Game Developer magazine released the results of its tenth annual Game Developer Salary Survey, revealing what various positions in the video game industry are paid in 2010. This year’s survey contrasts increasing salaries for mainstream game developers with continued gains for independent creators.
Mainstream video game industry salaries enjoyed a seven percent increase in 2010 over 2009, reaching and average salary of $80,817. Independent contractors earned an average of $55,493, while "independent game" team members trailed with a $26,780 average, an increase of over $6,000 from the previous year’s survey.
By job type, programmer continued to the highest paid position in both the console and online game industry – after production and those in the business and legal sectors – with an average annual salary of $85,733. Salaries for programmers increased by around $5,000 over 2009 numbers, except in entry-level positions, which saw a $1,000 decrease.
Art and animation positions were mostly flat compared to 2009 at $71,354. Art directors saw a slight bump in compensation from pay raises.
Game designers saw a slight boost from 2009 numbers, with the average salary being reported at $70,223. Designers saw little movement in 2010, as the discipline has been one of the most stable in terms of compensation.
Producers saw an overall salary dip in 2009, but in 2010 the position increased by over $13,000, for a total average salary of $88,544. Female employees continued to be best-represented in this field, with 17 percent of the respondents being women.
Sound designers and composers earned an average of $68,088, with 15 percent of respondents reporting that they earned less than in 2009. The category typically has a low response rate, due to the fact that there are few full-time audio professionals employed in games, but individuals in the field are those most likely to receive royalties for their work.
Quality assurance remains the lowest paid discipline, with an average salary of $49,009 being reported. Similar to industry employees working in production, the 2010 salary bump over 2009’s $37,905 figure may be a result of those individuals working in web game-centric industries and with more complex testing skills.
Business and legal employees remain the highest paid in the industry across all levels of experience, with the average salary being reported at $106,452. Along with having the second-highest numbers for female representation, those working in business and legal are also more likely to receive additional compensation, with 85 percent of respondents reporting that they had.
In the "self-reporting" part of the survey, where developers can express opinions, salaried game developers often had a bleaker outlook on the industry. These respondents stated that working in the traditional structure is "frustrating," complaining that larger studios are "trimming talent" and crunching harder. Independent developers felt that the industry was more fertile and and as innovative than ever, praising the arrival of new platforms and revenue streams. Some of these individuals called 2010 "the year of the indie."
The full survey results appear in the latest issue of the magazine .