Gamasutra's sister publication Game Developer magazine, the leading game industry publication, has released the results of its 11th annual Game Developer Salary Survey, finding that the average U.S. 'mainstream' industry salary was virtually flat in 2011, compared to 2010.
April 2, 2012 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Smartphone/Tablet, Social/Online, Indie, Exclusive, Audio, Business/Marketing, Design, Programming, Production, Art
The Game Developer Salary Survey, available in full in the April 2012 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. The survey has also charted the growing worldwide independent game industry in the last three years.
The average salary across the entire U.S. 'mainstream' games industry was $81,192, only a marginal increase to last year's $80,817 reported average. Nevertheless, 66 percent of survey respondents made more money in 2011 than they did in 2010, compared to 56 percent from 2010 to 2009.
Highlights of specific findings per category for the game developer-specific survey in the United States are as follows:
Programming: Already some of the highest paid talent in the game industry, programmers made even more in 2011 as their average salary jumped up to nearly $92,962 from $85,733. Salaries increased across the experience spectrum, with newer workers (under three years of experience) reporting a whopping $10,700 average increase over last year.
Art and Animation: Artists and animators' average salaries increased to $75,780 over the previous year's average of $71,354. The largest gains went to art directors and lead/technical artists, which bodes well for the industry veterans and less so for the younger artists and animators.
Game Design: Game designers, writers, and creative directors were paid $73,386 on average in 2011, up from $70,223. Game designers with less than three years of experience received the biggest boost over last year ($3,500).
Production: Though producers saw a huge increase in 2010 for their average salaries to $88,544, that dropped last year to $85,687. Most of these cuts were felt by producers with 3-6 years of experience, whose average salaries fell about $4,900 from 2010, and by producers with over six years of experience, whose salaries were cut by $3,300. Women continue to be comparatively well-represented in the production department (16 percent) -- men absorbed most of the salary drop, while female producers' salaries actually rose.
Audio: The average audio professional's reported salary in 2011 was significantly higher, $83,182 compared to 2010's $68,088. While it is difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from the data due to there being fewer respondents for this category compared to other disciplines, we received 30 percent more responses from audio professionals than we did in 2010, so the job market might just be on the uptick.
Quality Assurance: Quality assurance professionals (testers and QA leads) are the lowest-paid workers in the games industry for yet another year -- and in 2011, their average salary decreased to $47,910 from $49,009 in 2010. The salary hit was mostly felt by QA leads with over six years of experience, while those with less experience in the field actually earned more.
Business: Business and legal employees are still the highest paid in the industry, but their salaries dropped from $106,452 in 2010 to $102,160 last year. Those with more than six years of experience were negatively impacted the most, making nearly $8,000 less. Newcomers, however, saw their average salaries increase by $14,000.
The survey, which polled over 4,000 respondents and used data from over 2,500, also asked independent developers about their salaries during 2011, as well as sentiment about job happiness and information on layoffs, and stories about these elements will be appearing on Gamasutra in the near future.
More information on the survey is available in the April 2012 issue of Game Developer magazine, and worldwide paper-based subscriptions to Game Developer magazine are currently available at the official magazine website. The Game Developer Digital version of the issue is available for iPad now, and will be available to purchase online later this week.