Is mass games industry unionisation on the horizon? Survey reports devs working up to 95-hour weeks

A new IATSE survey reveals that only 42.9% of game devs believe they are in sustainable careers, and most experience crunch

Is mass games industry unionisation on the horizon? Survey reports devs working up to 95-hour weeks

Compared with creative industries such as acting and screenwriting, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) has taken note of the lacking number of unions in the world of video gaming.

In aims of addressing this, the IATSE has released a 2023 Rates and Conditions Survey of hundreds of developers regarding pay, benefits, and conditions of work, broadening everyone’s understanding of the greater industry.

The topic rises following an unfortunate 2022 wherein mobile games as a whole dropped in revenue for the first time ever. While things look to be improving this year, there has been a need for cutbacks nonetheless, with EA, Embracer, Ten Square Games and many others laying off staff.

Development crunch

As reported by IGN, the IATSE’s survey was conducted this year between March and August. More than 57% of respondents most recently worked on a Triple-A title, and the average amount of experience across all participants was 6.9 years. Only 42.9% believe working in gaming to be a sustainable career.

One of the greatest problems game developers are facing is crunch. Sauce Labs found the same in another recent study - revealing that 79% have felt pressured to release unfinished games - and now the IATSE’s evidence backs this up.

Exactly half of those surveyed have experienced crunch in the past two years, with some participants citing working 14 hours a day on 8 hours’ pay and their base pay not rising with increasing living costs. The most hours worked were 95 per week, and more than 36% of employees don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Overall, respondents considered pay to be the most crucial thing in need of change, followed by overtime and crunch.

Yet, the survey states that the developers are unable to "negotiate viable solutions to these problems on their own", quietly implying the value of unionisation.

The idea is one that the IATSE intends to discuss more loudly going forward, but some employers have shown an aversion to staff unionising before, such as Activision Blizzard withholding raises from union campaigners last autumn.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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Aaron is the News Editor at and has an honours degree in Creative Writing.
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