How Much Do Game Developers Make?

May 06 2022

The continuous growth of the gaming industry has encouraged more and more gaming enthusiasts all over the globe to explore a career in game development. If you’re interested in becoming a game developer, read on and find out how much the common game developer salary is, on average, and how you can work your way up the pay scale.

Why Get into Game Development?

Game development is a lucrative industry that now dwarfs film and music. With broader access to tech platforms and devices, people, of all ages, are getting into video gaming, and the game development industry only continues to grow. In fact, figures show that by 2025, the video game sector will grow to up to US$268.8 billion.

The video game sector allows gaming enthusiasts to build a career that aligns with their hobbies and interests. Not to mention, a game dev yearly salary in 2022 sits at $101,644 USD annually. That’s a comfortable $8,470 every month. If this isn’t enticing enough, here are some more reasons why a game development track is worth considering:

1 The market demand is constantly at an all-time high.

With tech giants Meta, Google, and Microsoft investing in streamlining their services for a smooth gaming experience, the video game industry is exponentially expanding by the minute. Gaming companies now sponsor tournaments, and more people, regardless of age and gender, are turning to video games for entertainment and stress relief.

2. You can work on projects you’re passionate about.

A game developer indulges in their passion for games. Whether you have the skill set needed in becoming a software engineer or a game designer, you can establish a promising career in creating video games. There are tons of online communities that you can leverage to learn the skills, network and make new friendships. Leverage your interest in worldbuilding, character design, and competition to land you a career and earn a profitable game software developer salary.

3. You’ll have the opportunity to create indie games, which are revolutionizing the gaming industry.

Sometimes, the paycheck isn’t necessarily the conduit for people to dive into game development— indie games are a testament to that. Indie games tend to veer away from industry standards, and focus more on gameplay than mesmerizing graphics. There are serving as a mini startup scene testing the waters with unpredictable plots and unorthodox design.

death's door

Death’s Door, an indie game released on Steam in 2021. It has over US$3.2 million in revenue.

In 2021, indie games accounted for almost 98% of Steam’s releases. Present-day technology makes it possible for teenagers and adults alike to share self-published video games online. Be it self-published, or shared with the help of third-party publishers, indie games are staying around to challenge the big titles and explore niche interests.

4. You’d be able to enrich people’s gaming experience and help them have fun.

If the average developer wage and creative pursuits aren’t motivating you to consider game development, perhaps recognition and enjoyment will do. Anyone from the 3.2 billion gamers worldwide can pick up your game and recommend it to others. The gaming community is interactive, and receiving praise for a job well done can leave you feeling more fulfilled than ever.

What’s the Average Base Salary for a Game Developer?

Game development presents game developer jobs fitting your area of expertise. Programmers and designers perform varying roles with a corresponding pay scale salary estimates.

The national average salary for a game developer sits at US$101,644 per year. However, it’s worth noting that years of experience determine your job rank and game programmer salary.

Recent Average Base Game Engineer Salaries by Seniority

a. Entry-Level – Junior Game Developer

Beginner game developers who recently developed a strong interest in game development work in an entry-level or junior job position. The beginner or junior pay starts at around $57,000 per year.

b. (Average) Game Developer Range

Average game developers earn varying wages, depending on their specific position in game development and their company. An estimate of the average salary ranges from $86,200 - $101,644.

c. Senior Game Developer

The senior game developer works on the most complex tasks and earns the most game developer salary. Senior game developers reach such a high rank for staying loyal to a company for five or more years. How much does a senior game developer make, you ask? Typically, they make $122,972 a year.

Top Video Game Companies in Canada and United States

Gaming companies are widespread across the globe. Canada, the world’s third-largest video game industry, generated approximately $3.1 billion and contributed nearly $5.5 billion in GDP in 2021.

Game developers and game design studios around the world generate varying revenues. If you aspire to work in game development and earn a high salary you might have to take the location into the account as well. While working from home is becoming more acceptable today, the metropolitan cities with established game studios will usually offer bigger paychecks. However, the cost of living in San Francisco is way higher than a small-town place hours away from the big cities.

Take a look at our curated list of the top video game companies in the United States and Canada.

1 Activision Blizzard Inc.

Activision Blizzard Inc.

Location: California, USA

Popular releases: Call of Duty, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft, Overwatch

Website: https://www.activisionblizzard.com

Activision Blizzard Inc. leads the gaming industry with annual revenue of US$8.8 billion in 2021. It has recently been acquired by Microsoft as part of the latter’s gaming expansion to other devices.

2. Roblox Corporation

Roblox Corporation

Location: California, USA

Popular releases: Roblox

Website: https://corp.roblox.com

Previously an indie game developer, Roblox boosted itself against other established gaming companies with a market value of US $42.4 billion as of February 2022. Roblox continues gaining popularity with the metaverse hype.

3. Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts

Location: California, USA

Popular releases: FIFA, The Sims, Battlefield, Apex Legends

Website: https://www.ea.com

Electronic Arts (EA) has long been a staple for computer games since 1982. In 2021, EA generated net revenue of US$5.63 billion. The gaming company stays highly relevant with a strong following for its FIFA game franchise.

