Games programmer career isn't as good as it seems?

http://developers.slashdot.org/developers/03/01/06/206210.shtml?tid=146

Reading Slashdot's thread on "Want to make video games" is really an eye opener. I've noticed in general (and from other Slashdot threads about the games industry), the average Slashdotter looks down upon games programming as a career, with comments such as "terrible pay, getting treated like trash, unbelievable work hours" etc.. and that there are other easier going avenues for a programmer for much better wages. What do you think? Comments from those in the industry encouraged! [:)]

Daemin's picture

I'd say other programming jobs pay more, and you only work at them in the usual business hours. Games programming can be taken as a more artistic career since the people making games tend to work odd hours, long hours, often on the same pay, but ultimately they end up with something that's fun to play and the satisfation of making it.

Game Developers are a Rare Breed.

Plus IMHO I see the people that visit, read, and reply on slashdot regularly to be up themselves, or "uppidy".

Blitz's picture

It has been said for a long time (for as long as games have been being made?) that you don't enter into the games industry for the money or work conditions. You make games because it's what you really want to do with your life, and as someone once said "Get a job doing what you love, and you will never work a day in your life."
I think work conditions (ie. working hours) probably depend a lot on the company. Small companies are always going to be more likely to run overtime, because their very minimal cashflow doesn't allow them to hire in contractors, or license middleware etc. things that can save time but cost money.
So yeah, you wanna do it for the love, not the money :)
CYer, Blitz

Gaffer's picture

I've done both business software and games, and let me say one thing, *in general* developing software for business is not that bad, but it does tend to get repetitive, and after a while unchallenging - games however, always remain challenging, especially the area that i work in, physics simulation - so challenging that i have to study mathematics at uni part time just to keep up grrr [xx(]

Overall games programming is really pretty awesome, i'd say the only downside is the unpaid overtime, and there is typically a LOT of this near the end of a project - this may change in the future, but generally, yes, you do work longer hours, and you do MORE work than you would in those hours than you do in a normal 9-5 job i think, its pretty tough!

It think its crap about game programmer salaries not being competitive, i think they are getting quite good, and in the future, will actually be higher than standard industry salaries. Games programmers are in fact, specialist programmers that have quite rare skill sets, and long-term as the industry grows the salary should reflect this.

Glenn "Gaffer" Fiedler | Senior Programmer | Irrational Games

Maitrek's picture

I'll come out by saying I'd work in the games industry for two lumps of pig shit a week, but then, I don't think anyone would hire me right now anyway. To me, the money in the games industry stopped being a big thing when I was about 14 and I got over the desire to be a millionaire. I love games, and I'd love to be involved in making a game that I'm interested in, and I don't love money anywhere near as much as I do the previous two items.

But, I also realise that as a programmer, I could probably make more money for less hours of work doing applications/general software programming, but that's no where near as exciting or motivating.

Blitz's picture

This is just my opinion and doesn't have a lot of basis in fact, but i think one of the main things that will hold game developers salaries back for quite a while is the fact that games don't make a lot of money. Until games are selling millions of units on average, rather than hundreds of thousands (or whatever is average atm) game developers simply can't be afforded to be paid a lot more...
Anyway, like i said, just my opinion and my "facts" may be waaay off :P
CYer, Blitz

aki's picture

Hmm. From what i've read - the games market has grown exponentially over the last few years... and is far more significant than your impression. There has been alot of comparisons with Hollywood in terms of net profit and worth - and reports that in US, 2001, video games had grossed more than cinema.

This is just from the sources that I have come upon, but:

- Datamonitor estimates that the online gaming market will grow from US$670m in 2002 to reach US$2.9bn in 2005
- "According to the industry's own figures, together the US and UK video games markets were worth around ?5bn in 2001." (http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featurepages/0,4120,862691,00.html - which btw is an interesting article on film/game tie-ins)

It would be interesting to see what the local figures are (in Australia)

Blitz's picture

This is true BUT. There are only several big production studio's that release all the hollywood movies (with rare exceptions).
The majority of people that work on a film, don't make a lot of money.
There are a lot less films than games that come out each year.
Movies have much much much bigger budgets compared to games.

