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2008 Game Developer Salary Survey Reveals $79,000 Average Income
2008 Game Developer Salary Survey Reveals $79,000 Average Income
April 29, 2009 | By Staff

April 29, 2009 | By Staff
More: Console/PC

Editors at Game Developer magazine, the leading video game industry publication, have released the results of its eighth annual Game Developer Salary Survey, calculating an average American game industry salary in 2008 of $79,000, a 7% increase from 2007’s figure of nearly $74,000.

While the recession is, anecdotally, significantly impacting the amount of jobs available in the U.S., the income of still-employed game industry professionals in 2008 continues to edge up, thanks to increased asking prices for more experienced professionals.

Highlights of specific findings per category for the survey, which is the only major publicly released analysis of salaries in the worldwide video game industry, and is available in further detail in the newly published April 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine, include:

Programming: programmers are the highest paid talent next to high-end businesspeople, with an average annual salary of $85,024. Experience pays in this role, as those with greater than six years of experience earned 26% more than the average annual salary.

Art & Animation: artists – averaging a $69,532 salary, nonetheless, 28% of art directors reported lower salaries than the previous year. But these more experienced, higher status artists also tend to earn at least 35% more than those with less experience and lower title.

Game Design: averaging $67,379, design positions sprouted an average $3,730 over last year. As with many roles, region makes a difference, given that West Coast designers make on average $8,283 or 12% more than the rest of the game designers in the country.

Production: of all the game development disciplines, production – with a salary average overall of $82,905 – is the most welcoming to women, with 21% of the workforce made up of females – more than twice the industry average. The discipline as a whole saw a strong $4,189 bump from last year.

Quality Assurance: testers with less than three years experience make up the largest percentage of this segment – 46%. Quality assurance is the lowest paid of the game development disciplines, averaging $39,571 – almost flat to 2007 – and the majority of Q/A people – 87% - are lesser experienced. The number of female Q/A testers jumped from 6% in 2007 to 14% in 2008.

Audio: sound designers as a group earned 6% more than they did in 2007, up $4,758 on average over last year to $78,167. 74% of audio developers reported that their salaries increased over 2007. Interestingly, 48% of those in the game audio industry have been working there for 6 years or more – more than the 40% for game design, and equal to the 48% for production.

Business & Marketing: the business field as a whole remains the highest compensated group in game development - with an average salary of $102,143 - and also receives the highest amount of additional compensation. However, salaries vary significantly between individual job titles in this section, with experienced VPs and executive managers making the most of any individual section in the entire survey – at $131,085 on average and reporting at least 6 years experience.

An extended version of the “Game Developer Salary Survey” includes much more detailed U.S. regional and growth data for year-over-year results from 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, plus international information from Canada and Europe. It will be of particular interest to business and HR professionals in the game industry, and is now available for purchase via the Game Developer Research division.

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Bob McIntyre
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I'd love to know median, not just mean. This is good information to have, though.

Simon Prefontaine
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Wow, I need to ask for a raise.

Joshua Sterns
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Is it just me, or is QA always at the bottom of the pile. The reason 87% of the QA workforce lacks experience is the high turn over rate and low pay. This article doesn't even mention benefits, but I doubt the majority of QA is lucky enough to have them.

I don't understand why large companies like EA and Activision keep hiring and firing. Why not create a large, permanent, and stable QA team? Sure a handful of temps will be necessary as games get closer to release, but that doesn't mean the majority of QA employees have to be temporary. There are well educated hard working people out there who could really make a difference, and hopefully ship more games that are not swarming with bugs.

Yannick Boucher
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Ok, where are the ones boosting these numbers? SF ? Because if I just look at i'm seeing very different figures.

Yannick Boucher
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Joshua: it's perfectly possible for QA/QC people to move up the ranks. Companies do promote testers, you know ! But the hiring/firing is often due to poor studio project planning. You can't have too many people just sitting there with nothing to do for too long; that's all.

E Zachary Knight
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For median, you will most likely have to buy the full data. Sucks, but they aren't putting these numbers together for free.

Eric Scharf
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@Joshua Sterns -

Game companies, in general, regardless of size, do not need and do not want permanent QA departments. While it is a goal of most larger developers / publishers to keep a core QA Manager on as permanent, with a 24/7 scalable plan to roll test personnel on and off at a moments notice, the overhead associated with a permanent QA team is completely unnecessary simply because of the fact that so many QA-capable / QA-trainable people are available from the work force.

There are only a handful of companies, in each and every industry, who place product quality and longevity before the bottom line. That may be a real kill-joy to hundreds of thousands of aspiring and current game developers whose mission in life is to make the very best entertainment software ever known to humankind . . . but "its just business, nothing personal."

There are many layers to this subject, with some of them are quite murky. While QA salaries typically and annually stick out like a sore thumb in Gamasutra's now-annual salary survey, I promise you there are pockets of the same inequities occurring within the other development disciplines.

Oh, boy. I feel another Genuine Article coming on.

Simon Carless
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Ephriam: there's _some_ additional information in the April 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine, which you can buy digitally (or might have got sent already), but I'm not sure median is in there.

Peter Dassenko
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I don't think the median is in there... Either way - definitely not anywhere near the average for production.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Christy Marx
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Where are the figures for writers? There are enough of us to have our own category rather than lumping us entirely under game design.