How well does game development pay the bills?
It's one of the perennial annoyances of writing about games: Games are ridiculously expensive to make, but nobody outside of the business (or hell, few people inside the business) knows just how all that money breaks down. How much of it is technology, how much of it is overhead; how much is spent on licensing fees, marketing, and the like? Without companies like EA and Activision publishing their books (which they'd never do), we'll probably never know.
We can, however, get a sense for how well the game developers themselves are paid thanks to industry surveys. A study carried out by Develop and MVC surveyed 298 game makers from around the world to find out how much money they made. Really, guys, you couldn't find two more for an even 300?
According to their research, the average game developer is expected to earn $50,935 (£32,203) in 2011. This is very slightly up from last year, where the average wage was $50,557 (£31,964). While it is an increase, it isn't quite keeping up with inflation, Develop found - incorporating inflation calculations from the Consumer Price Index, Develop concluded that average wages in 2011 should have been roughly around $51,568 (£32,603). Sure, it's only a difference of $600, but those six hundred bucks could go a long way for someone trying to pay the bills.
For the curious, here's how the survey broke down for average annual salary based on position:
Lead Artist - $58,522 (£37,000)
Artist - $42,399 (£26,806)
Lead Programmer - $63,201 (£39,958)
Programmer - $43,363 (£27,416)
Junior Programmer - $31,069 (£19,643)
Lead Audio Roles - $71,492 (£45,200)
Junior Audio Roles - $43,496 (£27,500)
Lead Producer (Internal) - $65,640 (£41,500)
Producer (Internal) - $49,341 (£31,195)
Producer (External/publishing) - $66,826 (£42,250)*
Lead Designer - $53,777 (£34,000)
Designer - $38,553 (£24,375)
Junior - $34,457 (£21,785)
*External Producer salary can rise to $72,758 (£46,000) depending on publisher size.
I suppose the lesson here is to get into audio technology, huh?
In all seriousness, I can't help but feel that these salaries seem a bit on the low side of things with as big an industry as this is. Then again, the videogame industry is also a very highly competitive space, and every single person working at a company knows that there are twenty thousand kids graduating college every year that would love to take their place.
Are these salaries lower than you thought? Or are they higher?