What do game developers make in salary?

A new game developer survey conducted by Gamastura shows what the average game maker takes home in terms of a yearly salary, and, surprisingly enough, it's a drop.

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Gamasutra recently conducted a 2014 Game Developer Salary Survey, an annual survey it holds every year to see what the general take-home pay is for people in development, including audio, design, programming, business and management.

Overall, game developers within the U.S. managed to make $83,060 on average over the course of 2013, and while that's a high number, it's actually a lower one than 2012, down 2 percent.

The business and management salaries seem to rule overall, averaging $101,572, while audio professionals ($95,682) and programmers ($93,521) follow closely behind. As to who makes the least amount of money, quality assurance professionals sit at the bottom with $54,833. Still not too shabby, tho.

“There were major transitions in 2013 that affected the way game developers make a living,” said Gamasutra editor-in-chief Kris Graft. “Whether talking about the advancements in the democratization of game development, or the release of a new generation of consoles, it was a year in which the disruption and chaos of prior years settled in just enough for game developers to identify and adapt to a new reality. Despite the challenges, there’s still an undercurrent of enthusiasm.”    

Other stats from the survey indicate that solo indie developers made an average of $11,812 (a startling drop of 49 percent from the previous year), while members of an indie team managed to earn $50,833 (up 161 percent from the previous year).

The full report can be seen on Gamasutra.

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  • reply
    July 22, 2014 10:30 AM

    Robert Workman posted a new article, What do game developers make in salary?.

    A new game developer survey conducted by Gamastura shows what the average game maker takes home in terms of a yearly salary, and, surprisingly enough, it's a drop.

    • reply
      July 22, 2014 10:36 AM

      Solo indie developers earned an average income of $11,812 in 2013
      Heed this warning aspiring indies!

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 10:46 AM

        is this their fulltime/primary income source though?

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 10:51 AM

        Fact: 99% of indies have no idea wtf they are doing.
        Just because you have the technical skills to make a video game doesns't mean: you'll make a good one, on time, or that you can sell it.
        Just because you are half decent (or even good) at something (video game or other) doesn't you can actually turn it into a profitable business..
        I don't mean to be pedantic it's just a sad fact.

        And for the block heads who cling to the likes of Minecraft or Fez :
        Yes, some 'indies' have made it big, they are called 'statistical outliers'.

        Some make a good living out of it, just like actors or singers do: one out of one thousand. Or worst in the case of games.

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 10:55 AM

        Game dev is my hobby. It's something I enjoy to do, even the business/marketing aspects, oddly. I'll always do it, but it'll probably never, ever pay the bills.

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          July 22, 2014 11:12 AM

          That is the spirit. Over the last two/three years many people have started thinking that it was all easy and profitable and then complain how they suddenly discover it's not so easy.

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 11:19 AM

        solo indie could also be just cranking out an app store game in their spare time

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 1:56 PM

        Starving artists.

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 3:03 PM

        its probably a lot lower than that if you factor in ALL indies (even the ones that don't manage to finish their products, etc...) theres just so many of us now heh

    • reply
      July 22, 2014 10:52 AM

      All these numbers sound pretty good. Except dem poor indies.

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 10:55 AM

        Yeah it is decent, but unfortunately almost all developers are in extremely high cost of living cities.

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 11:04 AM

        Remember it's all self reported, and I would imagine that solo indie developers who feel burned would be pretty likely to report the $300 income from their unpromoted android only mobile game as their income

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 11:08 AM

        it's a survey, people making a lot of money like to brag, those who aren't don't. So you end up with the mistaken idea that artists make 70k/yr, when in reality it can be anywhere between 35k to 50k.

        • reply
          July 22, 2014 11:16 AM

          Yeah, these numbers are always surprisingly high. I feel like I'm doing REALLY well in my career and I'm barely above average here. On the bright side, it does push up the perceived market value of game dev work which is only good for the workers in the industry.

          • reply
            July 22, 2014 11:19 AM

            You're right, it is probably the thousands of contributors that are wrong, not your beta paycheck.

            just kidding :(

            • reply
              July 22, 2014 12:59 PM

              Correct!

