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IGN Talks Games Industry Salaries

CmdrTaco posted about 9 years ago | from the not-just-monopoly-money dept.

The Almighty Buck 348

WeebMac writes "IGN has a new career-themed section and one of their first stories is about the earning potential available to those who make their careers in the gaming industry. From TFA, 'Beginning programmers, whether you're working on tools, gameplay, networking, audio, AI, or animation, you can expect to start off with a salary in the area of $60K with the potential for more in the way of sales-based royalties or bonuses or stock options depending on the particular company you've been hired by."

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You are all fags. (1)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | about 9 years ago | (#13837840)

You heard me.

Re:You are all fags. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13837989)

For a second I thought Slashdot was taken over by MS.

And that $60k goes a long way... (5, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | about 9 years ago | (#13837863)

Because since you'll be working 80 hour weeks, you won't have time to spend it!

As for stock options and royalties...yeah right. Carrot, meet stick.

Seriously, IGN is clueless.

Re:And that $60k goes a long way... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13837971)

I wonder how much time they will spend doing QA on the cheap before they are hired on as programmers and reach that "starting" wage.

Re:And that $60k goes a long way... (1)

Antonymous Flower (848759) | about 9 years ago | (#13838040)

It is in IGN's interest to throw out high numbers. Think about it.. Oh, and spending money isn't everyone's goal.

Re:And that $60k goes a long way... (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | about 9 years ago | (#13838128)

Because since you'll be working 80 hour weeks, you won't have time to spend it!

Don't worry, these will go to health care in no time! SPECIALLY with 80 hour weeks.

Re:And that $60k goes a long way... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838247)

Because since you'll be working 80 hour weeks, you won't have time to spend it!
Keep perpetuating these exaggerations of how bad our working conditions are. If you keep scaring away potential new talent, then we veterans of the industry have a little easier of a future because of less competition for our jobs.

Or are they? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838273)

Granted that most of the information presented in the article is either false or hyped beyond exaggeration, IGN is not entirely clueless. Their motive here is not to write a fact-filled article, presenting unbiased information to a crowd of prospective game developers.

What is it, then? To make money. Consider two things:

-This article is geared toward adolescents, and continues the marginal trend within America of promoting questionable possibilities because, survey says: kids like to dream.
-Checking just above the article, one will notice the banner indicating "Sponsored by Full Sail" in so many words. What is Full Sail, you ask? An imitation private college designed to produced talentless chum at the measly expense of $30k. Per year.

IGN is no more clueless than they are poor, but they definitely hope to take advantage of the fact that their userbase is indeed clueless. But what more should we expect from America's biased, profiteering media?

Starting at $60K? (-1, Flamebait)

geomon (78680) | about 9 years ago | (#13837865)

Okay, now I'm not so pissed at my kids for spending time playing video games. My eldest is working on a high school class assignment programming a video game. If he can start at ~$60K as a college grad, then I guess his hours spent gaming will not have been a waste.

Re:Starting at $60K? (2, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | about 9 years ago | (#13837931)

It depends on where you live. In my neck of the woods (NE GA), $60k goes a long way. Out where most game programmers are located (CA coast), I'd hate to try to live off of that. When you're taking home $4000 a month (after taxes) and spending $2500 on rent or a mortgage payment, it doesn't look so good.

Re:Starting at $60K? (2, Insightful)

orderb13 (792382) | about 9 years ago | (#13838219)

You're looking at a lot less than that after taxes. If you're lucky you're looking at 3,200.

Re:Starting at $60K? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 9 years ago | (#13837965)

You'd better hope he gets paid more than average. I mean, at least NFL players get a large salary (min is $180k this year?) for a job that effectively burns them out completely in 10 years or less (exceptions exist, of course).

The worst thing is that this kind of hype will draw more moths to the flame of $$$, ignoring entirely the quality-of-life considerations kids should be considering.

Oh, and yes - it's almost impossible to teach kids the valuse of time off, family, and job satisfaction. I was lucky that I chose a career that paid resonably and was way-cool. Down side was that there are only a few places in the US where I could find gainful employment - and very few are really nice places to raise a family. So I got a second degree, switched careers (a laterl shift really, not a radical change), and found a fantastic place to live. I'm just happy I figured out the game before I was 35.

Re:Starting at $60K? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838018)

Starting at $60K US? Aaaahahaha!

Maybe on the California coast or in New York, where the living expenses are high enough that you *have* to pay like that to get anybody at all.

In Vancouver, which is a pretty expensive place to live for Canada, a good starting salary for a game programmer is more like $40k CAD.

Re:Starting at $60K? (1)

pete19 (874979) | about 9 years ago | (#13838116)

$60,000...Yeah, right!!

I'm a third year Computing Science (A.I.) student. I was at my university careers fair today, and the most I can expect to earn as a starting graduate in the UK is in the area of £21,500 (~$38,000).

A friend of mine just graduated with a BSc Games Technology (Hons) [] degree at another univerisity in Scotland. He said only one of the 20 or so people who graduated this summer have found a job!

I think it would be quite interesting, but I don't know how much work is available afterwards. That, and it would mean spending four years in Dundee! Go Aberdeen!

Sorry to anyone that lives in Dundee. My friend told me that Dundee itself was the worst part of his university experience!

Re:Starting at $60K? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 9 years ago | (#13838139)

Depends. Unless he loves programming games, I would be cautious about grooming him for thie job in the future. By the time he finishes college and looks for a job, that market may already be saturated. Think of the IT market in the late 90s. It was gold-rush.

Something to think about: Do you which people made a profit durring the gold rush? It was stores selling the equipment. Very little actually turned out a profit digging for gold.

