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  • Game Developer Salary Survey 2013

    - Patrick Miller

  • The Indie Report

     This is the fourth year we've collected data for our indie report, where we survey individual independent developers, independent teams, and contractors for their perspective on the industry. Individual indie developers' average income of $23,130 is $420 lower than last year's average, while members of indie teams reported an average of only $19,487, which is down $20,000 from last year's average. (Note that last year's average was up $26,780 from the year before that, so some rather drastic fluctuation in this number appears to be rather common.)

    When it comes to indie game sales revenue, the results are still rather spread out. Half of indie developers made less than $500 from the sale of their games (which includes in-app purchases and DLC); 13% made between $500 and $3,000, 15% made between $5,000 and $30,000, and 5% made over $200,000. Alternate sources of income (advertising, awards/grants, sponsorship opportunities) remain hard to obtain; 79% of indie devs didn't make any money from these methods at all. Of the devs that did, 25% made less than $100, 28% made between $100 and $2,000, 22% made between $2,000 and $10,000, 5% made between $10,000 and $20,000, and 20% made over $20,000.

    Job Functions

    When it comes to indie job functions, we decided to change the survey this year to reflect each developer's primary contribution. We know that being an indie dev requires wearing multiple hats, but we wanted to find out which disciplines indies specialized in. 40% of indie devs reported their primary role was programming, followed by 19% in design, 12% in art, 11% in QA, 8% in production, 8% as "other," and 2% in audio. Programming, design, and art are, understandably, the most popular primary disciplines (and perhaps the most crucial to the nuts and bolts of indie game creation); production, meanwhile, appears to be a role that indie teams simply can't afford to bring on specialists to handle quite yet, and audio development continues to be a rather niche role (most likely one that is contracted out with indies, just as it is with mainstream game development).

    For contractors, the most popular discipline is QA (24%), followed by art (19%), programming (17%), audio and design (10% each), other assorted roles (8%), production, (7%), and writing (4%). There hasn't been much significant fluctuation in the respective proportions of contracted dev roles between this year's survey and last year's survey, so it seems as though dev studios aren't changing the way they handle which roles need salaried employees and which roles to contract out. survey, so it seems as though dev studios aren't changing the way they handle which roles need salaried employees and which roles to contract out.


    Now in its 12th year, the Game Developer Salary Survey was conducted in February 2013 for the fiscal year January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012 with the assistance of Audience Insights. Email invitations were sent to Game Developer subscribers, Game Developers Conference attendees, and Gamasutra. com members asking them to participate in the survey.

    We gathered 4,042 responses from developers worldwide, but not all who participated in the survey provided enough compensation information to be included in the final report. We also excluded salaries of less than $10,000 and the salaries of students and educators. The small number of reported salaries greater than $202,500 were excluded to prevent their high numbers from unnaturally skewing the averages. We also excluded records that were missing key demographic and classification numbers.

    The survey primarily includes U.S. compensation, but consolidated figures from Canada and Europe were included separately. The usable sample reflected among salaried employees in the U.S. was 1,520, for Canada 367, and for Europe 527; and 422 for indies and independent contractors who provided compensation information worldwide.

    The sample represented in our salary survey can be projected to the U.S. game developer community with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6% at a 95% confidence level. The margin of error for salaried employees in Canada is plus or minus 5%, and is 4.2% for Europe.

    Salary Survey Comments

    The bad

    "It was more enjoyable when it was less mature."

    "QA is undervalued and not compensated fairly."

    "I'm seeing the failures (some spectacular) of more and more studios lately. New ones are sprouting up as well, but it doesn't feel like there are as many new ones as there are failing old ones. I worry about long-term sustainability for my career as I continue to get older (I'm 41 now)."

    "When I got my first industry job in 2005, it felt like there were all these Sure Bet Career jobs out there. Now, less than 10 years later, I can't think of a single job that will be safely guaranteed to be around for 5 years."

    "I hear dentistry is in demand."

    "We're a bit stuck in the mud. I don't see a whole lot of pure innovation (but I'm not sure that's really what people want anyway). I'd like to see some honest excitement in games again because I think we're getting a bit predictable."

    "It's difficult to get in to my line of work. All the jobs that exist are filled. Companies that don't have writers or editors can't be convinced that they need them. It's really a pain."

    The Good

    "It was refreshing to see smaller, more unique games get recognition this year."

    "Lots of turnover, but lots of new opportunities for smaller companies."

    "I absolutely love the industry I work in. I can't imagine any other career track. Quality of Life is picking up, crunchmongering developers are dying off, and new business models are supporting innovation like never before."

    "The variety of opportunity (given the huge rise in casual and independent games) is greater than ever."

    "Not always the highestpaying option, but the game industry is the most rewarding career path I could imagine."

    "There's no better way to earn a living. While it has its ups and downs and unique challenges, I'm very happy to be working within it, and hope to do so for a very long time."


    "F2P rules."

    "Free-2-play. Do you speak it!?"

    "Monetization sucks."

    "This current influx of quick-cash-grab F2P and social games is strongly reminiscent of the early '80s pre-crash boom."

    "A bit sad that it's now focusing on monetization [more] than ever."

    "It's been a downward spiral. Soon, you will have to pay people to play your games. In fact, it's already happening!"


    "2012 was the first year I noticed our company strongly recognize the importance of personal devices and how they can enhance a console experience."

    "I've worked for a major first-party developer for over 15 years and they've never acknowledged the existence of anything besides their own platform. Now they're realizing that strong titles may need to include multiple devices, some of which may not be made by themselves."

    "I would feel like an outdated dinosaur developing for consoles... even unreleased hardware. Mobile is clearly king, and developers must react or continue to shut their doors."

    "The bloodletting in console dev is scary, especially since mobile/indie doesn't seem to have the $$ to pick up the talent."


    "The mobile and casual space is quite the exciting area to be in."

    "Mobile games suck."

    "The mobile space is very competitive, and not very profitable."

    "The obsession with mobile platforms taking over is just another trend. Of course mobile is and looks to remain a very viable platform for monetization; however, developers should stay more focused on pleasing customers than trying to figure out the next big profit wave to ride. That'll be the key to a respectful future."

    "Mobile/casual games are a scary potential direction. The games the casual market wants to play are not the games I got into the industry to make. I would, ideally, never want to work on creating a low-budget, monetizing treadmill."


    "There are more opportunities for indie developers, but less for everything else."

    "There are more ways than ever now for indie game developers to do well and publish their games."

    "In 2012 I felt like a drop in the app-store ocean, and that as an indie, I had neither the development resources nor the marketing budget to compete. That has since changed in 2013 as I'm now developing for the OUYA, and it feels great to be part of a small but growing community with prospects, and be involved at something from the ground floor."

    "It's a great time to be an employee in mobile/web, but it seems like financing is drying up for people who want to start their own companies. "Going indie" isn't really viable in expensive places like Silicon Valley, so the "day job" can feel like a prison at times."

    "There is an obvious and exciting increase in the number of opportunities for game developers on an individual and independent level. Anyone who wasn't working on a personal project in 2012 is falling behind."


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