              His reporting about his experience is incorrect because someone told you a statistic that was related to them by another party on behalf of those they surveyed, and they are obviously more accurate at reporting their income than he is.

              Wait... I got that backwards again, didn't I?

          • reply
            July 22, 2014 3:36 PM

            Riot should be paying more than that. Check with your co workers.

    • reply
      July 22, 2014 11:26 AM

      Hmm, not seeing much location-based information unfortunately, so I'm not sure what to really get out of that. Overall those salaries don't look that bad, but if you're in San Fran perhaps not so much.

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 12:22 PM

        I think average software engineer salary in SF is something like $120k or something, right? So $90k for a game dev there is underpaid for a profession that requires just as much if not more skill.

        • reply
          July 22, 2014 2:09 PM

          Yeah unfortunately can't tell if that's what is happening based on the article. I assume its an average, but we have no idea how it is weighted again different CoL areas, so it's kinda worthless. We're left guessing.

          CoL is EVERYTHING for such an article.

          • reply
            July 22, 2014 3:38 PM

            I work in SF/Bay area in games and the salary information looks close to what I think people are getting paid. Which would imply not enough for the bay area. However the bay area is CRAZY expensive.

      • reply
        July 24, 2014 10:19 PM

        Yep, that makes this article utterly worthless, especially for engineers. The geographical skew of game developers lends to poor comparisons with salary surveys of other professions, even with other software engineers who aren't game developers.

    • reply
      July 22, 2014 12:58 PM

      Programmers: $93,521

      yikes. crazy how low that is compared to non gaming industries. plus game programmers usually work a lot harder

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 1:29 PM

        i can't tell if this is sarcasm or not. nearly $100k a year is low for programmers in non-gaming?!?!

        i'm actually surprised by these results. I was always under the impression the gaming industry was paid like shit, but 93k a year is shit?

        • reply
          July 22, 2014 1:48 PM

          at least where i live a web developer will make 90-140k. which is much much easier than being a game programmer and also for the most part the job is much more laid back and not very stressful.

          • reply
            July 22, 2014 1:50 PM

            Where do you live? San Fran? NYC? This is blowing my mind that 115k is like the median apparently?

            • reply
              July 22, 2014 1:50 PM

              austin texas

            • reply
              July 22, 2014 2:07 PM

              That's the range in the Seattle area as well.

              • reply
                July 22, 2014 3:10 PM

                That's pretty crazy. Chicago doesn't nearly have that range. Well I suppose you could get that but it definitely isn't the average at all. Your average developer will cap out around $110k before moving into management. Most cap out under $100k.

                • reply
                  July 22, 2014 4:01 PM

                  I suppose having companies like Microsoft and Amazon around here, you see higher salaries.

          • reply
            July 22, 2014 1:51 PM

            Where is this?

          • ArB
            reply
            July 23, 2014 1:47 AM

            Why am I not doing this? Sheeeeiiitt, is this the kind of thing someone can learn on their own or do you need a degree or a Certificate of Sherman?

        • reply
          July 22, 2014 2:06 PM

          College hire at Microsoft, google, and Facebook type companies will pull in 100k out of the gate.

        • reply
          July 22, 2014 2:10 PM

          Considering their skill game programmers are paid much much less than what they could make in say the financial sector. Alot of the programmers i work with in Copenhagen could easily make double elsewhere, and some do occasionally leave to do so.

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        July 22, 2014 1:56 PM

        lol that is not crazy low in aggregate, also it's actually a pretty high number for what I recall the average w actually getting, especially junior guys

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 2:10 PM

        http://www.shacknews.com/chatty?id=32210822#item_32210822

        That's really good for Indianapolis, but it's also dirt cheap to live here. This article is junk unfortunately since it leaves out location-based adjustments/CoL.

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 3:05 PM

        this is a national average which includes juniors and seniors. Of course people in Austin get paid a lot more than people in Wyoming. it's not too shabby

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 3:38 PM

        Seems like the opinion on shack is game developers are lazy.

