Double Buffered

A Programmer’s View of Game Design, Development, and Culture

2007 Game Developer Salary Survey

Posted by Ben Zeigler on April 22, 2008

About a week ago, my monthly copy of GameDeveloper magazine showed up. Incidentally, if you sign up for an account on Gamasutra, after a few months they’ll probably send you a free subscription. I recommend it, as the magazine contains useful information for both game developers and aspiring game developers. The April issue has something particularly interesting, which is the results of the 2007 salary survey. There’s a good summary in this article, but I wanted to highlight a few specific points:

Education is not really that big of a deal within the games industry when it comes to salary. In the case of programmers, developers with an Associate’s degree make just as much as developers with a Bachelor’s. Programmers with uncompleted college work actually make MORE than those with a Bachelor’s (generally because such people get hired before graduating), and only slightly less than those with Master’s degrees. Artists with a Bachelor’s make $5k more than those with an Associate’s, and for design it’s $10k (and designers make less overall, so this is a big difference). Having a degree may make it easier to get a job doing game programming, but you won’t get paid more.

For all of the disciplines, developers with 0-3 years of experience make about 60% as much as (non-lead) developers with >6 years of experience. Developers with 0-3 years of experience make about 45% as much as lead developers with >6 years of experience. So, in all of the disciplines there is significant room for advancement as far as salaries go. In business and Q/A, leads make about 3 times as much as beginners, so in those it can pay to stay around. A top level Q/A tester still makes less than a beginner designer, though. Q/A is not the kind of job that you want to try and sustain a family on.

Here’s the rather sad table of gender and compensation:

Field Percentage of Females Female Compensation Difference
Programming 3% $7,395 less (9%)
Art 8% $5,806 less (9%)
Design 8% $9,240 less (15%)
Production 18% $7,572 less (9%)
Business 17% $32,081 less (30%)
Q/A 6% $4,389 less (12%)

Wow. Overall, females in the gaming industry make 13% less than males. This is below the national wage difference (although still horrible), and is somewhat reasonable in Programming, Art, and Q/A. The gaps in Design and Business (30% less!) are significantly larger, however. I’m going to go out on a limb and blame this on gender differences at the higher levels in Business and Design. I know many great female designers down in the trenches, but how many famous female lead designers can you name? I’d wager it’s way less than 8%. Same for CEOs and high-level executives of game companies. The games industry is a reasonable place for women to work in terms of salary, but there are obviously gender problems at the top.

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4 Responses to “2007 Game Developer Salary Survey”

  1. Darius K. said

    I haven’t actually opened my GDMag yet, and it’s sitting at home… did CMP include the sample size of the survey?

  2. JZig said

    The stats are based on 2,409 US respondents.

  3. Amelia said

    Man, that is just sad. That’s all I got.

  4. […] salary survey time again! I thought I would take a look at the numbers and compare them to last year’s survey. First of all, the tone of the piece was a bit different. Jill Duffy, who wrote the article and was […]

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