Earlier this year, games industry professionals that read developmag.com and mcvuk.com were invited to take part in an extensive salary and career survey. 528 people, from all sectors of interactive entertainment, took part. Here, Michael French analyses the answers given by developersâ?¦

The 2009 UK Games Development Salary Survey

Note – images of graphs extrapolated from our data are presented throughout this piece alongside the data in the main narrative. Click to see each graph at full size – each will open in a new window.



This number is actually fractionally lower than the industry average of £31,655. But still, £30,442 is a good £5k higher than the annual average salary in the UK, which is £24,908 according to the Office of National Statistics.

This number is calculated from the data given by developers amongst the 528 respondents filling in our survey (around two thirds). We’ve gone for a median average of the data rather than a mean average (which would include the handful of very senior execs who kindly took part as well). Factoring those high-flyers back in, and the average raises, up to £34,347 a year.

We’ve broken the individual career fields down as follows:

Average Yearly Salaries:
Lead Programmer – £41,250
Programmer – £25,810
Junior Programmer – £18,928

Average Yearly Salaries:
Lead Artist – £35,833
Artist – £29,285

Average Yearly Salaries:
Lead Designer – £33,330
Designer – £22,352
Junior Designer – £20,000

Average Yearly Salaries:
Lead Producer – £44,000
Producer – £29,166

Average Yearly Salaries:
Senior Audio Roles – £42,500
Junior Audio Roles – £26,670

QA & Localisation
Average Yearly Salaries:
Senior QA role – £31,666
Mid-level QA role – £14,200
Junior QA role – £12,250
Senior Localiser – £52,500
Junior Localiser – £17,500

Average Yearly Salaries:
Biz Dev/COO roles – £50,000
CTO – £56,666
Creative Director – £54,285
Studio Head/MD/CEO – £90,000


[img :546]From these results, it seems that developers are a more optimistic lot than the rest of the industry. For all three of the charts here, the developer-only results are each a few points higher than the industry averages, which slightly weighted towards the negative

[img :544]But of course, the data could shift a lot when we ask readers these questions next year. The 40 per cent of respondents who said they thought their wages covered the cost of living (see graph) might have come to contrary conclusions if inflation during 2009 undermines the value of their annual wages.

[img :543]And despite the spate of studio closures in the last six months, it seems developers are also upbeat about the year ahead, with two thirds saying they were confident about their prospects in 2009. “I feel my position is safe and that I am appreciated within the group I work in. I work for a large company that has seen layoffs, but I don’t expect to be one of them,” was a typical comment supplied with one response.

That respondant added: “I’m not expecting a pay rise in the current climate, but I may move to the US to work again within a year or two, which would provide a higher standard of living.”

One reader also predicted that, in the face of smaller budgets, it will actually be outsourcing firms and freelancers that benefit. “I feel that more companies are using contractors in the short term to avoid overheads associated with keeping permanent staff when projects are canned or completed,” they said.

Another added that, even if faced with redundancy in a temperamental time for game production, they were still confident about their job prospects: “My employer is well-differentiated from other third party developers and we are frequently approached with work. But even if things go badly with my employer, I am happy to try a new challenge, and even happy to enjoy investing myself in out-of-work projects.”

Lastly, a female developer added: “Being female helps. My employer has given me extra bonuses and has asked me what I want in order to stick around.”


[img :549]Think again about that the supposed ‘haves and have nots’ divide between developers and publishers. While these ‘yes’ percentages may be a few points lower than the industry averages reported by our sister magazine MCV, the results are otherwise uniform.

[img :550]And clearly, reported perks like free fitness classes and health care, milestone bonuses, staff parties and the like are important to staff (or prospective staff). Only a few, however, reported that their bonuses came from royalty shares.


[img :547]With development so famously reliant skilled labour, this statistic a shocker. The reasons probably vary from things like training being too costly for smaller studios to arrange or manage, and educational support also being seen as a disposable investment – to some employers viewing experience as the best training the industry can supply. Or, even worse, they might think that ‘publishers don’t want staff to be sent off on training when a milestone is looming’ – the words of one respondant, not ours.

[img :548]But it all adds up to two thirds of developers going without the opportunity to improve their skills. And take heed: the graph here proves that such opportunities do matter to staff.


It’s widely thought that there is a gulf between games developers in the North and South of the UK, particularly in terms of salary. Our survey both proved and disproved this conventional wisdom.

The average salary in the South of the UK was close to our overall average, at £32,362 (higher at £34,560 if you include the handful of very senior staff). As expected, that’s higher than the average in the North of England (which here we mean to be the North East, North West, Yorkshire & Humberside, and the Midlands) which is almost £4k lower, at £28,779. (That number also factors slightly higher if you include management, at £29,712). For Scotland, the average is much higher than the salaries in the North, at £31,666. But if you combine North and Scotland into one more general (and Scottish Nationalist baiting) lump, the average is £30,000.

So clearly, developers in the North of England are paid less than their counterparts in the South. They are under-served in other areas, too – if you thought the statistic that 67 per cent of all developers in the UK didn’t recieve any kind of training (see previous page) was bad, the number rockets to 74.1 per cent of developers in the North. (And it’s 71 per cent in Scotland, so clearly the trend towards training is weighted towards studios in the South.)

That said, developers in the South seem like a more miserable bunch than their friends in the North. While there is a general consensus that wages mostly cover the cost of living (the 65 per cent given on the previous page is uniform across the UK’s regions), developers in London are the most likely to say they are short on funds. An interesting point to bear in mind given the resurgence of games development in the Capital we reported last month.

Developers in the South are also less confident: many don’t expect their wages to rise this year, and only 63.1 per cent of them said they were confident about the year ahead, compared to 71 per cent in the North and Scotland.

[img :552]So perhaps its little surprise that the jobs market in the South seems to be the only one where you’re likely to hire good staff or find open vacancies. Of our respondants, 40 per cent of those in the South said they were planning to move jobs this year (see the graph here for the national results).

It’s a very different story north of Birmingham, however: in the North just 25 per cent of those surveyed said they wanted to move jobs this year, and in Scotland the percentage was even lower, at 20 per cent.


[img :553]Lastly, we asked our readers about when they would change jobs, what reasons would make them change jobs, and whether they were interested in work abroad.

[img :551]For the international question, it’s no surprise to find that over two thirds of the UK’s games development workforce will be happy to move to another country for the right job. There isn’t really a cloud of uncertainty hanging over UK studios – while some have shut, it’s the broad consensus that the UK’s studio closures and downsizing have come about on an evolutionary basis rather than a crisis – but the industry has always been one composed of an eclectic mix of nationalities. Undoubtedly, games development is the most engaging and exciting fields of entertainment to work in – and the number of stamps on our industry’s collective passports just go to show how far we’re willing to go, both in terms of distance and career wise, to succeed in it.

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