Re:Starting at $60K? (0, Flamebait)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | about 9 years ago | (#13838231)

you're a fucking twat. Go throw yourself off a damn bridge.

If his hobby is playing games then his hobby is playing games. It's not important how much paper he gets given later in life for it. If you're that fucking blind please do as I stated above. His happiness is second to how much money he earns?

You're an asshole. If you gave a fuck about your kids you wouldn't be pissed at him for doing what he enjoyed, instead you get annoyed because GASP he has a hobby. Next time you look at him playing games just think "He's not drinking, smoking crack or knocking girls up". Maybe "silly video games" arn't quite the devil.

And just to point out : You're an asshole.

What I'd REALLY like to know (4, Insightful)

halivar (535827) | about 9 years ago | (#13837869)

What's the dollar-to-hour ratio? If you're making $100K and spending 100 hours a week to make it, it's not worth it.

Re:What I'd REALLY like to know (5, Informative)

RailGunner (554645) | about 9 years ago | (#13837996)

Assuming 80 hour work weeks, working 50 weeks out of the year, 60K works out to:

$15 bucks an hour.

Assuming you work 80 hours a week, and you get time-and-a-half overtime, you only need to make $12 an hour. If you're competent, you can make more than $12 an hour managing a Burger King.

For further comparison: Most contractors are able to bill for over $40 an hour, in many cases more than this.

Bottom line is this: If you're working mandatory overtime, there's a line where it'd be better to go sling burgers.

Re:What I'd REALLY like to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838104)

Keep in mind that that is not taking into account items such as insurance, 401k, and taxes - so your real take home is somewhere probably about $7 per hour.

Re:What I'd REALLY like to know (2, Interesting)

baboon (4086) | about 9 years ago | (#13838248)

Keep in mind that you're likely working in a town adjacent to LA or San Diego where the cost of living (food and rent) is literally about double compared to 90% of the country. The multiplier for houses is about 3, with a bottom cap of around 400k, no matter how shabby (a 200k house will cost you about 600k and a 90K house will cost you at least 400k).

The pay for me was about 20% less than I made before and after. Education and other experience means less than your list of published game titles, for which I had none.

Anyhow, adding a divisor of two for cost of living,
80k/(4000*2) = $10/hr, less than the $13/hr I made way back in high school, not accounting for the years of inflation. You could also work out how the increased cost of living screws you on income tax.

The surprising thing is that I never expected that I could work 80 hours a week, but you'd be surprised how they ease it in as you become accustomed. The apparent productivity boosts quickly fade as people wear down, and nearly everyone eventually does less with those 80 hours than they originally did with an easy 50.

Not Worth It to You Maybe (1)

OctoberSky (888619) | about 9 years ago | (#13838009)

My cousin is a Pastry Chef. He has to put in 80 hour weeks for no more than $35,000, and that's being generous. And he has the off-set weekend of Sunday and Monday, that's when he gets a 2 day weekend.

But he loves it, so the days go by quickly.

kids! (4, Insightful)

rovingeyes (575063) | about 9 years ago | (#13837880)

"If you were to grab any random teenager from one of the midnight launch lines for the latest Halo, Grand Theft Auto or Madden release and were to ask them how much it'd take to pay them to make games, there's a good chance that you'd find more than a few who would tell you that it's their dream to get into development and that they'd do it for free. "

Call it a flame, but am I the only one seeing the stupidity in that paragraph. They are KIDS for crying out loud! Let us see if they still are willing to work for free when...umm... they graduate or have a family. This author is a moron!

Re:kids! (5, Funny)

NotMyNickName (922171) | about 9 years ago | (#13837914)

This author is a moron!

Only the best from IGN.

Re:kids! (1)

bjorniac (836863) | about 9 years ago | (#13837917)

Same for me - I'm a grad student. I'd do what I do for free, but I have a family to keep fed and housed. People don't seem to realize that vocations aren't done for free - we need to be kept alive!

Re:kids! (2, Insightful)

mcb (5109) | about 9 years ago | (#13837919)

Agreed. A random teenager has no idea what is involved in making games. Tedious programming, constantly fixing bugs, trying to write software for an insane variety of hardware, working 80 hours a week until your current project ships, losing your job when your game crashes and burns in the market...

Yeah sounds like a dream job.

Re:kids! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13837970)

there's a good chance that you'd find more than a few [kids] who would tell you that it's their dream to get into development and that they'd do it for free

And you'd get American Idol -- the video game!. Or Survivor -- Life's a Beach, or some other brain-dead, derivative crap.

OTOH, who's to say that isn't what is actually happening?

Re:kids! (2, Informative)

Abedneg0 (665739) | about 9 years ago | (#13838030)

The statement in the article is not that stupid. First of all, if you look at the number of adults playing games, it's incredible. Secondly, even if you are not playing games, and if you are a computer science or ECE graduate, the appeal of working for a game company, compared to programming a credit card processing system at a bank is quite high.

On the other hand, the part of the article that I find suspicious is their figure of $60 grand. I spent a summer as an intern at a certain big game company, doing research in machine learning. Granted, that is not a software engineering position, but I would expect that my salary was higher than that of a programming intern. For one, I have a Master's in computer science. With that in mind, the amount of money they paid me was way below $60,000/yr. And from talking to some of my coworkers, this is indeed the situation - the game companies can get away with paying lower salaries just because making games is a cool job. I know that interns get paid less than full-time workers, and I don't have an exact figure on the entrance salary of a software engineer at that company, but I would be very surprised if it were $60k.

