Average 2012 US dev salary $84,000

New survey finds average salary up $3,000 year-on-year; men made more than women in every category except programming.

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.

Programming:
$92,151 (2011) $92,962 (2011) - .88 percent

Art and animation:
$75,009 (2012) $75,780 (2011) - 1 percent

Game design:
$75,065 (2012) $73,386 (2011) +3.5 percent

Production:
$84,127 (2012) $85,687 (2011) -1.8 percent

Audio:
$81,543 (2012) $83,182 (2011) - 2 percent

Quality assurance:
$48,611 (2012) $47,910 (2011) + 1.4 percent

Business:
$102,934 (2012) $102,160 (2011) - .75 percent

Written By

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

Discussion

121 comments
Daemoroth
Daemoroth

This is a good example of how to interpret numbers to support a point. Look, I don't support a salary gap based on anything but skill/experience, but using the average of men vs women is not a valid way to compare it, here's why:

There is obviously a difference in pay based on years in the industry. If you want to determine a wage gap, you should take the experience spread into account.

For instance, if most women in the art department are relatively inexperienced, then it's natural that they'll have the majority in the lower bracket, dragging their average down. This doesn't mean there's a wage gap at all.

If they want to determine a wage gap, they need to compare the average income of women vs men in each of the experience brackets, e.g. female v male artists with less than 3 years experience, then female v male artists with 3 to 6 years experience,  etc.

Until then, the average numbers are heavily skewed by the difference in experience in the industry, and sure as hell shouldn't be used to run an article proclaiming a wage gap.

vannacut
vannacut

these guys could make more if they go self employed, one funny youtube video, one fun little mobile game, one tiny skirt for a few animated chat sites, could bring more money on the side, not mentioning web designs and other stuff...

franzito
franzito

Not bad but, even though I had this dream, now I don't think working in the game industry is going to happen. I prefer to play the games instead.

tionmedon
tionmedon

they r over worked and under paid ...............................

Falru
Falru

There's far more factors involved in those salary numbers than just "omg she's a woman, I'm going to pay her less." It has to do with simply the way men and women behave subconsciously as well.

macca366
macca366

Are these woman and men with the same jobs, with pay discrepancy? Or are these just the differences between men and woman's pay within sectors of the industry (where men are more likely to be paid more on average because they are a majority or more likely to have senior roles)?

If its the former, I just don't understand why women would be paid less in this day and age.

I would love to be a game idea, I get ideas all the time, usually have projects in mind. When I was a kid I used to actually plan games (characters, story, items, levels, enemies etc) on A4 sheets of paper and staple them together, haha. It could be horrible during crunch time on the ground floor though

the-medz
the-medz

i wanted to be a concept art, animator or a creative director. but i really that most game that are release are unfinished and i just would stand seeing a unfinished potentially bad game release to the public for $60. I really appreciate or lack there off, when i look at it from a creative, artistic and developer perspective. 

brxricano
brxricano

This is why i have never bought into the whole used\pirated games deal. Its all paid in full. nobody is waiting on salaries; they got theirs. Everyone's paid up and sitting around waiting on profits and earning reports so fuck what your EULA says, this is my game now, ill upload it, ill resell it, fuck your so-called guilt, its going where i please, and you can go back to yours. When you make me the next big thing, ill be thinking about your big ass salary on the way to GameStop......with a big ass smile. :) :D XD

cubachino
cubachino

With those type of salaries pretty soon the Chinese, South and Central Americans will be making our video games.

THMBZDownGNZUp
THMBZDownGNZUp

I regret ever defending devs on how GameStop sells their used games for pure profit without them seeing a cut of the money. If the average dev makes $84k a year, they don't need anymore of my money. From now on, I'm buying only used games just to spite them.

bluefox755
bluefox755

Lol, I love how they inject the feminism thing into every article now, even the "hard news" articles.  What about LGBT?  Where are those stats!?! And black/white/asian pay discrepancies?!?  I am personally outraged.

RustedTruck650
RustedTruck650

So, that means that even if a game is AAA but it ends up not selling enough copies so that the devs get 80k a year then the game is a failure.

Shantmaster_K
Shantmaster_K

Good money in this field if you can get a job. I was planning on become a game designer or programmer once, but things change. 

iempire68
iempire68

If I could go back, I would've chosen this field. Not just because of the money, but I love games and how great it would be to be a part of creating them (so long as it isn't EA)

Mr_Mark_Legion
Mr_Mark_Legion

take this down or ull get obamas attention!! ahhhh

gamerx100
gamerx100

that explains why publishers are screaming why sellilng millions of copies of a game like tomb raider yet still consider as a failure. their employees are sucking all the money. their salary is way too high.

