SPECIAL REPORT: Which territory pays games developers the best?

UK vs. US game salaries – FIGHT!

So, game salaries are once again headline news in the games media.

After we provided early details on our UK industry salary survey earlier this year – showing that UK wages for games developers were rising – US magazine Game Developer has done the same, revealing the average salary for a US developer is slightly up at $73,600, plus a host of other stats.

But how do Britsoft salaries compare with American ones? We’ve collated all the key data from both surveys to see which jobs in which territory pay best.

[Note: we’ve converted all values originally given in US dollars to pound sterling. Develop’s stats were put together in consultation with a number of leading studios and agencies OPM, Aardvark Swift and Day One Search.]

[CLARIFICATION: The data given here for UK figures was compiled by Develop in early March, and used a higher number of sources than those in the story linked to from January, which was compiled by our sister magazine, MCV.]


Lowest: £18,000
Highest: £70,000
Average: £37,000

Lowest: £29,372
Highest: £65,539
Average: £42,500

WINNER? America wins this round – although it’s possible to earn more with a senior technology-related role such as technical director or CTO, in the UK – but the trends in US and UK programming salaries are the same on both sides of the Atlantic. Programmers are still, on average, the highest paid of all development staff, with the big opportunities to earn more open to those with great technical proficiency.


Lowest: £17,000
Highest: £60,000
Average: £34,000

Lowest: £22,228
Highest: £52,345
Average: £33,907

The UK beats the US by just under £100, but really it’s a draw when it comes to comparing the average salaries. Plus, entry level salaries in the US are higher than those in the UK – although that’s a statistic reversed when it comes to the higher salaries. So perhaps American-born artists looking to move ahead in their careers may do well to think about moving across the pond…


Lowest: £23,500
Highest: £70,000
Average: £38,750

Lowest: £23,533
Highest: £50,076
Average: £32,415

WINNER? The UK wins this one hands down, with the average designer salary higher according to UK sources’ figures, entry level salaries around the same and senior level designers being much higher.


Lowest: £20,000
Highest: £85,000
Average: £44,000

Lowest: £23,759
Highest: £63,639
Average: £40,076

WINNER? UK again, although entry-level producers in the US can earn up to $8,000 (around £4,000) more than their English counterparts.


Lowest: £12,000
Highest: £40,000
Average: £20,500

Lowest: £12,802
Highest: £35,978
Average: £19,890

WINNER? The above statistics reveal a global truth: those who work in QA are the lowest paid in the games industry. Any further, however, and the numbers are relatively equal, with the averages in particular virtually the same. The lowest entry level salaries are also identical – although the above does suggest that the UK pays slightly more for more advanced QA roles than American ones.


So, really, there’s no clear winner – although certain disciplines clearly pay better in certain territories (specifically programming in the USA and design and production in the UK; meanwhile artist and QA roles pay relatively the same on either side of the Atlantic). And given the relative strengths and weaknesses of living and working in the various games development hubs in the world, Brighton, UK vs California’s Bay Area, North East England vs Austin, Texas, it would perhaps be a little churlish to declare a clear overall winner. That said, the figures do show that there’s plenty of opportunities out there for games developers to get better salaries – they might just have to be prepared to move to another continent to take advantage of it.

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