Monday, April 14, 2008

Wages In That Other Animation Business: GAMES

Since video games dwarf the movie business, it's probably a good idea to pay attention what wage rates are over in that neck of the woods.

Game Developer Magazine has done a wage survey (not unlike TAG's own), and it's kind of instructive.

...[B]usiness and marketing leads the pack, with an average annual salary of $101,848, and experienced executives pulling in $132,305.

Okay, not exactly what a high-level television or movie exec makes, but not at all shabby. But what do Tech Directors (programmers) and animators (game division) make? Per the survey:

Programmers are a distant second with an average annual salary of $83,383, but they're also one of the most educated groups: 50% hold bachelor's degrees and 26% have completed some graduate work ... [A]nimation [is] at $66,594, Game Design at $63,649 ...

By way of comparison, rates from our most recent animation wage survey are a teensy bit different.

The annual wage for a programmer/technical director is $94,233.50

The annual wage for a 3-D modeller is $78,545.50

And the annual wage for 3-D animator is $87,272.50

To what do I attribute the difference? Part of it's that the 'toon business is more mature, and the age of people in it are older. Also that a large swath of television and feature animation is unionized, which makes a considerable difference, particularly in Los Angeles. Travel to other parts of the country where there is a minimal union presence, and the rates are lower.

The game industry has very little unionization.


Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I hear the hours at game companies can get brutal, too.


A VFX artist created a funny short film about life in the VFX industry:

Chris Norpchen's "Digital Grunt"

Check out the comments -- video game artists could see their own experiences in this short film.

Anonymous said...

Technical Director and Programmer are not the same thing! In the animation industry, the title Software Engineer is generally used instead of Programmer. I realize TDs are unionized and Software Engineers aren't, so you probably don't have wage data on the later. However, I wouldn't lump them together as the work is very different, and potentially the wages too.

-Software Engineer at an Animation Studio

Anonymous said...

The other difference, and this is a big one, is that in games it's mostly full time positions, as opposed to short term contracts (6 to 8 months).

And the hours have been quite normal,for me anyway.

That short is quite funny and , sadly, pretty accurate..


Gabe Swarr said...

What's missing here are is all the royalties, bonuses and stock options. A VERY huge difference to these numbers...

Steve Hulett said...

What's missing here are is all the royalties, bonuses and stock options.

It's impossible to track all the various cash elements outside of wages .... for example:

Unionized Disney employees received sizable stock options for decades. They stopped when Michael Eisner took the helm, started again for a select few in the '90s.

Bonuses were granted in the 1990s on a more widespread basis.

I could cite other examples but the main thrust here is, look at the wages AND benefits across the industry.

In my experience -- and the stats back the experience up -- unionized employees make more money over time. (Obviously there are wide variances).

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