If you’re passionate about gaming, being a Game Developer could be an ideal career choice. It’d allow you to spend your workdays developing and testing innovative new games. Plus, the gaming market is expected to exceed $200 billion by 2023, according to Newzoo, so the job security in this field is strong.
But how much can you expect to earn as a Game Developer? Let’s take a look at a typical salary for Game Developers, what influences their salaries, and what skills you need to succeed in the field.
How much does a Game Developer make?
According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for a Game Developer is $101,644. The national hourly rate is $49. On average, a Game Developer’s pay typically ranges from $36.06 per hour to $62.02 per hour.
What influences a Game Developer’s salary?
Many factors influence how much you’re paid as a Game Developer, including the type of company you work for, where you're located, and how much experience you have. Here’s a deeper look at these three key areas.
Type of company
One of the biggest factors that’ll influence your salary as a Game Developer is the type of company you work for.
Some Game Developers freelance, which means they can pick and choose which projects to work on throughout the year. Others create games on their own or work with independent companies on a contract basis.
While developing your own games or working with a small indie studio gives you a certain amount of freedom, it can also be stressful — and funding is often uncertain, so salaries can vary significantly, according to The Verge.
Others work for AAA game companies like Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Rockstar Games, or Ubisoft. While freelancing offers a degree of freedom, working for large companies like these offers both stability and a larger audience for your games. You’ll also have more opportunities to advance in your role.
What’s the downside to working for a larger company? You may feel like you have less creative freedom or that your individual contributions don’t have as much of an impact.
Ultimately, you have a lot of options when it comes to the type of company you can work for as a Game Developer, and those choices will influence your salary. But you certainly don’t have to stick with just one. You may want to start with a larger company to gain experience and sharpen your skills, and then branch out on your own and start developing your own games.
Salaries vary significantly by location in any field, and game development is no exception. According to ZipRecruiter, the top cities for game development salaries are Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Fremont, all in California.
Of course, these are also cities with a high cost of living, so that’s a factor to keep in mind as well. While many gaming companies have shifted to remote work, according to State of the Game Industry 2020: Work from Home Edition, many also feel that has made them less productive. Some companies may shift back to in-person work, while others may remain remote.
In other words, there may be opportunities to live in lower-cost-of-living areas, which can help you make the most of your salary.
As with any career, you’ll earn more as you gain experience and take on larger roles. According to ZipRecruiter, Senior Game Developers make an average annual salary of $113,296, which is $11,652 more than the average salary for a Game Developer.
Skills needed for game development
To be a Game Developer, you need to master both technical and soft skills. Below, we’ll explore some of the skills you’ll use daily in this field.
Some technical skills to master include:
- Programming languages: Game Developers often know multiple programming languages. These include C#, Java, and Python.
- Game frameworks and engines: Game frameworks are a collection of tools and libraries that help you build customized games. Game engines are more developed and have many of the tools in place ready to create games. You’ll need to know a popular engine or framework to get started in game development. Popular game engines include Unity, Unreal Engine, and Amazon Lumberyard. A popular framework for browser games is Phaser.
- 2D and 3D modeling: You’ll also need to model assets using tools like Blender.
- Prototyping and testing: If you’ve ever alpha- or beta-tested a game, you know they have bugs. As a Game Developer, you’ll need to develop prototypes and testing plans to ensure that your games work as smoothly as possible.
Soft skills are harder-to-quantify skills that are critical to your success and career advancement. If you have excellent technical skills as a Game Developer, but you don’t work well with others or have trouble communicating your ideas, you’ll have a difficult time advancing and improving your salary.
Here are some of the soft skills you’ll need as a Game Developer:
- Collaboration: Games are typically developed in teams. You’ll need to know how to work with others, how to give and receive feedback, and be willing to help out teammates who need assistance.
- Problem-solving: You’ll spend a lot of time solving problems, and many won’t have obvious solutions. You’ll need to be able to evaluate problems and decide what steps to take to get things working again.
- Leadership: You’ll need to be willing to take responsibility and see projects through to the end. Even if you don’t have a management or senior position, you can show leadership in your daily responsibilities and help keep up morale in tough times.
Making the most of your career as a Game Developer
Working as a Game Developer is a dream career for many, and there are several skills to master. Our team has developed courses and Skill Paths to help you get started or sharpen your skills to advance in your career.
We also have courses on individual programming skills for beginners and intermediate coders that you can consider taking, like:
Learning a new programming language can build up your skillset and allow you to take your gaming development to a new level.
Ready to advance or start a career that’s personally and professionally fulfilling? We’re ready to help. Learn how to use Phaser.js to create games with our robust series of lessons, quizzes, and projects.