PSLS.net Home

Game Developer Salaries Remain Bullish

May 4, 2009 Written by Richard Allen

US Dollars Money

2008 Game Developer Salary Survey Reveals U.S. Game Industry Average Income of $79,000
Impact of Recession Difficult to Gauge, but Demand for Experienced Professionals Remains Strong

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 (http://www.gdmag.com), 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 through Game Developer Research – more information is available at http://www.gamedevresearch.com