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

only if the industry was more stable. this would be a great career path

Senor_Kami
Senor_Kami

This makes it hard for me to feel sorry for some dev that missed his bonus because he didn't make a game good enough to get an 85 on Metacritic.  These guys are balling hard.  Even the lowest end of the spectrum makes undeniably good pay.

The difference in pay between men and women is shocking but I wonder if this is sexism and the company being like, "we won't pay women" or of it's more a case of a dude wanting a raise to $80k and getting it, meanwhile a women only asks for $60K and she gets just that with the company feeling like, "f**k yes, we got a discount!"

MGBarotto
MGBarotto

Quality assurance:$48,611 

Business: $102,934 


^ That explains a lot...


But still, look at how miserable those salaries are, no wonder why they spend millions fighting piracy [/sarcasm]

alienrov
alienrov

After they complain that creating a video game cost too much ... After they are crying that Tomb Raider didn't make enough sales ... Maybe, just maybe, poeple in video game industry make a bit too much money .... They should create a system that IF THEY MAKE A GOOD VIDEO GAME, THEY GET MORE MONEY, instead of shipping shity games that cost too much to do ....

Sefrix
Sefrix moderator moderator

Just men vs women? Why not black vs white, 40+ vs 20+, or any other number of splits? I guess you have to focus on the hot topic and disregard all other factors right? Perhaps next time we could even get some context so the numbers mean something. For all we know more women are entering the industry (a good thing right?) but because it's recent they have less work experience so they don't make as much yet. That would be a positive thing.

Or, you know, you could just disregard all real applications and just list numbers so people get all fussy and comment more.

jefferson1964
jefferson1964

much less than I expected, i work in real estate and appraised a guys house that was a developer with Bungie and lived in the Dallas Fort Worth area but was selling his house to move to their headquarters, his wife did not work and he was living in a 500K house...ya dont do that on 80-90K year and drive luxury suvs...the only thing was his wife said being with bungie the entire company is owned by the employees and they all participated in profit sharing depending on game sales...so thats probably the difference.......

GatsuBlackSword
GatsuBlackSword

That's double what I make and I'm only a paramedic who saves lives. Totally makes sense.

XZeroKPS
XZeroKPS

They make a lot more than I do as a normal software developer. Geez.

tevic
tevic

@Daemoroth I agree with you when one studies "wage gaps" in detail, it is usually seen that men and woman make different work decisions.

For example when wheighting "quality of life" vs "work" women statistically choose more often "quality of life" over "work at all costs" than men. For example by choosing to work fewer hours, closer to home, part-time, etc.

(Of course it's statistical and says nothing of individual choices and some women are more hard-working and ambitious than most of their male counterparts.)

So a big part if not all of the wage gap can be explained by free decisions taken by men and women and so are not caused by discrimination.

You can also wonder who is the real winner: the man who works a lot of hours or his wife who comes home sooner. You have to take everything into the picture and not make judgement based on only one variable: salary.

Zloth2
Zloth2

@brxricano That's because they charge US more to make up for you damned pirates!

Zloth2
Zloth2

@cubachino Not if there's a global shortage.  Chinese companies need programmers, too.

Falru
Falru

@THMBZDownGNZUp 

The fact that you consider $84k a year a lot of money is proof of how bad the economy has become.

jordsti
jordsti

@gamerx100 When you need a university grad to code and when I see the price of university program in the USA, I totally found the salary appropriate and good programmer are really hard to find at the moment

vannacut
vannacut

@HipHopBeats here an elementary teacher makes the same money as those devs, 84k annually

hammoud
hammoud

@Senor_Kami I don't think there's sexism in business. If companies could get away with paying women less then they would hire ONLY women

blackace
blackace

@alienrov No, the people who are actually making the games, definitely deserve the money. These guys/gals sometime work 12-16hr days and it can include the weekends as well. They all get paid salary. Programming is a #$%&#. 

nu1mlock
nu1mlock

@jefferson1964 Making 90.000$ per year is more than enough to live in a house that was purchased for 500.000$.

jefferson1964
jefferson1964

@GatsuBlackSword become a full fledged fireman, a good friend of mine is a Dallas Fireman started out on the Ambulance and now drives the fire engine truck...said he makes 70K a year works 24hrs on 48hrs off and can retire at 20 years with 70% of his salary if he stays on for 30 years he gets 120% of his salary at the time he retires and expects to get over 100K a year just in retirement.....and ya wonder why all the local/state/federal taxes are going sky high......

