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Gamasutra’s annual game developer survey has a few illuminating numbers about the game business. Did you know that U.S. game developers made $83,060 a year in 2013, down 2 percent from 2012? Indie game developers who work alone made only $11,812, down 49 percent from a year earlier. And indie game developers who work as part of a team make $50,833, up 161 percent.
Those salaries and growth rates say a lot about the changing nature of making games, particularly as mobile gaming and app stores make it possible for indie game studios to thrive. The survey reflected that developers are benefiting from the democratization of games, but they’re also suffering from a huge amount of competition.
“There were major transitions in 2013 that affected the way game developers make a living,” said Gamasutra editor-in-chief Kris Graft. “Whether talking about the advancements in the democratization of game development or the release of a new generation of consoles, it was a year in which the disruption and chaos of prior years settled in just enough for game developers to identify and adapt to a new reality. Despite the challenges, there’s still an undercurrent of enthusiasm.”
Business and management salaries topped all other disciplines once again this year, averaging $101,572. Audio professionals in games made $95,682, and game programmers made $93,251. Quality assurance professionals, or game testers, earned the lowest average salary at $54,833. Artists and animators make $74,349, game designers make $73,894, and producers make $82,286.
Canadian game developers averaged $71,445, up 9 percent. European game developers made $46,232, about flat. The total sample reflected in the data presented for U.S. is 1,246, for Canada 292, and for Europe 573.