Re:kids! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838176)

you are absolutely correct. I always find these articles stating the average wages to be dramatically higher than anyone I know. I don't know what it is that skews the results, but the salaries reported for any one of these salary surveys seem high to me. No matter who does it or what types of jobs they cover. Either everyone I know is paid low or these figures are always too high.

kids!-Doing it "for the love". (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838179)

Shhh! Don't you know you're a bad person if you are asking for money for your efforts. You're suppose to be "doing it for the love". "Love will find a way" and all that.

Re:kids! (2, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | about 9 years ago | (#13838200)

Let us see if they still are willing to work for free when...umm... they graduate or have a family. This author is a moron!

Then they shouldn't have kids then... Sometimes having a particular career means not having a family because you won't be able to support them (that or you wouldn't make a responsible parent anyways).

Look... No one is forcing you to have kids or buy a house or a fancy car. I can live off $20K a year if I wanted to (but I wouldn't want).

If you have dreams follow them. Wait til your 30 to have kids or just not have them at all unless you have some breeder desire. Me... I think I am going to spare the world a few more mouths and get a vasectomy and adopt if I ever settle down.

Don't get me wrong, you can still have your dream career and still have a family, but you have work extra hard for it and give up things that you had before you started to raise a family.

Honest question (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13837888)

If you salary area is $60K, is your salary 244.95?

Re:Honest question (1)

Soporific (595477) | about 9 years ago | (#13837922)

No, it's $61,440. Or 491,520 cents.


Re:Honest question (1)

klack (823307) | about 9 years ago | (#13838192)

In fact it is $^(0.5) 244.95.

Or you can make a crappy half-assed games site (4, Insightful)

Radres (776901) | about 9 years ago | (#13837897)

...and make $600 million [] . I always hated IGN and their half-hearted attempt to make a games site for each and every game that comes out. Nothing could compare to a site made by a dedicated fan, such as Shlonglor's Warcraft 2 page [] , which was built before this gamespy/ign/daily radar/plan revolution.

Re:Or you can make a crappy half-assed games site (1)

acvh (120205) | about 9 years ago | (#13837980)

keep in mind that IGN began by acquiring fan sites (, etc). I agree that now it is an unreadable, unnavigable mess - but if a site like your Shlonglor got an offer to sell out, you can bet your sweet bippy that we'd be going to for Warcraft 2 news.

Re:Or you can make a crappy half-assed games site (2, Informative)

Reapy (688651) | about 9 years ago | (#13838165)

He did.

He works for blizzard and creates many of the strategy pages they create for their games. He goes by Nebu, short for that whole name of the matrix ship that I can't spell :)

Re:Or you can make a crappy half-assed games site (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838031)

At least they didn't get hacked like Gamespot [ []

Re:Or you can make a crappy half-assed games site (1)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | about 9 years ago | (#13838046)

Oh man, I havent thought of Shlonglors site in years. Man, that was the definitive resource for War2 back in the day. Thanks for the ride down memory lane.

Re:Or you can make a crappy half-assed games site (1)

Buzz_Litebeer (539463) | about 9 years ago | (#13838153)

I made (now back in the day, it was very well thought out. But there is no reason to even bother anymore. Sure you can do a lot better job content wise than the big guys, but when someone goes to google and types in mechwarrior or whatnot, they are going to get the super mega dupe sites that are low on content, high on reg fees, but look really fancy!

The only site that I still know of thats completeley fan run that gets almost all traffic for the game is which NEARLY owns the mechawarrior online community with a small bit in other sites.

I helped that site come to being, and I am still glad it hasnt let itself get bought out. Gamespy made a big bid for all their IP, and luckily they didnt cave and they are better for it.

Today 60,000 Tomorrow??? (3, Interesting)

mpapet (761907) | about 9 years ago | (#13837906)

I tend to think the numbers are lying one way or another.

Either it's an EA kind of environment where 60,000K may be cheap for such devotion, or gaming is in the equivalent of the tech bubble.

Un-related but funny story. I have some aquiantances (sp?) here in L.A. that write scripts and they actually get evaluated (paid too) by people who can get movies made. The latest overwhelming reply to their work has been, "It's a great script, but we're really looking for something based on a video game.."

True story.

Re:Today 60,000 Tomorrow??? (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | about 9 years ago | (#13837979)

Those salaries are typical for engineering in general, at least in San Francisco.

Re:Today 60,000 Tomorrow??? (1)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | about 9 years ago | (#13838006)

"It's a great script, but we're really looking for something based on a video game.."

If they write one piece of crap (say, for instance, a Qbert movie) that the studio can make some money on, they might have an easier time selling them on another, better script when the wind blows and movie trends change... Plus, the world needs another video-game-based vehicle for "The Rock" to star in... Imagine The Rock in "Galaga, the Movie!"

Pure dreck...

Re:Today 60,000 Tomorrow??? (1)

mpapet (761907) | about 9 years ago | (#13838037)

That the studio can make some money on

That's why they call it show business.

The "art and creativity" part seems to be more of an afterthought.

Re:Today 60,000 Tomorrow??? (5, Funny)

rlp (11898) | about 9 years ago | (#13838080)

It's a great script, but we're really looking for something based on a video game


That'll be one million dollars and ten percent of the gross please.

Into Perspective (3, Interesting)

pat_trick (218868) | about 9 years ago | (#13837907)

Nevermind that the "beginning" programmer has likely already worked on many other games, has a solid background in programming of various languages / APIs, and is able to produce solid quality code.

Sounds like they're souping up "beginning" as "I know how to write a cout in C++!".

