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2006 Game Developer Salary Survey Now Available 46

Posted by Zonk
from the what-are-they-making-now dept.
Gamasutra's annual game developer salary survey will be coming to subscribers of the magazine in the next issue. As always, it looks at the current trends in payment for folks in the games industry, and some of that info is now available online. "According to the new survey, conducted in association with Audience Insights, the average salary in 2006 over all American game programmers was $80,886 - basically flat on the year before, thanks to an influx of entry level coders to the game business, but with significant increases for veteran programmers. The 2006 average for artists was $65,107, again basically flat on 2005, though average salaries of experienced lead artists and animators rose the most. The game designers' average was $61,538, with salaries scaling within a $5,000 range over the last 3 years over all experience levels." The new survey also marks the kickoff of Game Developer Research, a division aimed at doing quantitative analysis of games and gaming trends.
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2006 Game Developer Salary Survey Now Available

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2007 @04:54PM (#18579021)
    That only translates into 9.50 an hour.

    (8.00 an hour at EA)
    • Actually, you bring up a good point. I wish they also asked the programmers how many hours they worked per week. I want to know if the game industry is as rough as people say it is.
      • I've got a few friends who each have worked a couple different jobs in the game industry.

        The short version is, yes, it is that bad.

        The long version is, I wonder sometimes. On one hand, they're very often there late at night and on weekends. On the other hand, a lot of these guys roll into the office at 11 in the morning, surf the web for half an hour and go to lunch. Team goofing off seems more accepted in the game industry than any other programming or art job, too -- if you want to take an hour to play
        • by psyclone (187154)
          It is not just game developers that function in groups with "goofing off time". Any non-corporate (or non-corporate-wannabe) software company allows engineering teams to work the hours they see fit, as long as they get their shit done. And usually, they have unrealistic deadlines. So blowing off 6 hours a week (~1 hour a day) is nothing compared to their 50+ hours of real work they do.

          All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

          Creative people work creatively. Smart companies allow developers time to mes
  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Monday April 02, 2007 @05:00PM (#18579119)
    I'm not a game dev and not planning on becoming one in the near future, but it would be interesting to see some more statistical data on this. As we (should) all know, the simple average is not very useful is cases like this, it'd be nice to at least see the median and standard deviation values. Or a histogram for each of the major categories.
    • Mediann and std dev are useless. They only really apply for normal distributions. Salaries tend not to have a normal distribution so they lose their value.
      • by mobby_6kl (668092)
        Well, maybe game dev's salaries are normally distributed, but we wouldn't know that from just the averages :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Possibly true, but I would argue that averages are much MORE useless. At least with medians you'd get a chance of filtering out the high paid outliers. I think a histogram for many different areas of the country/world would be the main thing you'd need to actually make any sense out of this.
      • Central Limit Theorem?
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Well, for normal distributions, the median is equal to the "average" (the mean).

        For non-normal distributions, the median is useful, since it does reduce the effect of outliers at the extreme ends, as someone else mentioned. That's why newspapers usually talk about the median family income of a country, instead of the mean, for example.
  • by Threni (635302)
    I want to know what Atari 2600 developers are up to! I bet they're living like gods!
  • The pay for it someone in the industry seems decent at $80,000~. I would take that in a minute. On the other hand, how many hours per week do they work? If they are putting in 80 hour weeks, I would not be so willing to even consider such a position.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bmac83 (869058)

      My guess is that people in the game design industry are there because they love it, not necessarily for excess compensation as compared to salaries paid in other fields within the industry. So, excess hours over the standard workweek are probably acceptable to many people.

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        "My guess is that people in the game design industry are there because they love it, not necessarily for excess compensation as compared to salaries paid in other fields within the industry. So, excess hours over the standard workweek are probably acceptable to many people."

        ... right ... how long are they going to "love" 80-hour weeks ...?

        • by Rakishi (759894)
          See thats not hard to do however in reality the question is:
          "How long are they going to 'love' 80-hour weeks doing the work of a trained monkey?"

          They're no more "making games" than the guy who tightened bolts in a car on the factory floor back in the day "made cars." Short of self-delusion or lottery player sort of reality distortion (that they'll get more creative control before going insane and burning out) they'd be about as close to "making games" as a code-monkey is in any other field.
    • by obarel (670863)
      Which just goes to show that salaries should be given per (real) hour, not per annum.

      If instead of working 40 hours a week I give 50, I actually earn 20% less - it's simple really.
      • by dslbrian (318993)

        If instead of working 40 hours a week I give 50, I actually earn 20% less - it's simple really.

        A friend of mine knew someone who at one time was working 80 hours a week, pulling in $80k or so. At first he thought the $80k figure sounded real nice, but he said that person told him viewed from a different perspective it was the same as working two 40hour jobs, at $40k each (which IMO would be nuts). Apparently that person had quit the "two jobs" and took a somewhat lower paying job elsewhere, wherein he ha

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        Actually, you're earning even less. Overtime at 1-1/2 the base pay starts, depending on the jurisdiction, at either 40 hours or 44 hours. Double time usually starts at 60 hours.

