Game development time slowed in 2023 despite AI tech, but 71% celebrate its strengths

Unity’s Gaming Report 2024 reveals a slowdown from 218 days to 304 in average development

Game development time slowed in 2023 despite AI tech, but 71% celebrate its strengths

Unity’s 2024 Gaming Report explores the five key trends in game development right now. Chief among them is the leveraging of AI tools, which are being used by 62% of surveyed studios, mainly for conceptualising, prototyping and worldbuilding.

Yet, even with AI tools' perception of streamlining workflows, Unity observed a slowdown in the industry’s development time in 2023, with the average game taking 304 days to reach launch. Compared to 2022, before AI hit the mainstream, development time averaged only 218 days.

Return on investment, therefore, is taking longer to reach in the modern gaming landscape as increasingly complex titles take longer to hit the market. Furthermore, the integration of new tools and systems has proven a challenge for 37% of surveyed studios while 40% stated "trialling new technologies" slows R&D, contrary to the idea that AI is a simple and immediate solution.

Rather, it appears to be more of a new skill to hone before it can be properly utilised.

Bolstering AI-nimations

On the other hand, 71% of studios that reported using AI celebrated its benefits in the survey, noting the tech’s uses in improving "delivery and operations" like character animations, writing code, narrative design, adaptive difficulty and more.

Survey data also confirmed that 56% of AI users found utility in worldbuilding, with 64% of them favouring AI in developing NPCs and over 50% using it for language processing.

Sybo Games head of games engineering Fabio Franconeri was interviewed on this as part of the report, stating: "I am experimenting with AI. There are many disciplines that go into making a game, and I am trying to understand how each and every one of them can benefit from it, like tools that can aid prototyping and content generation, level design, and narrative."

68% of developers using AI have been doing so for conceptualising and prototyping, accelerating these processes in 2023. This early part of the development cycle has been overall shortened thanks to AI, Unity found, with an overwhelming 96% of studios spending three months at maximum on this phase.

Comparing that to 2022, only 85% of studios completed this early phase in the first three months, demonstrating that this is indeed an area where AI integration is already paying off.

Unity's full report details the other key trends in gaming from strengthening brands to multiplayer priority.

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