Re:Right, right! (1)

mister_llah (891540) | about 9 years ago | (#13837990)

On top of any work they had to do before touching code, like quality assurance and testing...

I hope so (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838059)

I've been working on games since leaving university in 1994... 3DO, PS1, PS2, XBox, Sega DC, Nintendo 64, PC, in both programmer and lead programmer positions. I hit $60k last year.


I mean, am I just horribly underpaid, or are these figures wildly inaccurate, or just vastly inflated Californian levels?

Good to know I'm a beginner. Makes me feel a little younger.

Gaming industry is insane.. (4, Informative)

xtal (49134) | about 9 years ago | (#13837920)

Nevermind what it will do if you want to have a family life. Done that once, now I'm a freelance contractor and working on my own business ventures. If you go into the games industry looking to get rich as a programmer, you are insane. This is an industry where the peasants (programmers, engineers) REVOLTED. I can't think of another example. G=Google+Search&meta= []

Think about that.

If you're doing it for the love of the art, do it for a hobby. Otherwise, I admire your guts.

Free advice for those of you with mad opengl skills and a mathematics background - double score if you have a mathematics or engineering degree.

- Go read a book on "Data Visualization"
- Go read a book on "Geographic Information Systems"
- Go read a book on "Signal Processing" (FFT, etc)
- Brush up on data structures relevant to the above.

Fire some resumes around to oil companies, insurance firms, financial trading companies, mining companies, etc etc loaded up with buzzwords. Make your programming skills secondary to the buzzwords.

Profit. My $0.02. I paid for my univesity degree writing 3D GIS systems software in OpenGL - had I have tried to do so writing games, I would probably be living on the street.

Re:Gaming industry is insane.. (3, Interesting)

jinzumkei (802273) | about 9 years ago | (#13838028)

I did both man, Back at school I wrote medical visualization software for virtual reality systems. Sure it paid the bills, but it wasn't as satisfying and the work environment was much more uptight (Researching PHDs aren't the most fun group of people to work with).

Now, I work in the game industry and my hours are extemely flexible and the atmosphere is much more laidback. I find that the quality of work I am doing is much better now that I am happy. I make a very good wage (I'm not rich, but I never have to worry about money) and always seem to have the time to take vacations and such. So hey, I guess there's 2 sides to every coin.

Re:Gaming industry is insane.. (1)

xtal (49134) | about 9 years ago | (#13838065)

Not arguing the environments are different.

However, if you want to make lots of money, you are much more likely to do so (in my opinion) in another graphics and math intensive field, expecially one dripping with money like oil exploration than an industry filled with easily exploitable younger adults willing to work insane hours, and a new crop of them appearing yearly.

In Finland... (1)

metalmario (717434) | about 9 years ago | (#13837928)

You can expect to get something around 30000e/year, if you are programming games for mobile phones. And pay ~24% taxes. And everything is more expensive in here than in the States.

Re:In Finland... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838105)

At least you don't have fat women in Finland.

Re:In Finland... (1)

metalmario (717434) | about 9 years ago | (#13838158)

We have our share of those, too. Perhaps not all are fat, but they are annoying, nagging, stupid, and very scared of everything. And envious. And gossip a lot. And speak in riddles. Perhaps they just watch too much TV. Or something.

Re:In Finland... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838181)

... games program you!

er, wait...

Re:In Finland... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838242)

Only 24% tax in Finland? That's amazingly low. Here in Holland some are talking of a flat rate system of... 44%...
At the moment the lowest bracket is 33% (there's no 0% bracket, but there is a standard tax return), then 42% and 52%.

Waste of time. (2, Funny)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about 9 years ago | (#13837932)

You're more likely to be a pro athelete than to be a game dev. Unless your diet centers around cheetos and mountain dew. In that case you have no chance at either.


Re:Waste of time. (1)

Duhavid (677874) | about 9 years ago | (#13838196)

Ah! The staples of life! Cheetos and Mountain dew.

Re:Waste of time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838272)

I'm a game dev. I'd like to believe my job was easier to get than what a pro athlete might go through. In fact, I think my game development job was easier to get than any other engineering job I've applied for.

I stopped reading at... (4, Insightful)

nharmon (97591) | about 9 years ago | (#13837940)

as it's the engineers at the various game companies that are driving the Ferrari's, Mercedes SL500's, and Lamborghini's.

First of all. How many engineers are game companies are driving top-end sports cars? And second of all, how many could afford them?

I mean, making $100,000 and driving a Lambo would probably mean parking it in front of a 1 bedroom apartment... and hoping someone doesn't walk along and key it.

Re:I stopped reading at... (2, Insightful)

djwavelength (398555) | about 9 years ago | (#13837993)

If they replace "engineers" with "executives", the sentance makes sense.

Re:I stopped reading at... (1)

sfontain (842406) | about 9 years ago | (#13838086)

> I mean, making $100,000 and driving a Lambo would probably mean parking it in front of a 1 bedroom apartment... and hoping someone doesn't walk along and key it.

I highly doubt that.

Re:I stopped reading at... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838220)

>> I mean, making $100,000 and driving a Lambo would probably mean parking
>> it in front of a 1 bedroom apartment... and hoping someone doesn't walk
>> along and key it.

>I highly doubt that.

That's because you're inexcusably stupid.

Pardon? (3, Insightful)

MaestroSartori (146297) | about 9 years ago | (#13837956)

I don't know about the US, but I'm a gamesprogrammer in the UK with 4 years or so games experience for a mix of companies.

My starting salary was £20k (somewhere around $35k-40k US I think), which is at the upper end of the starting range in this country. I've known people who worked in smaller companies in lower cost-of-living areas who started on much less.

