[Game Developer magazine presents its 12th annual Salary Survey, tracking pay rates across multiple industry fields and comparing salaries across regions and educational backgrounds.]
"An industry in flux." That's the main takeaway from the 12th annual Game Developer magazine Salary Survey. On one hand, we saw the industry explode with creativity and new tech; on the other hand, seeing several highprofile studio closures left many worrying about the long-term outlook for their career. Overall, most game developers made more money and received better benefit coverage than last year (with roughly a 12-15% increase in medical, dental, and vision coverage across the board), but that didn't stop developers from expressing uncertainty about the industry's direction.
Every year, we ask thousands of Game Developer and Gamasutra readers to tell us what they made in the last year, asking a slew of related questions along the way. For some numbers, the industry is looking up. We found that the average salary across the U.S. game industry is $84,337, which is up approximately $3,100 over last year's average. Layoffs are at 12%, down 1% from last year. 64% of developers made more money than last year, 29% made the same, and only 7% made less. When asked if they thought the game industry was a great industry to work in, 24% of developers strongly agreed, 45% agreed, 21% felt neutral, and only 7% disagreed and 3% strongly disagreed. Only 9% of developers reported being dissatisfied with their potential career path (down 2% from last year), compared to 22% who felt extremely satisfied, 41% who felt satisfied, and 27% who felt somewhat satisfied.
However, the literal comments revealed a shared feeling that the industry was in flux; practically every comment we received spoke to the decline of triple-A 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 indie developers' earnings. When asked whether they thought there were more jobs in 2012 for game developers, whether the game industry was picking up, and whether there were more opportunities than ever before, devs were much more negative than last year.
In other words, even though most numbers are going up, they might not tell the whole story. It seems like everyone knows that mobile and multiplatform is where the industry is headed, but that knowledge isn't particularly reassuring. Between the console developers worried about finding a place in the new job market, indies still waiting for their passion projects to pay off, current mobile devs underwhelmed by how their games have fared in the hypercompetitive app stores, and the possibility of another bubble forming (and bursting) on the horizon, a few extra bucks here and there isn't going to do much to assuage those fears.