How much does the average game developer make? According to the Game Developer magazine's 12th annual Salary Survey, the average United States industry salary in 2012 was $84,337, up from $81,182 in 2011.
Sixty-four percent of developers made more money than last year (down from 66 percent), while 29 percent made the same, and 7 percent made less. Asked if they thought the industrty was a "great industry to work in," 24 percent strongly agreed, 45 agreed, 21 percent were neutral, 7 percent disagreed, and 3 percent strongly disagreed.
Nine percent of developers said they were dissatisfied with their potential career path, which is down 2 percent from last year. Twenty-two percent felt extremely satisfied, 41 percent said they were satisfied, and 27 percent reported being somewhat satisfied.
The numbers may not tell the entire story. The Game Developer magazine notes that nearly event comment from developers it received spoke to the decline of AAA development, among other troubling factors.
"Practically every comment we received spoke to the decline of AAA and traditional console development paths, the rise of mobile games as the new industry focus [and an associated unease with the prospects of getting noticed on overflowing app stores], distrust of a growing free-to-play bubble, and a mix of enthusiasm for indie developers' creativity, and worry about the indie developers' earnings," the magazine said.
Business people made the most in 2012, with an average salary of $102,934 (up slightly from $102,160 in 2011), while Quality Assurance developers made the least at $48,611 (up from $47,910 last year).
Layoff rates in 2012 trended slightly downward. According to the survey, 12 percent of respondents were laid off during the year, 1 percent lower than 2011's rate. Of the developers who were laid off in 2012, 59 percent found new employment in the year (up 1 percent from last year), 16 percent entered contracting or consulting (down 3 percent), 7 percent founded or cofounded a new company (down 3 percent), 14 percent went into indie game development (down 1 percent), 12 percent did not find a new job (down 1 percent), and 11 percent reported "Other."
Men made more than women in every category except programming, where women made an average of $96,136 to their male counterpart's $91,969. The largest discrepancy between salaries was in the Audio sector, where men drew an average salary of $82,944, while women took home an average of $50,000, more than $30,000 less than their male counterparts.
The next widest gap was in the Business department, where men made an average of $108,571, while women made $82,292.
Men also made up a significantly higher portion of overall salaried developers in 2012. Men accounted for 96 percent of all programmers, 84 percent of all artists and animators, 89 percent of all game designers, 77 percent of all producers, 96 percent of all audio producers, 93 percent of all QA testers, and 83 percent of all business and legal people.
The full list of average 2012 developer salaries--broken down by unit and year--is available below.
$92,151 (2011) $92,962 (2011) - .88 percent
Art and animation:
$75,009 (2012) $75,780 (2011) - 1 percent
$75,065 (2012) $73,386 (2011) +3.5 percent
$84,127 (2012) $85,687 (2011) -1.8 percent
$81,543 (2012) $83,182 (2011) - 2 percent
$48,611 (2012) $47,910 (2011) + 1.4 percent
$102,934 (2012) $102,160 (2011) - .75 percent