How Much Does A Video Game Designer Make?

"I am passionate about video games. Not only am I a good player in most of the video games I play in, I also have great and original ideas for games that I intend to design on my own in the future. A career in video game design would certainly be a dream job for me. But before I embark on an educational path that would take me to this career, I’d like to know if it is going to be financially beneficial. How much does a video game designer make?"

asked by Kaleb D. from Altus, Oklahoma

Before answering the question on how much video game designers make, it’s important to understand that various factors affect the pay they receive. Contrary to what many aspiring game designers believe, the game idea you have in your head is not going to be a deciding factor in your ability to earn a lot or not. In fact, the idea itself is not going to be considered. Rather, it is your ability to take that idea to the next level and actually make a game out of it that avid gamers will patronize.

With that misconception clarified, the salary of video game designers is affected by the level of experience you hold, the job title, the size of the company that you get employed in, your educational background and the game industry sector you are working in. The more experience you have, the higher the pay you can expect to receive since you have developed the skills to come up with high quality games. As in any industry, those at the entry-level can’t expect to be paid as much. Thus, senior game designers earn way more than associate game designers. As far as the company size is concerned, larger gaming firms have higher budgets which give them the flexibility to give higher salaries to game designers. That being said, those who are still starting out as game designers will find it easier to get employed with startups or smaller companies. One way for entry-level game designers to get higher pay is to have a certificate in game design and a portfolio of work. Finally, some sectors of the gaming industry—those that make video games with a gambling focus, for example—also pay higher.

There is no official data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on the mean annual wages of video game designers. In fact, the agency does not even have a specific occupational designation for “video game designers.” To come up with the figures, we resort to surveys from the gaming industry done by different private groups.

Based on these data, the annual salary of entry-level video game designers range from $40,000 to $60,000. Those who have worked in the profession for a good number of years are usually paid anywhere from $45,000 to $80,000 per year. Finally, senior game designers or those who hold leadership positions in a gaming firm or gaming team (this is usually attained only after one has worked for a number of years as a game designer) receive anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 annually.

Career Spotlight: Video Game Designer

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