Average 2011 US dev salary over $81,000

Lowest-paid developers now making even less as QA testers see average salary cut while most other roles rake in more.

Curious as to how much money the average game developer makes? According to Game Developer magazine's 2011 Game Developer Salary Survey (via Gamasutra), the average US industry salary was $81,192 for the year, a small increase from 2010's $80,817.

The average game dev took home over $81,000 in 2011.

Though the average developer salary was virtually flat, 66 percent of survey respondents made more money in 2011 than they did in 2010. This figure is up from the 56 percent rise from 2010 to 2009.

What area of game development is the best paid? That would be the business and legal sector, with employees in this area taking home $102,160 in 2011, down from $106,452 the year prior.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, quality assurance staffers again received the least compensation among all developers for the year. In 2011, the average QA employee took home $47,910, down from $49,009 the year prior.

The full list of average 2011 developer salaries--broken down by unit and year--is available below.

Programming:
$92,962 (2011) $85,873 (2010) +7.6 percent

Art and animation:
$75,780 (2011) $71,354 (2010) +5.8 percent

Game design:
$73,386 (2011) $70,223 (2010) +4.3 percent

Production:
$85,687 (2011) $88,544 (2010) -3.3 percent

Audio:
$83,182 (2011) $68,088 (2010) +18 percent

Quality assurance:
$47,910 (2011) $49, 009 (2010) -2.3 percent

Business:
$102,160 (2011) $106,452 (2010) -4.2 percent

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

183 comments
pedodleche
pedodleche

I do not understand why legal and business men get paid so much...I am only familiar with the developing side of the industry, but it seems that all the legal department does is file for trademark stuff and fight some other legal issues. Programmers and all the others in the developing side are who make the game possible. The company would not have revenue if it were not for the developers...Seems a little idiotic to me that those who create the product are the ones rewarded less for it...It is not like legal actually contributed to the programming and design of the videogame....

ShirkDawg
ShirkDawg

dman123_1 As they say, ignorance is bliss.

ecs33
ecs33

I'm so tired of this socialist attitude. Sorry, but being a developer is a million times more difficult than being a gas station clerk. Try working 100+ hours a week during crunch time with no OT.

Shiftfallout
Shiftfallout

If you think these are good wages that represent the product and skill sets required, think again. Lets put it into perspective. Frank, a compositor in the film industry can bring in $10,000 in a week, in a month on average is he making around $20,000. A compositor is making much of the same software programs and skillsets the game developers use. A game developer doing Frank's level of work is lucky to hit even 1/4th of what he will make, furthermore, the game developer has to be worried about getting laid off when the studio begins doing its publisher induced cuts. Film industry, tv and music industry artist bring in far more revenue...and if you think thats ok or normal..consider this fact. The game industry brings in more annual revenue than film, tv and music industries combined. Blame it on the publishers which try to control the game industry. You dont become a game developer for the money, you become one because you have a passion for it. Thats it, otherwise there are far better industries to get a job in.

yboucher
yboucher

These numbers are ridiculously jacked up because of the prices in San Francisco and the valley. Cut about 20% to these figures to get the real picture outside of CA.

valent1n
valent1n

Programming is the hardest part of it, but represents, along the "development" part, only 30% of the product, the rest is marketing (business called here).

XIntoTheBlue
XIntoTheBlue

No surprise to see the lawyers and businessmen make the biggest salaries. I personally think the programmers, artists, designers, etc. should be making more than the lawyers and businessmen. I'm sure they put much more into their work.

draken2533
draken2533

people that say we make to much lmao! during crunch time ur talkin around 80+ hours a week at salary pay, working 10 hour days on the norm. devs really don't make that much considering no OT so please go work 80 hours a week and see how much u make on hourly pay and compare the two then u can shut ur mouth! it's the publishers making the killing! Only a few companies give bonus's based on the total income of the game.

dman123_1
dman123_1

I knew people would have a fit about the salaries that they are "making too much." Most of those people want to punish people who work hard for what they get. The whole punish success(wealthy), reward the lazy (poor) is getting old. There is a reason the CEO of Wal-Mart gets paid what they get paid and the cash register operator gets paid for what they get paid.

