Game developer salaries revisited

One of the most popular articles I’ve posted on the blog was the one on salaries in the games industry from back in 2008. What made the article extra interesting was that I mined the public H1-B visa database for games companies. Unlike salary surveys, where people can claim arbitrary wages (and the submitted salaries are never posted), the H1-B data contains actual wages! In other words, it is a rare opportunity to get some objective data points on industry salaries.

Since some time has passed since I posted the article I thought it would be interesting to repeat the process, which I did, and here are the results.

Game industry salaries from the 2009 H1-B database

This data below is based on the “H-1B Efile Data” 2009 txt file (a huge zipped text file, link). I mined the file for games companies I recognized, and I converted hourly data into yearly salary using the conversion

yearly salary = hourly salary * 37.5 hours/week * 52 weeks.

Converted salary data is marked with (*) in the table below. While I tried to be thorough, I may have missed a game company or two in that huge data set. Unlike last time, I decided to show all job categories (so programmers, artists, designers, etc).

For programmers it would also be interesting to compare game industry salaries against companies like Google, NVidia, Intel, Netflix, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple. For artists, relevant comparisons could include Pixar, ILM, Digital Domain, Dreamworks, to name a few. All these companies have salary data points in the H1-B database. I have not performed this comparison, however. I may do so at some later point, or perhaps someone else will step up to the plate and do so.

Unfortunately no Microsoft data went into the table below as it is near impossible to distinguish a Microsoft game developer from a Microsoft Windows (or whatever) developer in the H1-B data. There are a few exceptions that stand out as game developer positions, but I didn’t try to extract all of these. Some include “lead vehicle artist” ($85,000), “technical art lead” ($95,000), “general manager (live games)” ($230,000), and “general manager (windows live games)” ($220,000). I can say, though, that the average programmer salary at Microsoft (across all job categories) is $92,400.

