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  • Game Developer Salary Survey 2011

    - Ryan Newman and Brandon Sheffield

  • Average Salary By Education Level And Discipline

    (across all levels of experience)

    The Indie Report

    This is the second year of our indie section, which includes independent developers and contractors. Of those segments surveyed, it was independent contractors (not part of a team) who again found themselves at the top of the pile.

    Last year's average compensation of $45,137 was bested in 2010 by a significant margin, with independent contractors earning an average of $55,493. Those who were members of a team also fared better in 2010, with an increase of over $6,000 for an average of $26,780. Individual developers were again at the bottom, earning less in 2010 with $11,379.

    Of those surveyed, the majority of respondents (52 percent) were designers, while the majority of independent contractors (26 percent) were involved in art. Of those individual developers or members of an indie team, 55 percent made under $500 from the sale of their games in 2010.

    Some indie developers make money from sources other than their game, as well. Eighteen percent of individual or team members made additional income from alternative game-related revenue streams. Of those, 16 percent made less than $100, while 23 percent made over $20,000. This additional revenue came in the form of promotions, non-game DLC content, sponsorships, ads, awards, and grants. Of those salaried and independent contractors who responded, 33 percent received an annual bonus, 7 percent royalties, and 10 percent profit sharing, of which 25 percent made under $1,000 while 3 percent made over $100,000.

    Interestingly, of almost 500 non-salaried respondents, 63 percent have never worked at a traditional, salary-based game developer. Many students now get their start as an indie developer.

    Job Functions

    For contractors, we asked respondents to choose the capacity in which they primarily worked in 2010, but for indies, it's a little more complex. Given the "many hats" nature of small-scale development, asking an indie to choose just one discipline is unreasonable. As such, the indie chart should be read as "what percentage of indies do at least this job function," rather than "how many indies do this job exclusively."

    Indies By Job Function

    Contractors By Job Function


    Now in its tenth year, the Game Developer Salary Survey was conducted in February 2011 for the fiscal year January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010 with the assistance of Audience Insights. Email invitations were sent to Game Developer subscribers, Game Developers Conference attendees, and members asking them to participate in the survey.

    We gathered 3,781 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 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. The usable sample reflected among salaried employees in the U.S. was 1,343, for Canada 276, and for Europe 404; and 473 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 2.7% at a 95% confidence level. The margin of error for salaried employees in Canada is plus or minus 5.9%, and is 4.9% for Europe.


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