4. Take-Two Interactive Software

Take-Two Interactive Software

Location: New York, USA

Popular releases: Grand Theft Auto, BioShock, NBA 2K League

Website: https://www.take2games.com

Take-Two Interactive Software is a video game publisher for big AAA titles like Grand Theft Auto and the NBA 2K League. In Early January 2022, Take-Two acquired mobile game publisher Zynga, the most expensive acquisition in the gaming industry to date, at US$12.7 billion.

5. Relic Entertainment

Relic Entertainment

Location: Vancouver, Canada

Popular releases: Dawn of War, Age of Empires, Homeworld

Website: https://www.relic.com

Relic Entertainment specializes in real-time strategy games. SEGA acquired Relic in 2013. Since its establishment, Relic Entertainment’s total revenue is $221.3 million.

6. Compulsion Games

Compulsion Games

Location: Montreal, Canada

Popular releases: We Happy Few, Contrast

Website: https://compulsiongames.com/en/

Compulsion Games is an Xbox Studio in Montreal. Founded in 2009, it wasn’t until 2018 that Microsoft acquired the game developer. Compulsion Games is known for making horror games based in the olden times with an Art Noveau or dystopian aesthetic.

7. Phoenix Labs

Phoenix Labs

Location: Vancouver, Canada

Popular release: Dauntless

Website: https://phxlabs.ca

Phoenix Labs was founded in 2014 by former Riot Games developers. In 2020, Garena acquired Phoenix Labs at $150 million. The studio is actively working on launching projects to follow its first release, Dauntless.

8. Behaviour Interactive

Behaviour Interactive

Location: Montreal, Canada

Popular releases: Dead by Daylight, Fallout 4, Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall

Website: https://www.bhvr.com

Behaviour Interactive focuses on 2D production and the development of 3D action or adventure games. Behaviour engages with partnerships for known media franchises, bringing various games to different consoles and PCs.

Best Cities for Game Development Career and Average Salaries

The COVID-19 pandemic highly impacted the gaming industry, with big companies being pushed to shift to remote operations during its onset. Eventually, developers and gaming companies managed to embrace working from home or adopt a hybrid setup.

Despite most people still preferring to work from home, work location is a turning point for a game developer’s success. San Francisco, for example, is a hotbed for startups, so there’s a greater chance of landing a job in San Francisco compared to other cities.

To further understand why your location matters in achieving a good video game developer salary, let us discuss some key points:

  • A plethora of work and lifestyle opportunities

Moving to a new city entails big change, but it also provides an avenue to broaden your perspective, enrich your personal and career experiences, and widen your network.

  • An established sense of career security

Layoffs in the game development industry happen frequently. A city brimming with game developer job openings allows you to keep your momentum and find a new employer should you need one.

  • Work with a diverse pool of talent.

A game development hotbed not only increases your chances of earning a lucrative game developer salary; it also encourages you to collaborate and learn from talented game developers.

Here are the top cities for game developers and the recent game developer salaries

United States

City Average Game Developer Salary in USD (Yearly)
San Francisco $156,500
Los Angeles $134,500
Seattle $124,450
Chicago $114,600
Austin $105,600
Canada

City Average Game Developer Salary in USD (Yearly)
Vancouver $102,165
Montreal $99,509
Toronto $95,228
Worldwide

City Average Game Developer Salary in USD (Yearly)
London, United Kingdom $96,001.76
Tokyo, Japan $95,846.20
Seoul, South Korea $47,244.38
Beijing, China $44,663.83
Paris, France $32,183.10

Do you need a degree?

Most game developers have an undergraduate degree in video game design or computer science. But while a degree is beneficial, your portfolio is what would truly matter.

A portfolio exhibits your technical skills and capabilities in game development. However, additional certificates can earn you an advantage against other candidates. The Unity Programming Certificate or the Circuit Stream Open Badge are legitimate proof of assessment of your skill level.

If you wish to make a game developer salary to live off of comfortably, start building your portfolio today. Create projects that highlight what you’re capable of as an aspiring game developer.

Where to Start

Get a head start with the Unity Bootcamp. For 24 weeks, you’ll receive live mentorship from experts in programming, design and game development. While the program isn’t focused specifically on game dev, you will definitely get the skills to become a junior unity game developer and get your foot in the door in the game industry, if that’s your wish.

The Unity Bootcamp is an intensive course teaching you the necessary fundamentals to specialize in the path of your choice, be it game development, game design, AR/VR or 3D visualization. Learned skills are highly transferable, allowing you to work for different industries.

By the end of the course, you will have a portfolio of projects showcasing your grasp for programming and design. Consult with the mentors for career advice and streamline your portfolio to land your dream job.

Interested in becoming a game developer? 

Download the XR Development with Unity Course Syllabus

REVIEWED BY

dejan growth marketing

Dejan Gajsek

Content Marketing Manager

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