Employer State Job title Wage
Disney Online CA Director, Technology $157,500
Electronic Arts CA Technical Director $150,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Senior Software Engineer II $150,000
Popcap Games WA Game Designer (Commercial Designer) $146,250*
WMS Gaming IL Director Of Product Marketing $145,000
SCEA CA Sr. Graphics Programmer $140,000
Papaya Studio CA Computer Systems Analyst $140,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Art Director $136,700
Electronic Arts CA Senior Software Engineer I $131,000
Zipper Interactive WA Lead Software Engineer $130,800
Take-Two Interactive CA Software Engineer (Development Tools) $130,275
SCEA CA Staff Software Engineer $126,799
SCEA CA Sr. Staff Software Engineer $126,026
Electronic Arts CA Lead Animator $125,751
Playdom CA Software Engineer $125,000
Electronic Arts CA Database Architect $125,000
Disney Online CA Director, Internal Communications $125,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Global Manager, Localization $124,600
Electronic Arts CA Lead Engineer, Real-Time Strategy Group $124,440
Electronic Arts TX Principal Project Manager (Engineer) $123,000
NCsoft Corporation CA Lead Animator $121,540
NCsoft Corporation CA Lead Animator $121,540
Namco Networks CA Lead Programmer $121,534
Disney Online FL Manager, Software Engineering $121,050
SCEA CA Staff Graphics Software Engineer $120,000
Electronic Arts CA Producer I $120,000
Electronic Arts CA Lead Configuration Management Engineer $120,000
Activision Publishing CA Financial Analyst $120,000
Activision Publishing CA Senior Software Engineer $120,000
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer $116,792
Electronic Arts CA Technical Director $116,792
Electronic Arts CA Technical Director $116,792
WMS Gaming GA Principal Software Engineer $115,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Sr. Software Engineer II $115,000
Rockstar Games NY Art Manager And Director $114,754
Electronic Arts CA Manager Applications - Bids $114,275
Blizzard Entertainment CA Sr. Artist II $110,800
NCsoft Corporation CA Lead Effects Artist $110,510
NCsoft Corporation CA Lead Effects Artist $110,510
Epic Games NC Lead Programmer $110,410
Titan Studios WA Senior Programmer $110,000
Secret Level CA Software Engineer $110,000
Secret Level CA Software Engineer $110,000
Insomniac Games CA Senior Designer $110,000
Activision Publishing CA Senior Database Administrator $110,000
Activision Publishing CA Senior Oracle Database Administrator $110,000
Electronic Arts CA Global Audit Manager (Accountant) $109,095
Activision Publishing CA Programmer Analyst $109,000
Crystal Dynamics CA Sr. Tools Pipeline Programmer $108,500
Activision Blizzard CA Design Specialist $108,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Sr. Cinematic Artist II $107,000
Disney Online CA Senior Flash Developer $106,808
California 7 Studios UT Senior Game Engineer $106,000
Electronic Arts CA Mngr, Ecommerce & Marketing Analytics $105,186
Total Immersion CA Producer (Art Production) $105,000
SCEA CA Staff Business Systems Analyst $105,000
Rockstar San Diego CA Cinematic Lead Animator $105,000
Rockstar San Diego CA Programmer $105,000
Disney Online CA Sr. Bus. Intelligence Syst. Reporting Eng. $105,000
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer II $104,894
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer (Lead Programmer) $104,894
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer III $104,894
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer II $104,894
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer II $104,894
WMS Gaming IL Senior Developer II $104,701
Activision Publishing CA Senior Software Engineer $104,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Cinematic Artist II $103,200
SCEA CA Sr. Software Engineer $103,042
Activision Publishing CA Design Specialist $103,000
SCEA OR Software Engineer $102,894
Ubisoft CA Director Of US Licensing $102,000
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer III $102,000
Big Fish Games WA Senior Software Engineer $101,700
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer III $101,693
Valve Corporation WA Software Engineer $101,608
Valve Corporation WA Software Engineer $101,608
Blizzard Entertainment CA 3d Artist $101,400*
Rockstar San Diego CA 3d Artist $101,000
Disney Online CA Manager, Web Analytics And Reporting $101,000
Electronic Arts CA Lead Character Technical Animator $100,776
Electronic Arts CA Systems Engineer II $100,469
WMS Gaming IL Senior Software Engineer - Online $100,000
WMS Gaming IL Senior Software Engineer - Online $100,000
THQ AZ Shared Services Director $100,000
THQ TX Art Director $100,000
Rockstar Games NY Senior Product Manager $100,000