Most companies that I've known staff at do *not* offer shares, or royalties, or even bonuses. Bonuses, where offered, are by no means guaranteed - I've never had one. I've worked on a finished game for which I might've received royalties, but you don't get them til at least a year after the game is released (and the company went bust before the game was released, lovely!), and there's no guarantee that the contract with the publisher will be such that the staff ever see any royalties even if the company does.

I've never worked for them, but the majority of games companies at least in the UK make GB/GBA/Mobile-phone games, not the big console titles. Even the big players (Rockstar spring to mind) don't pay out regular bonuses on time or at all.

Why do I still do it? Well, now I'm working at a decent company (Sony, if you're interested), I get to make *games* god damn it, it's fun! :)

If anyone has any more questions about working in games, feel free to reply :D

Re:Pardon? (1)

FortKnox (169099) | about 9 years ago | (#13838012)

Keep in mind that location is a big factor.
Someone making $60k in the midwest... is a great job and can support a family.
Someone making $60k in LA (more likely for gamining companies) and you are living in a small apartment unable to support a significant other.

Re:Pardon? (1)

MaestroSartori (146297) | about 9 years ago | (#13838027)

Indeed - 20k is a decent wage in the UK for a graduate (not for a CS graduate maybe), but it was in one of the most expensive parts of the country (right next to London) where I literally couldn't afford to buy a house, and rent was 75% of my wage each month :(

Re:Pardon? (4, Informative)

brainboyz (114458) | about 9 years ago | (#13838212)

I'm calling out your bullshit! I make $50k/year as a programmer in Orange County (high cost area). I can afford a decent 1 bedroom apartment (700 sq feet), investments, 401k, health & dental insurance, my truck, 2 motorcycles (track and street), and a project car. If I cared to for some reason, I could have my girlfriend move in and only money she'd need to contribute would be anything to go out shopping with.

It's not a high-end life, but it's certainly not "scraping by" nor is it in a bad area (I live 15 minutes from work). That seems to be the norm for this area.

I will agree that if I were making this much in the midwest, I'd own my own home by now but that's the price of gorgeous weather, women, and scenes.

Seems High (4, Informative)

captainbeardo (868266) | about 9 years ago | (#13837957)

According to the diversity report from the IGDA [] the average salary is 58K, but that's with the average time in the industry at 5.6 years. So it would seem to me that the average starting salary would be less than the 60K they are quoting.

Also, due to the incredible supply of people that want to work in the games industry you'd expect the average salary of a game software developer to be less. I know in the company I work for starting SW developer salary is around 55K right out of college. In any event, it seems that their numbers for SW engineers is a bit high.

Cool vs. $$ (1)

LukePieStalker (746993) | about 9 years ago | (#13837983)

And how many late nights and Sundays is the beginning programmer (read: "lives alone, has no life") putting in for their $60K?

This is one of those jobs, like publishing or broadcasting, that benefits from the perceived cool factor. Better to get yourself a corporate database programming job, start at $15K more per year, and have weekends.

Re:Cool vs. $$ (1)

acvh (120205) | about 9 years ago | (#13838042)

I would have to assume, as well, that an entry level game programmer has exactly zero input into the game design, gameplay mechanics, storyline, etc. He's going to be told to write some code to simulate this or that physical effect (blood, tire wear, beach erosion, etc.) No fun there, and no game playing either.

Get a job working for a big company writing code for an in-house application, and you'll probably get to play UT or HalfLife with the rest of the IT department.

Re:Cool vs. $$ (1)

Doctor Memory (6336) | about 9 years ago | (#13838222)

Yep. With everybody in a separate training room, using the projector to fill out that 110" screen, sound pounding through the 5.1 Onkyo presentation set-up -- after shutting down the Oracle instance on the development server to free up the CPU and network, of course.

Re:Cool vs. $$ (1)

foobari (227908) | about 9 years ago | (#13838171)

what the &^#@%$ were you thinking. Rule #1 of DBA jobs is don't talk about DBA jobs. Now back to the topic - I think people should go be games programmers.

So Sorry (1)

LukePieStalker (746993) | about 9 years ago | (#13838217)

Right. Scratch that. DBA jobs suck. Keep moving. There's nothing to see here.

60K? (3, Interesting)

StandardDeviant (122674) | about 9 years ago | (#13838000)

Shit, from what I've heard from friends in the industry, it's more like 30-35k. (Most them living here in TX, with a fairly average cost of living on the national scale. [at least the cities where these folks were -- austin, dallas, and houston -- are within 10% of the national average last I checked... it's surely cheaper to live in places like Crockett or Buda or Nacogdoches or whatever, but you don't find many games studios in places where the time zone is still "1952".])

Remember the EA guy? (1)

quibbs0 (803278) | about 9 years ago | (#13838020)

Do you all remember the story about the EA Sports programmer who was working the 70,80, and 90 hour weeks with endless promises? I don't remember the details exactly but he said he was getting paid really well but basically had to blow off the rest of his life and then they ended up screwing him in the long run. His wife filed a lawsuit and I think perhaps a class action was being spoken of by other employees that were scared to speak out.

$60,000 and no time to spend it? Awesome. Atleast you can hope that some hot chick sees you in your fancy ride on your way home at 10 PM at night.

Re:Remember the EA guy? (1)

erik umenhofer (782) | about 9 years ago | (#13838194)

EA settled for like 15 mil in back pay for unpaid overtime

The hard part... (2, Insightful)

planetoid (719535) | about 9 years ago | (#13838022)

The hard part, in my experience, seems to be getting your foot in the door into the videogames industry in the first place. Every single job opening I've read that I saw and said, "I'm totally qualified for that -- all they skills they're looking for, I have", also then have one other requirement: either "Must have 2-3 years prior job experience" or "Must have credits on (x) previous console titles."

