strategy. Curious about how you can build UGC into your game? Join the open beta for Unity’s User-Generated Content service.
Multiplayer was also a hot topic, with nearly half of survey respondents choosing “more multiplayer games” as a top trend for 2023. Some of the reasons for increased interest in multiplayer game development included: more powerful mobile devices, improved access to multiplayer development services, and a larger demand for games that encourage people to connect.
This checked out in our interviews too. Robot Squid Cofounder and CTO Tobias Barendt offered this insight:
“Almost every game has some kind of multiplayer now. People really expect to be able to play online now. And with all the tools out there, it’s quite easy to make multiplayer games.”
Lauren Frazier, Cofounder and CTO at Ramen VR, had some ideas about why multiplayer games are on the rise:
“For small teams who wanted to do multiplayer or VR stuff, I think it’s gotten a lot easier, especially for multiplayer. I think that DOTS has been a huge gain, and allowed people to do things that they couldn’t before.”
We also heard a few mentions about the rise in co-op games. From Jonny Hughes, Director at Hugecalf Studios:
“Co-op games are getting more popular. Coming together and working together is a super powerful way to play games. Streamers love that sort of stuff because they can play with their audience or play with another streamer.”
Ben Brode, Cofounder and CDO at Second Dinner, weighs in about the relationship between multiplayer games and attention from the gaming community:
“If you think about it, all the big Twitch games tend to be multiplayer, and I think it’s because they create better stories. That interaction with people has become a very important way of finding out about games. It used to be that you could mainly find out about games from journalism, but the continued shift to player interaction continues to bode well for multiplayer over time.”
|Takeaway: If you’re thinking about building a multiplayer game, you’re in good company. Our data shows that studios think multiplayer games are a trend that’s here to stay. Making multiplayer games isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. With tools like Game Server Hosting, Netcode for GameObjects, and DOTS, building ambitious multiplayer games is now more achievable for studios of all sizes.
A game’s player base is pivotal to its success, and a thriving community can provide studios with helpful feedback, valuable insights, and word-of-mouth promotion. Player communities can also drive engagement and retention. When players feel a sense of belonging within a community, they are more likely to continue playing and investing their time and money.
Creating and maintaining player bases can be challenging. An added complexity to growing a community is ensuring that it is a safe and healthy place to be. Creators had a lot to say about building and maintaining healthy communities in their games. From Andres Tallos, Cofounder and CEO at Everguild:
“One of the biggest challenges is keeping a community healthy. In addition to having an active, growing, and engaged player base, it’s important to keep the community free of toxicity as much as possible. To me, a healthy community is one where any new player can come into the game, feel welcome, make friends, and share their experiences.”
Lauren Frazier also talks about Ramen VR’s approach to positive reinforcement of healthy player behavior:
“We incentivize people in the community who do the right thing. We lift them up, point them out. We give them titles, we give them stuff so there’s a reason you get rewarded for behaving well, and you don’t get anything besides kicked out for behaving poorly, right? So that kind of leads people to correct other people. I think it’s important to empower the community to moderate itself in a good way to keep it safe and fun.”
And Matt Wyble speaks about the responsibility he feels in creating a positive and diverse community for Second Dinner’s players:
“Healthy communities are diverse communities where people feel safe and welcome. It’s not easy, but it’s important for us to try with all of our might to improve and make a dent in the universe and make it better. However we can do this for our relationship to our players, and where we can, the players’ relationships to one another.”
|Takeaway: A good place to start when building healthy player communities is to create clear communication channels (Discord, Twitch, social media) and encourage your players to get involved. Next, set some community guidelines that outline acceptable behavior in the game and its communication channels. You may also want to learn more about how toxicity in games can impact your player community and what you can do about it. Stay tuned for more features to connect players, including Friends and Leaderboards, coming soon as part of Unity Gaming Services.
The 2023 Unity Gaming Report has over 50 pages of data and insights you won’t find anywhere else. Some examples of what you’ll see in this year’s report include:
There’s also a discussion about the report going on in the Unity forum, so feel free to join the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this article, the report, and this year’s predictions.
**Please note our survey responses have a margin of error of +/- 5.2%.