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 Game Developer  Reveals 2010 Game Industry Salary Survey Results
Game Developer Reveals 2010 Game Industry Salary Survey Results
April 27, 2011 | By Staff




Gamasutra's sister publication Game Developer magazine, the leading game industry publication, has released the results of its 10th annual Game Developer Salary Survey, this year contrasting increasing salaries for mainstream game developers with continued strides for independent creators.

The Game Developer Salary Survey, available in full in the April 2011 issue of the magazine, is the only major publicly-released analysis of salaries in the worldwide video game industry.

It provides an exhaustive breakdown of salaries and benefits at major game studios by discipline, job function, experience level, region and gender. For the last two years, the survey has also charted the growing worldwide independent game industry.

By the numbers, the traditional American mainstream video game industry – including salaried participants in the AAA console and emerging social/online game areas - saw a 7 percent salary increase in 2010 over 2009, reaching $80,817. (The survey does not track total numbers of employed game creators.)

Elsewhere, independent contractors earned an average of $55,493, while self-identified ‘independent game team’ members reported an overall $26,780 average salary in the U.S., an increase of over $6,000 from the previous year’s survey - showing swift indie growth.

Highlights of specific findings per category for the game developer-specific survey in the United States are as follows:

Programming: Programmers continue to be one of the highest paid talent in both the console and online game industry, after production and those in the business and legal sectors, with an average annual salary of $85,733. Salaries for programmers increased some $5,000 over 2009 numbers, except in entry-level positions, which saw a $1,000 decrease in salary.

Art & Animation: Similar to last year’s figure of $71,071, artist and animator salaries hold steady at $71,354, with the slight bump in compensation coming from pay raises for art directors.

Game Design: The design discipline also saw a slight boost from 2009 numbers, with the average salary being reported at $70,223. Designers saw little movement in 2010, as the discipline has been one of the most stable where compensation is concerned.

Production: After seeing an overall salary dip in 2009, producers rebounded with an increase of over $13,000, for a total average salary of $88,544. This could be attributed to the depth of experience that survey respondents reported (over half had more than six years of experience), or the shift toward social games, which pay producers closer to Web 2.0 project management salaries. Female employees continue to be best-represented in this field, with 17 percent of the respondents being women.

Audio: Sound designers and composers earned an average of $68,088, with 15 percent of respondents reporting that they earned less than in 2009. The category typically has a low response rate, due to the fact that there are few full-time audio professionals employed in games, but individuals in the field are those most likely to receive royalties for their work.

Quality Assurance: Home to many entry-level game industry positions, quality assurance remains the lowest paid discipline, with an average salary of $49,009 being reported. Similar to industry employees working in production, the 2010 salary bump over 2009’s $37,905 figure could be a result of those individuals working in web game-centric industries and with more complex testing skills.

Business: Business and legal employees remain the highest paid in the industry across all levels of experience, with the average salary being reported at $106,452. Along with also having the second-highest numbers for female representation, those working in business and legal are more likely to receive additional compensation, with 85 percent of respondents reporting that they had.

In the “self-reportage” area of the survey, where developers can voice their thoughts about working in games, we saw that in spite of the vastly greater average income, salaried game developers had a sometimes bleaker outlook on the industry.

Anecdotally, these respondents stated that working in the traditional structure is “frustrating,” lamenting that larger studios are “trimming talent” and crunching harder. Meanwhile, independent developers, though they made far less money, felt the industry was more fertile and innovative than ever, praising the arrival of new platforms and revenue streams, even going so far as to call 2010 “the year of the indie."

More information on the survey is available in the April 2011 issue of Game Developer magazine, and worldwide paper-based subscriptions to Game Developer magazine are currently available at the official magazine website.

In addition, the Game Developer Digital version of the issue is also now available, with the site offering six months' and a year's subscriptions, alongside access to back issues and PDF downloads of all issues, all for a reduced price. There is now also an opportunity to buy the digital version of April 2011's magazine as a single issue.


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Comments


Ben Rice
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Each year i'm depressed at seeing that the highest paid part of the creative process known as Game Development, is Business and Legal.

Yes, I understand selling the games is a large part of the business... But it doesn't seem right (to me).

steve roger
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The reason legal salaries are higher is because the market forces that regulate attorney compensation are not limited to game development entities. But rather there are a wider range of companies that compete to employ these legal professionals. It really is not because lawyers are worth more than the game industry professionals.



However, I think it is important to look at the changes in the legal profession market. I am willing to bet that over the last ten years the amount of money game companies pay for attorney services has significantly dropped while at the same time game development professionals have seen an increase (the salary survey supports the latter position). This is due to a number of factors, including but not limited to the movement of legal service employees into in-house positions and away from the use of outside counsel. Furthermore, there is a glut of competent lawyers available for these internal positions which tends to continue the decrease the cost attorneys hired by game development businesses. This reduction in cost of legal services is true virtually across the board of companies in nearly every industry in need of legal services.

Kamruz Moslemi
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Well, according to this I am currently making less than half of the average in my field. But hey, its enough to get by, so I am not complaining. Heck, I'd be willing to go even lower if I could get the job that I much rather be doing.

Doug Poston
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I love the salary survey report, but I always wonder about the accuracy of these self-reported numbers.



How many people inflate their reported salary?

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Thats what most people wonder, and there is no way to know. There is definetly an incencitive to inflate the numbers when answering those surveys, since after that it can be used as leverage to negociate your raise or new salary.



Well, assuming people lie just about the same everywhere, it can at least be used to compare between trades, which isnt that useful, and between regions, assuming that information is available.

Drew Marlowe
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I'm interested in the "additional income" section of the designer survey. 75% of designers have outside income, averaging to 15k? Anecdotally, not nearly 75% of the designer's I've worked with seem to have "additional income". I'd be interested in hearing what everyone else is doing outside of work. Iphone/flash games, or what?

Brandon Sheffield
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Drew, the additional income relates to bonuses, royalties, benefits, and things like that, not outside work.


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