ZoTrAcK
ZoTrAcK

@GatsuBlackSword i understand but in reality it's not about if you do good or not for others, it's about how much study you made for getting the job...

Acquire
Acquire

@XZeroKPS Sounds like you just need to find a better company.  I make about the same as their average and I'm a "normal" software developer.

MacroManJr
MacroManJr

@Zloth2@brxricano  Game pirates are generally people in denial of the consequences of heir actions.  They keep making the bullshit argument that it isn't stealing because it's digital and because it's digital, the content creator therefore has an "infinite supply" of the product--a supply they think they can share freely without permission.

Yeah, and having an "infinite supply" doesn't mean jackshit if you're not properly selling it.  Digital products for sale only find their value to the content creator when you buy it.  If you hinder that process, expect content creators to react negatively.  And then these same people color any company showing any such reactions as being the bad guys.  But, you know, where there's stealing, lying isn't too far behind.

As a result, content creators start to make drastic changes just to account for the loss, because truth be told, even most people who can buy the game simply won't when they can get it for free.  And not every game company that sells a game is a corrupt, crooked major company--many decent major companies and indies who depend on honest sales have suffered just the same.

Pirating is so irresponsible, but nobody has enough shame or honesty to care.  Such an arrogance sense of entitlement, I swear.  I'd respect them a little more if they'd just quietly take the stupid games and stop trying to justify and promote themselves in public, but they don't even do that much.

debryson
debryson

@Falru @THMBZDownGNZUp $84,000 is a really good pay. Its middle class and unless you live in New York City or Los Angeles, you will not have to worry about money unless your an idiot with your personal finacne. You would have to try real hard not to live comfortably with that level of pay.

alienrov
alienrov

@blackace @alienrov I know, but still... I think that if they can have a share on the game they make, we might have more good game ... I code php and HTML, I know it's $#%$#, But they also have a gym in the office, food time to time, gaming room ... I won't complain that much for they environnement. But in all job, they is some aspect that are not cool :) Just complain that some company does not make enough money, like square enix on the last Tomb Raider ...

oflow
oflow

The problem isnt the firemen or the police, they actually earn that pay. A job were you could die as a hazard should get compensated accordingly.

 the problem is the overpaid local and state government workers making the same wage and pension.  I know here in LA the parking ticket people start at 70k and the city workers like the CSRs for the electric  company make the same type of wages with pensions too. Same with the people at the DMV.

FYI federal taxes arent 'sky high' they are actually at a 30 year low.  They are actually way too low for everyone especially when fighting two wars.

MacroManJr
MacroManJr

And before someone makes the claim, no, most pirates simply do not buy the games they like--that's a most bullshit claim if I ever heard one.  No one buys what's they're finished using for free, and there's not a valid statistic anywhere showing such the "pirates buy later" claim to be true.  Just a bunch of folks who generally think privileges are owed to them as rights.  Who the fuck do they think they are?

jordsti
jordsti

@alienrov @blackace PHP developper are the lowest paid programmer in the software industry btw

oflow
oflow

@jefferson1964 Ya but they still could die in a fire.  My sisters' husband was a swat police officer then he switched to the fire dept because he got tired of getting shot at on drug raids.  I know fireman can be cake but last year he did get injured when a burning building semi collapsed on him. So its cake but its also dangerous just like an electrical lineman.

I have benefits at my job so Obamacare wont effect me.

jefferson1964
jefferson1964

@oflow fireman have it easy, ive got 4 buddies that are fireman they are at home more than at work and always doing fishing tournaments. Plus they get their vacation time like the rest BUT when they take one day they get 3 days since they only work once every 3rd day so they get months off, people hold them up on a pedestal i like my friends but they are not heroes they are doing a job they are paid to do, its funny how things changed after 911, police yeah no thanks thats dangerous.  If you dont think taxes are high thats fine, just wait when obama care kicks in that will put a nice dent in your wallet unless your a govt. employee that does not have to use OC.  Ya see its the self employed that are getting hammered, im one of em i see the taxes going up others may not, i dont get cost of living raises like govt. employees and pensions, i did it wrong i shoulda just got on with local/state/federal and kick back with my 70-120K depending on what i was doing and not worry about day to day and know when i retire ill get 120% of my salary.....thats the ticket...........

Spitz6860
Spitz6860

@XZeroKPS @Acquire 

Big companies like Amazon and Microsoft offer a lot more, sometimes close to double, the salary from those small companies.