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79% of devs are increasingly pressured to release unfinished games

New data from Sauce Labs reveals the state of play from the game dev frontlines with staff exposed to bullying and threats online
79% of devs are increasingly pressured to release unfinished games

New data from automated testing platform Sauce Labs has revealed just how many developers suffer new hardships in the internet age, with almost half having felt threatened or bullied online because of a game they have been involved in.

One step further, almost 20% of developers have worried for their physical safety as a result of online threats.

Sauce Labs’ 2023 Gaming Experience Survey Report brings attention to the ever-important subject of mental wellbeing, here in the context of game developers. Through surveying 150 full-time and part-time devs and 500 gamers in the US, the report aims to determine the impact of new releases, feedback, and feedback loops affect them.

Trouble communicating

An "open channel of communication" between developers and players is highlighted as a key necessity in the report, with 71% of devs wanting feedback on performance, playability and game mechanics more than anything else.

Currently, 55% of devs feel they have insufficient detail in this regard, making it challenging to enact the changes players want to see. This comes in part from too few users providing a manual report - a problem 45% of devs noted.

Such an issue even arises during the beta testing phase - a period where the main purpose is typically to gather user opinions - with 44% of devs struggling to organise feedback thereafter. Finding experienced testers can also prove difficult.

The risks to mental health

As gamers' voices grow louder online, dissatisfied with the increasing number of unfinished and glitchy games, the pressure falls on developers. Consequently, mental health suffers.

A concerning 48% of devs have felt threatened or bullied due to a game they helped develop, resulting in stress, depression, and even negative impacts on physical health.

With technology continuing to evolve, expectations for games grow with it, yet development times don’t always follow suit. 61% of devs reported releasing a game under pressure, aware that titles aren’t really ready for market but being unable to postpone release dates. An even higher number, 79%, have reported that pressure to release an unfinished game has increased in the past five years, only adding to the problem.

Overall, Sauce Labs’ report gives a strong indication that change is needed from higher up the chain, with developers having little say but the brunt of the backlash.

Last summer, the University of Oxford released a study investigating whether video games damage the mental health of players.