Anyway, as the game industry grows, it doesn't seem so much that game studios are getting a lot larger, but rather there is a lot more studio's. So i think as the industry continues to grow, the personell base will grow comparitively, and therefore there is still onyl about the same amount of money to share around.
Like movies (from what i've been told by people working in the flim industry) actual profit is low. Games make a lot of money, but a lot of money has been put into the game to produce them in the first place.
Basically games need to increase their profit margins, and it's not the growth of the industry that will do this, it will rely on other factors which may or may not happen.
Of course this is still really just my opinion on things as i see them, and i may have things totally wrong. CYer, Blitz

aki's picture

Yeah that's a good point, the funds may well be more distributed across the game industry. Although the film industry have a similar market model, with publishers and such - but it may well be true that the big dollars in the game industry doesn't actually flow down as generously to the development houses...

Daemin's picture

Its the survival of the fittest again, it always has been, and always will, although the measure of fitness will change over time (I hope, otherwise we'll just get the same games voer and over again).

Maitrek's picture

I think with any young industry alot of money is spent sorting out the heirarchy (ie, who makes good games and who is pants) and setting up the resource base, and over time it will sort itself out and most of the setting up costs associated with a budding industry will settle down to a minimum and there will be better profit margins for game developers.

However, I certainly wouldn't expect to make alot on games, alot of it is swallowed up by publishers and marketing and distribution. If all you want is money, work you way up those ladders instead, or become a bank manager :) If you want to actually make games, then accept that it's a bit of a labour of love!

Caol's picture

wat is the average pay u would get from making games?

Caol's picture

just say u made a game that was successful... like half-life or sometin... just say it was on like pc, and a console etc... how much $ would u b lookin at?

Maitrek's picture

Depends who you are and where you stand in the successful game. As a developer - enough to cover expenses and wages and bit in the pocket to spend on the next game. As something like a publisher/marketer, probably alot due to the little overhead required from your end.


Snootchie bootchies!
Any off-topic issues send to maitrek@austarmetro.com.au
Blitz's picture

The publisher has to take a decent cut out of sales to finance the dud games :)
CYer, Blitz

Daemin's picture

I've heard from reputable sources that if people make a commercially successful game they can earn a year's salary in royalties (that's a years pay each extra).

Maitrek's picture

Very short two cents -> kind of meant as a bit of a poke at a couple of people.

*I don't see the point in thinking about the cash myself*


Snootchie bootchies!
Any off-topic issues send to maitrek@austarmetro.com.au
souri's picture

Most people working at companies just receive a salary and that's it though, right? Royalties don't fall down to employees, do they?

Grif's picture

Yeah, royalties are often passed on to employees in part. =) Generally speaking, though, you'd have to be working on a VERY successful game with a VERY generous employer and publisher to have a prayer of seeing anything like a year's salary as a bonus. Even above average sales can often leave staff (as opposed to the development company they work for) below a point where royalties can be passed down to them, though. And some companies simply don't have a royalty scheme at all.

- Grif

Daemin's picture

I would expect royalties to flow through to the employees of a gmae company, since they're the one's putting in 40 hours of overtime a week sometimes to get the game done, if there was no possibility for royalties then the salary would have to be pretty damn high!

Maitrek: And generally when you make games you don't think about the cash, although if its your career then you have to put some though into it otherwise you'll end up with the bum end of the deal.

Maitrek's picture

To me, there is no *bum end of the deal* if you are working in the games industry.


Snootchie bootchies!
Any off-topic issues send to maitrek@austarmetro.com.au
Sertan's picture

I'd rather be a game designer, mainly because the game designer gets into all the nitty gritty stuff like managing the voice actors, designing gameplay mechanics, establishing themes, and generally seeing the whole project through from the very beginnings to the final product.

I'm actually aiming for a career as a game designer.

Feeling both great and somewhat conceited ([:D]),

- Sertan

Vivian: You go too far, Marlowe.
Marlowe: Those are some harsh words to say to a man, especially when he's walking out of your bedroom.

THIEF's picture

"...This is not true of all companies however, and many game studios provide excellent working environments and conditions.[citation needed]"



Came across that little gem here. Couldn't stop laughing...I love it!! :D