LucasArts CA Project Manager $100,000
LucasArts CA Senior Software Engineer $100,000
High Moon Studios CA Programmer $100,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Sr. Cinematic Artist II $100,000
Activision Publishing CA Software Engineer $100,000
Epic Games NC Programmer/Physics Simulation $99,999
WMS Gaming IL Lead Gaming Software Engineer $99,992
SCEA CA Product Manager $98,613
Electronic Arts GA Software Engineer $98,280
SCEA CA Staff Database Administrator $98,000
Crystal Dynamics CA Programmer - Animation/Physics $98,000
Electronic Arts CA Lead Vfx Artist $97,302
Obsidian Entertainment CA Lead Technical Engineer $96,990
SCEA CA Computer Artist $95,019
LucasArts CA Gameplay Engineer $95,000
LucasArts CA Core Engineer $95,000
LucasArts CA Core Gameplay/AI Engineer $95,000
Electronic Arts CA Senior Software Developer $95,000
Activision Publishing CA Design Specialist $95,000
Activision Publishing CA Business Operations Specialist $95,000
Activision Publishing CA Senior Systems Administrator $95,000
Activision Publishing MN Business Operations Specialist $95,000
SCEA CA Sr. Web Site Technologist $94,000
SCEA CA Lead 3d Modeler $94,000
High Moon Studios CA Senior Programmer $94,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Cinematic Artist I $93,808
Zipper Interactive WA Software Engineer $93,600
Blizzard Entertainment CA Sr. Animator $93,500
Ubisoft CA PR Mngr (Editorial Talent Rel. Dir.) $93,011
Ubisoft CA PR Dir. (Editorial Talent Rel. Dir) $93,004
Electronic Arts TX Senior Character Artist $93,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Sr. Cinematic Artist I $92,310
SCEA CA Compiler Engineer $92,000
SCEA CA Senior Game Designer $90,824
Disney Online CA Software Engineer $90,473
Electronic Arts CA Mngr, Global Royalty Analysis And Mgmt $90,313
Insomniac Games CA Animator $90,064
Blizzard Entertainment CA Senior Technical Artist $90,001
SCEA CA Senior Web Technologist $90,000
Namco Bandai Games CA Principal Artist $90,000
Namco Bandai Games CA Senior Engineer $90,000
Electronic Arts CA Lead Animator Multimedia Artist/Animator $90,000
Electronic Arts TX Senior Concept Artist $90,000
Edge Of Reality TX Graphic Design Specialist $90,000
Edge Of Reality TX Senior Graphic Designer $90,000
Edge Of Reality TX Lead Graphic Designer $90,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Computer Graphic Designer $90,000
ArenaNet WA Web Programming Team Lead $90,000
Rockstar San Diego CA Programmer $89,980
Rockstar San Diego CA Programmer $89,980
Electronic Arts Mobile CA Senior Software Engineer $89,939
Electronic Arts Mobile CA Associate Producer I $89,939
Electronic Arts CA Senior Designer $89,939
Playdom CA Software Engineer $89,253
Electronic Arts Tiburon FL Software Engineer III $89,211
Blizzard Entertainment CA Sr. Cinematic Artist I $89,107
Disney Online FL Software Engineer $89,006
THQ CA Senior Programmer $89,000
Electronic Arts Mobile CA Senior Database Engineer $88,400
Electronic Arts Mobile CA Senior Database Engineer $88,400
Electronic Arts TX Craft Director $88,130
SCEA OR Sr. Graphics Programmer $88,000
SCEA CA Software Engineer $87,508
SCEA CA Sr. Sw Application Engineer $86,356
Blizzard Entertainment CA Senior Software Engineer I $86,112
Zynga Game Network CA Software Engineer $85,717
Zynga Game Network CA Systems Engineer $85,717
Zynga Game Network CA Lead QA Engineer $85,717
Zynga Game Network CA Software Engineer $85,717
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer II $85,717
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer $85,717
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer II $85,717
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer II $85,717
Electronic Arts CA User Experience Designer II $85,717
Zynga Game Network CA Senior Database Administrator $85,000
WMS Gaming IL Software Engineer $85,000
WMS Gaming IL Software Engineer $85,000
THQ TX Senior Programmer $85,000
Take-Two Interactive CA Quality Assurance Manager $85,000
SCEA CA Developer Support Engineer $85,000
Naughty Dog CA Senior Production Artist $85,000
Naughty Dog CA Senior Production Artist $85,000
Just Games CA Bio-Physiology Specialist $85,000
Jailed Games CA Bio-Physiology Specialist $85,000
Activision Publishing CA Marketing Analyst - Brand $85,000
Disney Online FL Software Engineer $84,970
Electronic Arts CA Senior Environment Modeler $84,798
LucasArts CA Character Artist $84,115
Electronic Arts Tiburon FL Ass. Computer Graphics Supervisor $84,000
Rockstar Games NY Senior Web Designer $83,000
Electronic Arts CA Animator $82,867
Epic Games NC Multimedia Software Project Specialist $82,774
Electronic Arts CA Computer Graphic Artist $82,423
SCEA CA Software Quality Assurance Engineer $82,000
SOE WA Graphic Designer (Artist) $81,850