Jebril
Jebril

Meanwhile a recent census shows that 1 in 2 Americans live in low-income or poverty! (under 45K)

CarnivaleClown
CarnivaleClown

@vallee05 Just to clear up your statement. You can be salaried and get overtime. Salaried, just means you get the same amount of money each paycheck. Divide your yearly amount by the number of pay periods in that year. What you are referring to is Exempt vs Non-Exempt. Exempt employees do not get paid overtime because they meet the requirements set by the state to be considered exempt from OT. In CA, you have to make something like $81K-$82K and meet the programmer job requirements set by the state in order to be Exempt. This went up from I believe $79K last year. It is against the law to make less than that and not receive overtime. Usually overtime for Non-Exempt Salaried employees is put on the following pay period, not the pay period you worked it in.

decebal
decebal

When I moved from marketing to games I took a $20,000 pay cut.

vallee05
vallee05

They need to list all the facts when displaying this information. They are comparing salary pay and not hourly pay for 2080 hours. You have to take into consideration that salary paid workers work atleast 55hours a week on a slow week, but mostly work much more like 65hours. These employees don't get paid overtime, and only some get bonuses (department directors or GM, etc) I would like to see these number compared with the average hours per week they are working for each of these position. Then you can take into account are they under or over paid. Also consider where the information is comeing from, i.e mulitple states or just one. like these numbers from california and working 65+ hours means your under paid. More information is needed from this.

Sythion
Sythion

As a recent college grad I can say I learned a lot more practical information in a six month internship than I did in my four years of college. However, the impractical and tangential stuff I learned often benefits me greatly. I've come up with solutions to problems that would have been much uglier without my education, and when I find something that does apply to something I've learned, it's great not having to relearn it from scratch.

G1Ga-B1T3
G1Ga-B1T3

Next time some publisher tells you that DLC is being used to justify their development costs, know as an informed consumer, that it's a lie and remember it's the lawyers, managers etc who are raking in the dough. Don't like it? Then don't buy. That's all there is to it.

kvan33
kvan33

Seems a bit low for people how are working 80 hour weeks to meet a deadline...with the possiblity of being let go after the game ships. Still, I would imagine that bonuses are paid out, which are not included in base salary.

nate1222
nate1222

Most of us (consumers) don't make HALF of what the least paid devs make. Even so, I do acknowledge that the devs get the s___ end of the stick compared to publishers

nate1222
nate1222

Most of us (consumers) don't make HALF of what the least paid devs make. Even so, I do acknowledge that the devs get the s___ end of the stick compared to publishers.

kais112
kais112

@Sythion Work 25 hours a day? Challenge Accepted...

valdarez
valdarez

@CarnivaleClown Agreed. Some of the best developers I've known never went to college. They were self motivators that were lucky enough to be surrounded by a good support group who trained/mentored them. For most however, college serves as a good launching point to gain an entry level position, as well as time to mature a bit so they can engage at an appropriate level within an organization.

valdarez
valdarez

Those salaries are low compared to the business world, and why I chose business over gaming when it came to development. Business based development = more $$$ and less hours.

Msirbono
Msirbono

I'm failing to see where "Lowest paid developers now making even less as QA testers see average salary cut while most other roles rake in more." with the given data, or where that sentence even makes sense to begin with.. Either way, I'm pretty sure these numbers make most of us sick, considering most of us probably don't get paid even half of that the QA's are listed as making. Hate to say it, but if publishers are so worried about their money issues that they need to flat out treat customers like crap, then maybe they should look at these numbers and get real interested in how much they're handing to the devs.

a1450358509
a1450358509

@ShirkDawg you clearly have never done engineering, or even been to a decent college for that matter. There are very few people in the world that can complete degrees like engineering and the ones who can deserve higher pay than the typical person. I think each of these guys deserve their pay because they are pioneering games into something that you couldn't even dream of making! Go back to your naive life and let the bright minds get what they deserve.

Phil-teh-Pirate
Phil-teh-Pirate

With the recent bugs I've seen in games, its not surprising QA took a pay cut.

imthelumberjack
imthelumberjack

The friends I have that do video game testing are not paid more than $22,000 a year. Hell $47,000 is more than what most lead QA's make.

xtraflossy
xtraflossy

Every time I see a QA for games opening, the darn thing pays like $9 an hour.

ps2fatboy
ps2fatboy

how do you get in this type of work id love to do voice for games

ShirkDawg
ShirkDawg

@a1450358509 Yes, I don't think you deserve more than anyone else who is an honest person who does what he or she can. Most decent people have no desire to be rich. But, have fun at Monsanto or whatever other sick entity you decide to join.

