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Game developers’ growing pains

A Gamasutra survey of international pay rates in the game industry shows why it’s a good career choice and why it can occasionally be hard for NZ companies wanting to expand to attract talent from overseas.

The survey (highlights here or available in full here) shows salaries ranging from a modest $54,833 for Quality Assurance staff (those people “who get paid to play games all day”) through salaries in the mid-$70K range for artists, animators and designers up to the md-$90K range for audio professionals and programmers, and topping out at just over $100,000 for management. (All figures are in US dollars.)

The NZ Game Developer Association (NZGDA) conducts a member survey each year. Last year one of the challenges facing the industry was noted as skills shortages. 44% of the country’s game studios studios said skills shortages were constraining growth in their business. Of the studios claiming to be affected by the skills shortages, 71% cited a shortage of programmers, 57% of game designers.

NZGDA Chair Stephen Knightly said that this year’s survey was currently in progress, so no firm update on those numbers was yet available. Anecdotally, it seems there hasn’t been much shift over the last year.

There aren’t pay figures available here that are comparable with the numbers in the Gamasutra survey, although the government’s careers website suggests that NZ developers earn up to $80,000.

NZ studios don’t seem to have had too much problem attracting overseas workers, with the slightly lower pay apparently being offset by all the other things NZ doesn’t have compared with major US and European cities, like pollution and lots of street crime. Put more positively, lifestyle factors continue to be a good selling point for NZ.

The game developers 2014 survey results will be out in time for the NZGDA’s third annual conference, which will run 19 September and be “awesome”, according to Knightly. Organisers have locked most of this year’s speakers and expect to begin making programme announcements within the next couple of weeks.

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