A Market Analysis for Tool Usage in Game Development

Good morning, afternoon or evening (or night?) to you fellow game-creating people of the internet. This is Marco from 2GuyGames, and today I will tell you about the market analysis that we did to find out how profitable tool development in the game industry might be. Obviously, it is very important to have a rough idea about how big the market, that you are going into, is. Before I start: Don’t take the data I am about to show you at face value. We are no statisticians, nor do we have awesome amounts of data. All of this serves as an example, and can only give us a rough idea about how big the market really is. OK? OK! Let’s go.

What we want to know Before we start collecting data, we defined what we actually wanted to know. The following are our research questions:

  • How many people/teams develop games?

  • Which engines are used?

  • How many people are there in one team?

  • How much do they spend on tools?

  • How much do they spend in total yearly?

Data Collection Equipped with these questions, the obvious thing to do is to look for existing data on the internet. You probably aren’t surprised to hear that we didn’t find much hard data. Unity, the engine we are mostly interested in, used to publish usage data but stopped in 2016. [1] is a nice summary of data that was released up to that point. It states that Unity holds 45% of the market share and has 4.5 million users. We found some more up-to-date information about the Unreal Engine. We found that Unreal had 6.3 million users in 2018 after there was a huge spike in interest for the engine when they changed their monetization model [2]. That is all the data we found lying on the streets. The rest we needed to make ourselves. How did we do that? We asked!

Survey Specifically, we asked developers from different forums, discord channels, facebook groups and also people we know personally to fill out a short survey. The survey contained the following questions:

Q1: I do Game Development as a…

  • Hobby

  • Profession

Q2: How big is your team?

  • 1–5 People

  • 5–20 People

  • 20–50 People

  • 50–100 People

  • More than 100 People

Q3: What is your position in Game Development?

  • Producer

  • Designer

  • Artist

  • Developer

  • Executive

  • Other

Q4: How long have you been active in Game Development?

  • 0–5 years

  • 5–10 years

  • 10–20 years

  • more than 20 years

Q5: Which engine do you use (most)?

  • Unreal

  • Unity

  • CryEngine

  • GameMaker Studio

  • Custom/In-House

  • Other

Q6: What kind of Tools do you or your company buy?

  • Finished Game Systems (Inventory Systems, Battle Systems, …)

  • Miscellaneous (Data I/O, Social Media Integration, …)

  • Process/Project Management Tools

  • Player Data Analysis Tools

  • Continuous Integration Tools (Server, Testing, Project Analysis, …)

  • Artistic Tools (Photoshop, 3D modelling, …)

  • Other

Q7: How much money do you or your company spend on Tools for Game Development yearly (estimate)?

  • 0€-100€

  • 100€-1.000€

  • 1.000€-10.000€

  • 10.000€-50.000€

  • 50.000€-100.000€

  • >100.000€

  • Can’t/Won’t tell

Q8: Why do you or your company rely on Game Development Tools?

  • Increase Profit

  • Reduce Development Time

  • Improve Product Quality

  • Compensate for lack of Skills

  • Streamlining the Development Process

  • Other

We avoided free form text as much as possible, so people wouldn’t quit midway through. In total, we had 72 answers, which is not an awful lot, but enough to get at least some idea.

Results The answers to our questions already give us quite interesting data. For instance, the response to Q5 gives us an answer to the 2nd question we asked initially. The result might surprise you.

As you can see, Unity is used by half of all the people who took part in our survey. That is twice as many people as those who use custom or in-house engines. The next most popular open engine is Unreal, which is pretty far behind Unity. This data somewhat correlates with the data in [1]. This data also lets us estimate how many registered users Unity had in 2018. The Unreal Engine had 6.3 million registered users in 2018. According to our data, this number is 15.3% of all game developers out there. Now it is important to note that not all registered Unreal users would say Unreal is their prefered engine, as we asked in the survey. We can only guess at this number, so let us say it is 50%. That means in total, we have roughly 20.5 million developers (which answers our first question). Half of those are registered users of Unity, which gives us about 10 million people. Considering the past growth of Unity, this feels like a reasonable number. If we assume a linear growth based on the data in [1] we should be somewhere around 8 million Unity users in 2018. Based on these numbers, we can assume that Unity has about 8–10 million registered users.

Question three, “How many people are there in one team?”, can be answered in multiple ways. We decided that it would make the most sense to group the answers by the engine used, so we can see differences in different parts of the industry.

For Unity we get the following answers:

It seems that teams working with Unity tend to be small. However, we can divide the data further by separating the professional developers from the hobbyists (the ratio here is about 50/50). Looking only at professional developers using Unity paints a slightly different picture:

So professional teams tend to be a bit bigger, which is no surprise. All hobbyists answered that their team had 1–5 people. So how many people employs a professional team on average? Just taking the average, it would be 8.7 people. This number sounds very reasonable, considering Unity’s popularity in the indie scene. In comparison, the average for custom engines is 15.3.

With these numbers we can answer our most interesting question: “How much do they spend on tools?” and “How much do they spend in total yearly?”. Looking only at professional Unity developers this time, excluding those who didn’t answer, we got these results:

This looks like very good news! Naively averaging out these results tells us that teams spend about 8.400€ in tools annually. So people are definitely interested in buying good tools. How much is spent in total? We can calculate that number by taking the number of users, the average people per team and their yearly spending. This number will differ of course based on how many registered users we assume as active. If we say it is about half, then our total is 2.5 billion €.

Summary To summarize, we can say that we answered all our questions to some extent, with varying of confidence. A total of 20 million people at least attempted game development. Up to half of those prefer Unity. Also, in Unity alone, about 2.5 million € are spent on various tools annually. That seems like a healthy market to jump right into! So now we can support our vague business idea with some numbers, which should make investors happy.

Next time Stefan will tell you some more about our market analysis and what we do with the data. Hope to see you there!


[1] “How many game programmers use Unity?,” Quora. [Online]. Available: https://www.quora.com/How-many-game-programmers-use-Unity. [Accessed: 22-Jun-2019] [2] “Epic Announces Unreal Engine Marketplace 88% / 12% Revenue Share,” Unreal Engine. [Online]. Available: https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/blog/epic-announces-unreal-engine-marketplace-88-12-revenue-share. [Accessed: 22-Jun-2019]

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