DanielL5583
DanielL5583

So what if it's lower than it used to be! That's still a lot of money right there, so...it's still a lot.

LoganDaDestroya
LoganDaDestroya

For a person like me, that is far more than enough :D

a1450358509
a1450358509

To everyone saying that their salary is too high, go out and get a damn degree! Its not that hard if you put in effort, im sick of people complaining that rich people are greedy when all the whiners do is sit on their butts all day hoping for money to start growing on trees! Im currently working my butt off in college to become a biochemical engineer, and expect to be making twice as much as that average in about 10 years. Do you think I dont deserve it????

benboz
benboz

Thats not bad at all

CarnivaleClown
CarnivaleClown

@magemaximus But, the fact is that I do make more than that and I didn't go to college. There is nothing that can be taught at college that can't be learned on one's own time. In fact most of the programmer positions say a degree OR equivalent work experience. If you can get a small portfolio together and not mumble and say "Um..." in an interview, you have a good shot. Especially when they ask about super basic OO concepts. Been doing it for 10 years. The real trick is to not shoot for the Forbes 500 companies and aim your sights more local. You would not believe the businesses out there that have the money to pay great wages and are still practically just a mom and pop shop. I don't actually care if believe me or not when it comes to how much I make, but take my word on what I wrote about finding jobs. I've known people that made $65K/year just slapping controls on a form and making the most basic data entry apps. I have also been in interviews where a college student asking for $85K/year didn't know the difference between a reference type and value type.

magemaximus
magemaximus

I'm just saying. Don't act like you are going to be making that much right away. Don't act like you will even be in that position to make that much in the first place, just because you took that route.

magemaximus
magemaximus

And because you never went to college, I doubt you will come close to making that much money. There are only a few people in the business field that make that much. The chances of you being one of those people in the future are slim.

magemaximus
magemaximus

"Well... looks like I made the smart choice and went towards business applications instead of game development. It's kind of comforting to know that I make more money programming internal software than the average video game programmer. On top of the fact that I never went to college. To be fully honest though, I really thought video game programmers made way more than that. Sorry, just happy I never wasted my time with it and don't have to work 16 hour days in sweat shop for less money." LMAO. You aren't even making that right now. Let us know if you ever make it there, until then, hush.

CarnivaleClown
CarnivaleClown

Well... looks like I made the smart choice and went towards business applications instead of game development. It's kind of comforting to know that I make more money programming internal software than the average video game programmer. On top of the fact that I never went to college. To be fully honest though, I really thought video game programmers made way more than that. Sorry, just happy I never wasted my time with it and don't have to work 16 hour days in sweat shop for less money.

ShirkDawg
ShirkDawg

Destroy companies and treat your workers poorly like Kotick and Ricitiello, and you too can make upwards of 5 million a year (and have tens of millions of dollars in unexercised options).

darkcomedian
darkcomedian

Greed. People see it and do nothing about it. Having said that, what can we do?

Sythion
Sythion

And last comment.. Despite the decrease, people still get paid more to test video games than my elementary school teacher wife who has a masters.

Sythion
Sythion

@Frunzo You think that's bad? Try working 365 days in a row for 25 hours a day only getting a day off every four years on February 29th.

mike4487
mike4487

And this is the part where the government takes half or more of your paycheck for tax purposes... So I'd say really 50k or less as possible living money...

Sythion
Sythion

Surprised programming makes so much. Very cool. Home to break into the industry some day :) Business is as high as it is because executive teams and upper management fall under the business side of things.

wyan_
wyan_

I thought game design would be higher.

NiteX
NiteX

That's actually pretty crap for the price of living in CA. I don't even think you can live comfortable in any way with a mere 50k.

N4o7A
N4o7A

I don't understand why the business section makes so much :/

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

when you think about the knowledge you need to have in each area is not a big salary, a programmer can make more money than $92k a year in the us

emperiox
emperiox

 @ecs33 I'm a Liberal and I'd still trade them jobs. They need to quit crying and suck it up, buttercup if they're paid THAT much.