Electronic Arts Tiburon FL Software Engineer $81,550
Blizzard Entertainment CA Sr. Cinematic Artist I $81,515
Blizzard Entertainment CA Cinematic Modeller $81,307
Rockstar Games NY Associate Producer $81,000
NCsoft Corporation WA International Development Manager $81,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Senior Software Engineer $80,974
Ubisoft CA PR Mngr (Editorial Talent Rel. Dir.) $80,800
THQ IL Senior Production Artist $80,000
THQ NY Senior Production Artist $80,000
SOE CA Oracle Database Administrator $80,000
Insomniac Games CA Gameplay Programmer $80,000
Disney Online CA Senior Financial Analyst $80,000
Ubisoft CA Editorial Talent Relations Director $79,960
Disney Online CA Senior Business Systems Analyst $79,695
LucasArts CA Character Technical Director $78,000*
Activision Publishing CA Software Engineer $77,513
High Moon Studios CA Senior Programmer $77,200
Disney Online CA Associate Technical Staff $77,025
Disney Online CA Associate Technical Staff $77,025
SCEA CA Technical Artist $77,000
Electronic Arts CA Computer Graphic Artist $76,814
Disney Online NY Flash Engineer $75,920
Activision Publishing CA Programmer Analyst $75,700
SOE CA Software Engineer $75,599
Ubisoft CA Int’l Product Manager $75,000
Manifest Games CA 3d Artist $75,000
Electronic Arts CA Level Designer Multi-Media Artist/Animator $75,000
Activision Publishing CA Software Engineer $75,000
Electronic Arts Mobile CA Senior Software Engineer $74,984
Electronic Arts CA Product Designer $74,984
Blizzard Entertainment CA Technical Artist $74,900
Blizzard Entertainment CA Cinematic Artist $74,401
Blizzard Entertainment CA Cinematic Artist $74,400
Electronic Arts Mobile CA Database Administrator II $74,110
LucasArts CA Character Artist $74,100*
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer $74,100*
Crystal Dynamics CA Artist (Computer Graphics Animation) $73,911
Crystal Dynamics CA Artist (Computer Graphics Animation) $73,911
Gearbox Software TX Lead Design Specialist $72,500
SCEA CA Environmental Artist $72,451
Konami CA IT Data Center Manager $72,000
Electronic Arts Tiburon FL Software Engineer $72,000
Electronic Arts CA Computer Graphic Artist (Modeler) $71,600
Zynga Game Network CA Software Engineer $71,594
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer I (Console Engineer) $70,200*
Take-Two Interactive CA Software Engineer $70,179
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer I $70,179
SOE CA Database Developer $70,000
Ready At Dawn CA Technical Artist $70,000
Edge Of Reality TX Senior Level Designer $70,000
Double Fine Prod. CA 3d Character Animator $70,000
Activision Publishing CA Computer Graphic Artist $70,000
SCEA CA Account Support Coordinator $69,000
High Moon Studios CA Programmer $68,683
High Moon Studios CA Programmer $68,683
Epic Games NC Lead Designer $68,411
Electronic Arts CA Computer Graphic Artist $68,224
Gearbox Software TX Lead Design Specialist $68,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Cinematic Artist $67,017
Petroglyph Games NV Game Programmer $67,000
High Moon Studios CA Network Administrator $66,600
Take-Two Interactive NY Director, Financial Compliance $66,331
Activision Publishing CA Software Engineer $66,000
Activision Publishing CA Programmer Analyst $66,000
Electronic Arts Tiburon FL Software Engineer $65,900
WMS Gaming IL Software Engineer $65,000
Naughty Dog CA Senior Production Artist $65,000
Naughty Dog CA Senior Production Artist $65,000
Insomniac Games CA Gameplay Programmer $65,000
Insomniac Games CA Gameplay Programmer $65,000
Electronic Arts CA Lead Character Artist $64,958
Electronic Arts CA Artist $64,958
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer I $64,350*
Blizzard Entertainment CA 3d Artist $64,350*
Blizzard Entertainment CA 3d Artist - Environmental $64,350*
Blizzard Entertainment CA Data Analyst $64,350*
Activision Publishing CA Programmer Analyst $64,200
Ready At Dawn CA Senior Programmer $63,500
Ready At Dawn CA Senior Programmer $63,500
Konami CA Mobile Programmer $62,500
Electronic Arts Tiburon FL Software Engineer II $62,400
Electronic Arts CA Concept Artist $62,400*
Blizzard Entertainment CA 3d Artist $62,400*
Namco Networks CA Network Systems Analyst $62,109
Capcom Interactive CA Localization Manager $61,235
WMS Gaming IL Software Engineer $60,910
Electronic Arts TX Software Engineer I $60,450*
Blizzard Entertainment CA Software Engineer $60,450*
Blizzard Entertainment CA Associate Environmental Artist $60,450*
Activision Publishing CA Software Engineer $60,450*
Activision Publishing CA Software Engineer $60,450*
Activision Publishing CA Software Engineer $60,450*
Electronic Arts Mobile CA Development Manager $60,029
Electronic Arts Mobile CA Software Engineer $60,029