    • reply
      July 22, 2014 2:50 PM

      I always thought it was shitty that programmers make almost twice the amount I do as a nurse. Like, I can cause serious harm to a person with a dumb mistake. I've helped people die peacefully, I've helped bring people back to life (and crushed their ribs), I've stepped in human shit and gotten it on my exposed body. Piss on my face. Punched, kicked, nearly had my balls squeezed off. 12 hours of dealing with an extremely confused patient (way more exhausting than you'd think when you have 5 other patients to worry about on top of that).

      New nurses here start at about 37.5k a year, which seems stupidly low for the shit we have to put up with. 6 years of experience + night shift differential (an extra $3 an hour, amounts to an extra 5.6k a year) puts me at 56k a year.

      I guess I shouldn't complain, since I'm off four days out of the week.

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 2:51 PM

        oh, and I guess cost of living. I'm sure starting pay in San Francisco is higher. These are STL amounts

      • reply
        July 22, 2014 3:03 PM

        Look at how much nurses and hospital staff make here in Silicon Valley at just one hospital:

        https://www.dropbox.com/s/5m4f3vg2klhutp9/2014-04-09%2015.29.37.jpg
        https://www.dropbox.com/s/4du7jfha9dgirrb/2014-04-09%2015.30.00.jpg

        Base pay is first column, second column is their actual take home for the year.

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          July 22, 2014 3:06 PM

          Correction, one hospital district. Note, highest paid nurse who was a level 3 took home nearly $320K on a base salary of $147K. More than even some executives there. Over 1100 employees there made over $100K.

          • reply
            July 22, 2014 4:03 PM

            Take these with a grain of salt. Some nurses will work like crazy and do ton of overtime but more often than not they will include a persons benefits package in the pay. The hospitals always put out inflated numbers.

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              July 22, 2014 4:40 PM

              This article was back in April and had a larger written piece but it's all take home pay. If I was able to take a wider snapshot the bottom top paid employees were not much more than their base pay rates. You can see a few of them on the far right of the list.

              It's also not just overtime but they can cash in accrued Vacation hours up to a pay period's worth and if they didn't use more than a certain amount of sick hours in a year they can also cash those in too along with other hours. In effect they can make 13 months of pay in a year cashing in. Those without OT opportunities made extra money this way.

              Staffing levels insured plenty of OT because if a person calls in sick then they bring in someone on overtime to fill that position.

              I used this to tell my friend in San Diego and it convinced her to move back up here since she could live with family and she already works a lot of OT but doesn't make nearly as much.

        • reply
          July 22, 2014 3:19 PM

          Why are they printing their names and shit right there in the paper?

          • reply
            July 22, 2014 3:23 PM

            If its a public hospital all of that info is well public. Kind of like school districts you can get info on everything. Nothing illegal at all.

            Same thing with public companies.

          • reply
            July 22, 2014 3:39 PM

            It's a publicly funded system like law enforcement or any agency. You can FOIA all that stuff. Federal, State, and Local employee pay charts are public information too.

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        July 22, 2014 3:07 PM

        as a SW engineer, my first game dev job was under 40k CAD

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        July 22, 2014 3:56 PM

        Come to the Bay Area. It depends on your union if you have one. My non-union job $25hr with no benefits and unsafe patient ratios. I worked far harder than I do no. I started at almost $60hr for night shift as an RN in a hospital. Sometimes I shake my head at what other nurses make in some states. It's why we have so many people that rent a house/apartment here with a friend or two and fly back home once or twice a month. Far better than working for half or less than half the pay.

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          July 22, 2014 10:51 PM

          Yeah, I feel that way. It's best thing to save a lot of money for purchasing a new house to own than renting a house for a wasted of money.

      • reply
        July 23, 2014 1:43 AM

        What the heck. Even Canadian nurses get better pay than that and they're publicly funded.

      • reply
        July 28, 2014 8:23 PM

        your job description fits both prefectly QA AND tech support for big-name computer manufacturers

    • reply
      July 22, 2014 2:55 PM

      Take the numbers with a grain of salt. Unless they have changed things there is no real verification process for the survey. When I took it a few times I got an email asking me to participate and I just entered my numbers.

    • reply
      July 22, 2014 2:58 PM

      Developers.