Well gee, if EVERY job position requires PRIOR JOB EXPERIENCE, how can you possibly EVER GET JOB EXPERIENCE if you can't get hired for NOT HAVING PRIOR JOB EXPERIENCE?

I wouldn't mind so much if it said "prior experience / credits preferred" (I wouldn't mind having to "prove" myself in order to get a job) but they all seem to say "prior experience / credits required" (where it seems like, even if you "prove" yourself, "well sorry, you haven't had previous work in this industry before". Two months away from graduating college and I'm starting to really panic over whether or not I'll be even given the chance to bring my experience into a job, over something that seems superficial and silly rather than anything related to competence in any given talent.

Re:The hard part... (4, Informative)

kevmo (243736) | about 9 years ago | (#13838102)

A lot of times when they say "prior experience required" they actually mean preferred. This is especially true for recent college grads - I am a senior in college myself, and I have had at least 1 interview where the job listing said "3+ years of experience." I don't know why they say it if its not totally true, but don't let those requirements stop you from sending them your resume.

Re:The hard part... (2, Insightful)

Buddy_DoQ (922706) | about 9 years ago | (#13838144)

It's cool dude, if you want in, you really don't need that prior exp. Just a hard-core portfolio and the attitude to follow it up. It's a visual medium, so you have to show them what you can do, the easiest way is to show them the last game you shipped, but they don't really expect everyone to have that. Just send them your reel and if it rocks their socks off, you'll get your interview and art test if you're an artist type.

In the meantime, don't stop working on your stuff, keep your self fresh

Re:The hard part... (1)

Rac3r5 (804639) | about 9 years ago | (#13838189)

u know something.. I faced the same problem last year..

I graduated in Spring and spent the entire summer looking for a job. A lot of the job postings that I saw wanted me to have 3-5yrs exp.

So I decided to actually go to a number of companies and drop my resume off, and even that didn't work. I spoke to some HR personell, and they were telling me that they were only looking for SENIOR ppl, while some others told me that a bunch of jobs got offshored.

What I did do is get involved in a bunch of projects in a wide variety of things and put that in my resume. When I was in school, instead of doing the bare minimum in a project I actually went beyond and did something a bit more complex and put that in my resume.

I got my lucky break at the company I am working at, initially as a web developer, but because of stuff on my resume, I'm now doing hardware end stuff..

Re:The hard part... (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 9 years ago | (#13838195)

ANytime you see xxx years experience on any job, cut it to 60%. They want 10? 6-7 years is fine, 5 is probably ok. They want 5? 3 is fine. They want 2? Any previous job is fine, and a college grad has a chance.

For the gaming industry in particular, I'd bring in some demos to show them, that can get you points (assuming they're good) and offset experience. Although I'd also recommend avoiding the field, other jobs pay more, have lower hours, and lower stress. You'll be happier in the long run if you go elsewhere.

Re:The hard part... (1)

Buzz_Litebeer (539463) | about 9 years ago | (#13838229)

It gets better, I was recently hired because I put some effort in getting to know people around me. Get out and get into things that will help you meet people in the industry, and impress them, I have a job because of someone I knew, not because my resume was spanky.

Re:The hard part... (2, Insightful)

TrappedByMyself (861094) | about 9 years ago | (#13838232)

Get a job outside of the game field, and either build a game in your spare time, or volunteer your time to a group building a game or mod.

over something that seems superficial and silly rather than anything related to competence in any given talent.

How is proven experience not related to competence? Put another way, if you claim to have the competence, then how are you not able to prove it to them? What is your competence? Good grades? Projects you did on your own? A healthy ego is not competence.
If you claim to be good at something, then you've must have done it, so you have something to put on your resume. 2 years experience is not a huge demand. If you can demonstrate real skills, you can sometimes get that sort of work if you take the chance of sending in the resume anyway.
However, if you got an 'A' on a six week project, and think you can go after senior level positions, then you need a reality check.

Re:The hard part... (1)

Bimo_Dude (178966) | about 9 years ago | (#13838278)

Every job I've had in the last eight years has required at least a BS, sometimes an MS. I am only a high school graduate. Ignore everything that the HR people say about requirements, and only pay attention to the skills needed (unless they are unrealistic, like "20 years experience in Linux 2.6 kernel programming").

salaries (2, Informative)

achacha (139424) | about 9 years ago | (#13838035)

It's always a trade-off of salary and doing what you like in the software industry. As a senior game developer you can make 80-100k but you will be working 50-70 hours a week and even weekends. Being a senior software developer in a financial or banking corporation will get you 90-120k and 40 hour work weeks, but the sheer boredom on working on financial apps needs to be considered. So the bottom line is do you want to do what you love and become a hamster in a wheel or will you grow think skin and work on tedious and boring applications for stability, more free time, and better options/bonuses?

That is the question that most software engineers ask themselves and a heavy factor is if you have something outside of work that matters a lot to you (family, involved hobby, etc).

Dilemma indeed.

Just Plain Stupid (4, Interesting)

kenp2002 (545495) | about 9 years ago | (#13838049)

Salary surveys are one of the worst examples of statistics. First off you have to be EMPLOYED. The average salary for a football player is say 4 million. Now out of the millions of people that try to get into professional football how many? Telling me people in the game industry are earning $60k a year means nothing if you can't get a job in te industry. Further more the cost of education, hours worked, and benefits compensation are left out largely. In addition salary surverys are biased as they ignore laid off, unemployed, and displaced employees in the industry.