        For example, working a 40-hour week at a base rate, 20 hours at time-and-a-half, and 20 hours at double time, a person who earns $80,000 a year has a base pay of $13.99 per hour.

        Even if they only get time-and-a-half for the other 40 hours, that's still only $15.39 per hour.

        Either one is a far cry from $80,000 p.a /52 weeks /40

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          Hate replying to myself but the last bit got clipped...

          and only making $6.16 an hour as a base salary if you're in a double time and a half after 80 hours area. Your pay would be 40 hours at your base rate, + 20 hours at time and a half (equivalent to 30 hours at your base rate), plus 20 hours at double time(equivalent to 40 hours at your base rate) and 20 hours at double time and a half,(equivalent to 50 hours at your base rate). In other words, your cmpensation should total the equivalent of 40+30+40+

          • by obarel (670863)
            There's another problem here.

            Most people earning $80,000 would not feel comfortable asking for the "perks" as you call them. After all, they're earning a good salary, why should the employer pay for their meals (and what would the employer think if you said "by law you owe me this"?)

            So yes, most people would "eat" their pride (and the price of workplace culture) and pay for their good jobs in a way that someone on minimum wage would never dream of.

            • by tomhudson (43916)

              80 hours a week and you don't get the perks that have to be given by LAW? For 80 hours a week, enlightened self-interest says the employer better have a few non-statutory perks lined up, or they'll end up with a burned-out no-morale employee, who is no good to anyone.

              And, as I pointed out, $80k for 80 hrs/week is not exactly good money - their base salary before overtime is only $13.99/hr - a far cry from the $38.46/hr. that someone making the same for 40 hours is getting. So, after they've put in all t

              • ...they'll end up with a burned-out no-morale employee, who is no good to anyone.

                Unfortunately, most companies don't see a problem with this. As a colleague of mine in the industry said, "There's no shortage of 24 year olds wanting to get into the industry." For the low-level talent, there's little mercy because the parts are easily replaceable. If an individual tries to rock the boat, they are gently reminded that there are other people willing to work for low wages.

                On the other hand, you can make some
                • by tomhudson (43916)

                  "If an individual tries to rock the boat, they are gently reminded that there are other people willing to work for low wages."

                  With cell phones that can record sound and video so pervasive, that's a quick way for a company to lose a large lawsuit, as well as get slapped with all sorts of fines for breaking labour standards. The days of "shhh ... put up with being overly exploited or you're gone" are gone.

                  The "people are interchangeable parts" philosophy is short-sited on the employers' part, but it exp

                  • With cell phones that can record sound and video so pervasive, that's a quick way for a company to lose a large lawsuit, as well as get slapped with all sorts of fines for breaking labour standards. The days of "shhh ... put up with being overly exploited or you're gone" are gone.

                    Unfortunately not true. Shockingly enough, it'll probably be your co-workers that put the pressure on you rather than the top bosses. In the last few months of my work at 3DO, the team was deathmarching to the release of a produc
                    • by tomhudson (43916)

                      Its sad, and a lot of people don't know that its illegal to pressure someone to put in unwanted overtime, paid or unpaid. Employers that want to last would make sure this sort of culture doesn't exist. Sure, they benefit from it short-term, but long-term, its a road to disaster. Short-term gain for long-term pain.

                      Yes, when you're working on something you enjoy, you don't mind the extra hours ... but you eventually become stale and lose perspective. Not a good thing.

  • Did anyone else totally not expect the order to be: Programmer > Artists > Designers?

    I was very much under the impression that game designers were kind of like project managers for games...

    • by xero314 (722674)

      I was very much under the impression that game designers were kind of like project managers for games
      If designers are like project manager (not exactly they way I figured it would be) then the game industry would be the first one to get the pay scale correct.

      After all it should always go People Who Mostly Work > People Who Mostly Play > People Who Do Nothing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by GaratNW (978516)
      The concept of "game designer" is very obfuscated from an outside perspective. Inside the industry, it can go from "lead designer/creative director", who are very much like project managers, to "Level designer", "ai scripter", "world builder", including tasks like placing hundreds or thousands of creatures, placing furniture, writing quests, simple and complex in whatever tools are available. Again, it covers a huge experience level, and skill set composition. Hence why the salary is shown so low. For every
    • by mikael (484)
      You have producers to do the daily management of the project - the game designer provides a list of all the features to be added to the game, while the producer maintains this list and hands them out to the programmers one at a time.
  • Hm. That's quite a bit higher than I expected. Maybe it's worth getting into game programming after all.

    My gut reaction is that the price is skewed by a guy who's biweekly paycheck is a new Porsche... ;-)
    • If you have experience program for the PS3 and don't mind 90-hour workweeks, I can help get you a job before the end of the week.

      Otherwise, you'll be lucky to find an entry level job that will pay you well below the average and work you 90-hours. If you survive that job, and you are lucky enough to get some next-gen console experience, you can start making some serious money.

  • The salary for game programmers is higher than I expected, and I think it might be actually higher than the average salary for a general programmer... the standard deviation must be huge, or I should start programming games more.

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