Games industry pay up, conditions down

By Brenna Hillier
28 April 2011 00:47 GMT

A survey of US games industry pay scales has revealed salaries are on the rise, but increasing “crunch” periods are making the indie scene look more and more attractive.

According to results published in the latest issue of Game Developer magazine, which hosts an annual survey on the subject, the average games industry salary in 2010 was seven percent higher than in 2009, topping out at $80,817 per annum.

That’s only the average salary; annual; pay cheques vary widely between disciplines. Right at the top you have business and legal positions, which pull in around $106,452 each year. 85 percent of those taking the survey in this category reported receiving bonuses on top of that.

Right at the bottom, QA testers only bring in $49,909, but that’s a pretty massive jump from 2009’s $37,905. Game Developer suggests the increase may be due to the need for specialised tester skills for online and web-based games.

In between the two extremes, we have sound designers and composers at $68,088; game designers at $70,223; artists and animators at $71,354; programmers at $85,733; and producers at $88,544.

All but designers, artists, and sound designers saw a significant pay increase over 2009 – sound guys actually earned less than the year before.

Producers followed by business and legal positions had the highest ratio of female employees.

On the indie and contractor side, staff were only managing about $26,780 in 2010, but as that’s a good $6,000 above 2009, we can call that a win – especially as discontent is growing in the traditional industry.

According to respondents, studios are “trimming talent” and staff must endure more crunches – periods of enforced overtime which may see, at its extremes. development staff working twelve hour days, with no weekends off, for weeks on end. No wonder some respondents called 2010 “the year of the indie”.

Thanks, Kotaku.

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