Salary Survey question example:

How much do you make an hour? --- $30 and hour.

As far as the survery is concerned I make $60,000 a year. But if I get laid off for 6 months do they adjust that? Nope. It's too irrelivant to use salary figures. IF wonk A get 60k a year and wonk B gets 70k who makes more? Well Wonka A pays nothing for health insurance and Wonk B pays 12k a year for health insurance. What about deductables and 401k\b performance. Stock options. I know plenty of Eron employees that could talk about the real wage of a staffer just as EA employees could rant a bit on it.

Tired of surverys that mean nothing....

my 2

IGN is like a clueless newbie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838054)

Salaries for inexperienced game programmers are probably closer to $30k and may go as high as $40K for somebody they feel is very astute.

$60K is the salary for someone with 3-5 years of experience, but keep in mind a few things: 1) Turnover in the industry is VERY high 2) Burnout is very high 3) You will work 80-100 hour weeks.

So in truth:

1) You wont' get a job in the gaming industry
2) The fact that a bunch of kids think its sexy means there are too many programmers chasing too few job
3) Every programmer thinks they're the sh*t. In fact, I've met 5 programmers who meet that criteria.... EVER.
4) They purposely try to burn out the new guys because there is no overhead associated with these useful idiots. They want to hire guys with 1 year of experience.
5) You'll be burned out after a few years. Guaranteed. That's why there are no "old" computer game programmers.

Dont' feed the machine. Walk away.

Before our friends across the pond get ticked.... (1)

Puls4r (724907) | about 9 years ago | (#13838076)

Please realize that IGN is full of shit.

People who make $100k a year do not neccessarily drive Lambo's either. In fact, I bet very FEW people who make $100k a year drive "great" cars - $100k a year in the US isn't ALL that much money. Especially if you're supporting a family.

Entry level salaries for programmers, (and it's pretty freakin rare that someone right out of college gets a job programming for games) are more in the area of 30-40K, with a possibility of $50 if you were a top-notch grad from a top-notch school.

Re:Before our friends across the pond get ticked.. (1)

quibbs0 (803278) | about 9 years ago | (#13838120)

"$100k a year in the US isn't ALL that much money."

This entry level pay at a small company sucks. I would take a $70,000 raise...I don't know about you.

I work at a Major Game Company (4, Insightful)

OneByteOff (817710) | about 9 years ago | (#13838092)

A metric that I've always used to guess how well a company pays its employees is the cars in the parking lot. I work at a major game company that produces 20 million dollar games. In our parking lot out of about 100 cars there are no Bmw's, one mercedes, one or two high end sports cars and the majority are grocery getter low end compacts.

The only people getting rich are the high up exec's, one of which rolls up in his bentley once a month or so for a few hours then leaves the office again.

Make up your minds (2, Interesting)

xeon4life (668430) | about 9 years ago | (#13838101)

Alright, you slashdotters really need to make up your minds. Either going into the computer industry is a bad choice or it's not. First, you say it's a bad idea because most jobs are being outsourced to other countries. Then you publish articles downplaying those claims, and saying companies are fighting to get CS grads and schools fighting to get more people into CS. You see, I will tell you all a little story of a boy who was turned off to his potential future as a programmer:

There once was a boy, aged 12, who was introduced to computers through a Christmas present (more of a "hand-me-down") and became interested in programming. He had to research for weeks just to learn what how to get a compiler on his Windows 95 operating system, and spent the next few months introducing himself to various open source programs. Fast forward about two years and you'll find him spending all the money he recieved every birthday and Christmas on those expensive $100 programming books at Barnes & Noble and reading them. You'll find him immersing himself in his own programming creations, very mature and sophisticated for a boy of 14 years of age. He loved programming! He thrived on it (and coffee). He just loved the idea of creating something out of nothing. Fast forward another 2 years: He now is interested in many fields of computers, such as operating system development, language development, game development. He owns books such as "The Design and Implementation of the 4.4 BSD Operating System" and "Modern Operating Systems". He just begins to hear of this "outsourcing" epidemic. He's unsure of his future, but he continues to plan his life accordingly and wants to be a computer scientist. Fast forward, once more, another 2 years. He's created his school's first computer science club. It has approximately 20 active members and he lectures every week. He is now VERY unsure of his future. All the years of slashdot's warning to prospective CS students has finally gotten to him. The stories of unemployed CS grads and outsourcing and low paying EA-like jobs have gotten him worried. He now programs less, and is seriously considering majoring in Philosophy and English, because those are two other majors he thinks he would enjoy. "What happened," he sometimes asks himself, "why has it come to this?"

One year later he's been out of high school for a year and works at the local grocery store behind the butcher block because he was left stranded and confused. He didn't make up his mind about his future in time for college deadlines, and still reads slashdot and their conflicting outlooks on the future. If he's going to take any plunge he's going to do it with Philosophy and English. The liberal artsy-fartsy way that will at least give him a better understanding of the human condition before he dies of starvation.

P.S. Whether you believe it or not, the anti-bot image I had to type in was "overtime". Hah...

Re:Make up your minds (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | about 9 years ago | (#13838295)


The kid couldn't make up his mind so he did nothing? That's not very intelligent. He could have taken the first year or two of college to make up his mind. I changed majors two times and still made it out in 5 years. If he liked problem solving maybe he would have gotten into Chemistry or Physics and would have had the ability to write his own software for research. IMO there is no excuse for not giving it a try and seeing what happened.