Electronic Arts Mobile CA Software Engineer $60,029
Electronic Arts CA Software Engineer II $60,029
Zynga Game Network CA Artist/Animator $60,000
WMS Gaming NV Software Engineer $60,000
Namco Bandai Games CA Senior Production Artist $60,000
Double Fine Prod. CA Graphic Designer (Sr. Visual Effects Artist) $60,000
Blizzard Entertainment CA Environmental Artist $60,000
Activision Publishing CA Design Specialist $60,000
Take-Two Interactive MD Software Engineer $59,197
Nintendo WA Video Game Senior Artist $59,100
LucasArts CA Associate Engineer $58,500*
Electronic Arts Tiburon FL Computer Graphic Artist $58,050
WMS Gaming NV Associate Gaming Software Engineer $58,000
ArenaNet WA Network Programmer $58,000
ArenaNet WA Programmer $57,200
Namco Networks CA Network Engineer $57,000
Electronic Arts UT Software Engineer $56,550*
Blizzard Entertainment CA Level Designer $56,305
Namco Bandai Games CA Senior Production Artist $56,000
Big Fish Games WA Software Design Engineer In Test $56,000
Big Fish Games WA Software Development Engineer In Test $56,000
Activision Publishing NY Programmer Analyst $56,000
Big Fish Games WA Associate Internet Marketing Specialist $55,890
Big Fish Games WA Internet Marketing Specialist $55,890
Playdom CA Graphic Designer $55,000
Page 44 Studios CA Database Administrator $55,000
Neversoft Entertainment CA User Interface Programmer $55,000
Electronic Arts Tiburon FL Lighter $54,558
Disney Online CA Game Designer $53,404
Activision Publishing CA Programmer Analyst $52,650*
Activision Publishing NY Programmer Analyst $52,650*
Activision Publishing NY Programmer Analyst $52,650*
Take-Two Interactive CA Graphic Designer $52,416
Take-Two Interactive CA Graphic Designer $52,416
THQ TX Senior Production Artist $52,000
NCsoft Corporation WA Producer $51,600
ArenaNet WA Localization Project Manager $51,000
Electronic Arts CA Software Quality Assurance Analyst $50,700*
Blizzard Entertainment CA Associate Environmental Artist $50,700*
Blizzard Entertainment CA Associate Environmental Artist $50,700*
Blizzard Entertainment CA Associate Cinematic Artist $50,003
Neversoft Entertainment CA Entry-Level User Interface Artist $50,000
Neversoft Entertainment CA Entry-Level Multimedia Artist/Sound Design $50,000
Namco Bandai Games CA Senior Production Artist $50,000
Electronic Arts CA Animator $48,750*
Big Fish Games WA 3d Animator $47,570
Epic Games NC Lead Artist/Graphic Designer $47,507
Backbone Ent. CA Animator $47,500
THQ CA Software Engineer $47,220
Just Games CA Art Manager $47,050
Blizzard Entertainment CA Associate Web Scripting Engineer $46,800*
Activision Publishing CA Design Specialist $46,800*
Blizzard Entertainment CA Associate Community Manager $46,500
Papaya Studio CA 3d Character Animator $46,000
Namco Bandai Games CA Production Artist $45,000
Gearbox Software TX Graphic Designer $45,000
Electronic Arts Tiburon FL Associate Technical Artist $44,850*
Papaya Studio CA Computer Graphic Artist $44,000
MTV/Harmonix MA Financial Operations Analyst $43,680
Electronic Arts Tiburon FL Assistant Development Manager $41,808
Valve Corporation WA Bi-Lingual Customer Support Representative $41,080
Blizzard Entertainment CA Associate Software Engineer $40,950*
Playdom CA Graphic Artist $40,000
Namco Bandai Games CA Business Communications Editor $40,000
High Impact Games CA Graphic Designer/Animator $40,000
ArenaNet WA Concept Artist $39,000

Caveat comparison shopping

Like last time, I feel compelled to point out that before you go ask for a raise because of something you read here, remember that the salaries above do not include or reveal factors like other compensation (bonuses, profit sharing), location and cost of living, seniority, job responsibilities, talent, etc.

P.S. We’re hiring at SCEA Santa Monica. Generalist programmers (with bent towards tools/tech, gameplay, online gameplay, graphics/tech), environment artists, character artists, level designers, animators, and more. Inquire within, or apply online.

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2 Comments »

  1. T=Machine » How much money do game developers earn? said,

    February 27, 2011 @ 6:12 am

    […] excellent post by Christer – a Direct of tech @ SCEA – on calculating independent, verfi…: “Unlike salary surveys, where people can claim arbitrary wages (and the submitted salaries […]

  2. How much does an entry level software engineer make? - Quora said,

    April 15, 2011 @ 7:26 pm

    […] filings (mostly in California) but based on my experience it gives you a good idea of the range: http://realtimecollisiondetectio…This answer .Please specify the necessary improvements. Edit Link Text Show answer summary […]

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