Want to break into video game development? Curious about how much money you’ll make? Numerous technologists in the game industry have been posting their salaries on Twitter, searchable via the hashtag #GameDevPaidMe.
As you might expect, developers, animators, and others involved in building games report a wide range of compensation. For example, one associate VFX artist at Riot Games reports making $80,000 per year in addition to a $6,000 bonus. A production manager at Ubisoft Quebec said they made $70,000 annually (presumably in Canadian dollars). A kind soul has also spun up a Google Doc where game developers and animators can input their city, gross salary, hourly rate, and years of experience.
How does that align with other crowdsourced data? According to Glassdoor, game developers at gaming monolith Rockstar Games make an average base salary of $56,856 per year. At Amazon, which has poured resources into gaming but hasn’t yet produced a hit game, average salaries stand at around $101,253 per year. Glassdoor respondents plug average developer salaries at Ubisoft at $102,582 per year, and Electronic Arts at $60,458 per year.
It’s worth mentioning that, in the case of Glassdoor, the sample sizes at each company are pretty low, meaning that just one junior or senior developer can skew the averages. Nonetheless, the incredible range of game developer compensation hints at a tech-industry truism: If you want to get paid, you need to have the right mix of skills and experience that make you an ultra-valuable commodity.
For context, the average technologist made $97,859 in 2020 (an increase of 3.6 percent from 2019), according to the latest Dice Salary Report.
No discussion of game developer salaries can take place without some discussion of the gaming industry’s workplace practices, including “crunch time” and average hours worked. GDC’s State of the Game Industry 2021, the latest version of its annual report, suggests that, while many developers worked reasonable hours per week over the past 12 months, some 24 percent worked more than 66 hours per week, and nine percent worked more than 81 hours. If you already feel like you’re underpaid as a game studio employee, working extreme hours will likely make you feel even worse.
If you’re curious about a career in game development, but you’re unsure of where to start, check out which hardware platforms are attracting the most developer interest at the moment. You’ll need to ask yourself if you’re interested in building games for consoles such as the Xbox, or if you want to spend your time on mobile games for iOS and Android. You should also keep an eye on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), which could very well become some of the biggest platforms for future gaming.