Listening to the Slashdot for advice is not a good idea either you get way too many opinions. If he had checked online at various locations about careers he might have decided to go on to school. Or he could have talked to Placement Offices at Colleges. Sounds like he spent too much time with his computers and too little learning the way the world works. In programming things are usually either right or wrong with little grey area, in the real world it is the oppisite, most things are grey with few black and white decisions.

He obviously has some talents, he just needs to suck it up, take the "risk" and get an education!! It does NOT have be in CS, in fact a LOT of programmers are not CS majors. He may have found he was very good at something in CS and gone on to get a PhD and done research, there is no excuse for him "wasting" his talent because he was scared about the future in Programming.

Just my .02 worth..

And where is that? (1)

theJML (911853) | about 9 years ago | (#13838127)

Ok, just a simple question, I assume that it means 60k in California... 60k here in VA is a nice amount, especially for starting out! but 60k in Northern VA (near DC) or in Los Angeles, you're lucky to afford a decent apartment on that unless you drive a ways. I've priced it, it's not worth it. If you stick with a 30-40k job somewhere more reasonable, you'll end up with more in the long run.

Re:And where is that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13838237)

and the sad thing is that is absolutely true. Being laid off in Portland OR and relocating to San Diego I took a 25% salary increase, now I have less money than before.

Time to Play (1)

MISplice (19058) | about 9 years ago | (#13838140)

But if all I can do is program it then when will I have time to Play the games.. I would rather test for free then get paid to program games. Which is good seeing I can't even program Hello World to save my life.

go indie (1)

TheSifters (228899) | about 9 years ago | (#13838162)

The article only discusses the retail games industry. There is an entire independent games industry which is growing at an astounding rate. A big reason for this trend is people becoming frustrated and unsatisfied with the "big guys". Being independent is more risky but much more rewarding, partially financially and definitely artistically. It's great to be able to create whatever games you want to create.

I've recently become an independent developer and I love it. Check out my site, which is also my storefront... [] There is a great developer community as well which is very supportive of new developers. I strongly urge anyone who wants to get into game development to go the indie route.

Not sure about the numbers. (1)

LikwidFlux (924068) | about 9 years ago | (#13838166)

The salary potentials that are mentioned on this article are for AAA titles only, your D3s Q4s etc etc. A lot of game programmers and developers start on indie games making very little if anything until they are spotted.

Don't get me wrong, the gaming industry is wonderful, but I've seen plenty friend's enter the Indie game scene thinking they will get discovered and 5 years later they are still making models on a game noone has heard of and working at Home Depot to make money.

Convert that to an hourly wage... (5, Informative)

mike_the_engineer (924349) | about 9 years ago | (#13838168)

$60K a year / 50 weeks per year / 80 hours per week = $15 per hour

2yr experience needed (3, Insightful)

lateralus_1024 (583730) | about 9 years ago | (#13838244)

Here in San Diego, if you have your CS degree and say, 2yrs of experience at $60k, you will find yourself at a crossroad: If you have good presentation skills, and have managed to teach yourself .Net/SQL Server/XML (because God(tm) knows they won't teach that to you at SDSU) then you should have no problem contracting for $60/hr or earning $75k+ once you move to another job. Having 7yrs experience myself, I have come to realization that the easiest way to get a pay raise is to simply move to another company. Frequently updating your resume will remind you of how little you actually know in your field. Diversify, bitches. If you choose to stay in one place, you can bank on a mediocre 3% pay increase annually, stock option carrot dangling, and work with the same technology you played with last year. Just my 2 cents, i don't mean to offend anyone. Mileage will vary.

What about Stability? (1)

netruner (588721) | about 9 years ago | (#13838252)

I once spoke to a headhunter (around 8 years ago) about a local video game company and was told that since I was looking for a stable job (i.e. $x per year = $x/12 per month, every month) that the company was not a good match for me. It was explained to me that between games there are a lot of layoffs.

I didn't see anything in the article about stability of the job. $60k is good if you can make it consistently, and if you're just starting off, it's probably good. However, if you're looking for a job where you can live in a house, drive a car that won't leave you stranded, and maybe have a family, you need more than $60k to make up for the lack of stability.

I've got an MSCS and 9 years in at the company I started with straight from undergrad. I'm not too far above the $60k, but the stability and other non-tangibles have been excelent. The main theme I've seen is that if you work where the technology is the product and not just a means to a buisness end, the job is much more fulfilling. (but they usually don't pay as much)

Can somebody say "Conflict of Interest"? (1)

kizzbizz (870017) | about 9 years ago | (#13838264)

Oh come on! I've never owned a tinfoil hat and think the magic bullet theory is bunk, but just rationally look at this story. Who pays IGN's bills? Gamers? I think not. This is the very website that a couple years ago sold the design rights to their main page to MCDOLANDS for cripes sake! Advertisers, primarily VIDEOGAME companies, are the ones paying this writers salary. After selling out for an exorbanent amount of money, I'm sure profits are now the primary. I do not believe it is too far of a jump to assume that maybe, just maybe, some advertisers whipsered into IGN corporates ear that they should do a story on how great getting into the industry is. Yadda Yadda, we have this:
...the next big question is going to be trying to decide if you want the gas guzzling Ferrari in yellow or red or take the low key approach and get a hybrid vehicle to show that you care for the environment and are efficient with your money. Because hippy chicks do it way better than some huge fake breasted Sunset-hopping harlot. Or, uh, so we hear.

The entire article reads like a pampflet from EA for prospective college grads. Just read the first 50 posts and you'll see from first hand anecdotal experience that workers in the gaming industry are NOT living the kind of life that this article describes. In my view, this is just useless junk from a sold out company. Welcome to the new "journalism".

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