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The GamesIndustry.biz Careers Survey 2018: Lower pay but less crunch

We break down the results of our second annual study on the games jobs market, which shows an industry improving its conditions and increasing its efforts in equality

Following our inaugural research last year, GamesIndustry.biz recently conducted an extensive survey into how well the games market supports and rewards its staff. With the promise of anonymity, we invited developers, publishers and more to share their thoughts on pay, diversity, working conditions and more.

Given the recent calls for unionization and ongoing concerns about crunch across the industry, you would think this would paint a bleak picture of the industry but our participants remain remarkably optimistic. Only one in four (24.9%) complained about crunch, overtime or poor working conditions in their comments - a massive drop compared to the 73% we recorded last year. Only 3.3% referred to the need for unions.

"It's impossible to ignore the reliance on overtime. Only 14.2% of respondents claimed they are never expected to work beyond their contracted hours"

84.2% of participants said they worked between 30 and 50 hours a week, which is roughly in line with the 82.3% we saw last year. Most of these (43%) work between 41 and 50 hours, again in keeping with 2017's figures.

More than a tenth of the industry (12.3%, up from 11.5% last year) work more than 50 hours. 3.7% work more than 60, and fortunately only five work over 80 hours per per week. Happily, this seems to be partly down to employee discretion: 83.4% reported they have flexible working hours - a 10% increase on the amount of people with this option last year.

However, it's impossible to ignore the reliance on overtime. Only 14.2% of respondents claimed they are never expected to work beyond their contracted hours. More than a third are expected to do so regularly, with 24.7% saying they are 'Often' called to work extra and 11.4% saying 'Very Often'. On a lighter note, this figures are ever-so-slightly down from the 26.1% and 16.2% recorded in 2017.

The amount of people that work within their employer's office remained relatively flat at 88.3% - although one of the common positive comments was the option to work at home, even on short notice. The number of remote workers operating in different countries to their employer also stayed roughly the same at 13.5%.

Once again, the majority of industry workers appear to work in large companies of 200 or more staff - 36.5% of respondents, up from 37.8%. A quarter work at places with 51 to 200 staff, while there was a slight drop in the number of people working at microstudios (between two and ten staff): down from 15% to 11.9%.

The industry appears to be optimistic about growth, with 68.4% of participants predicting their company's headcount would rise in 2018 (up from 61.6%) last year. Similarly, 65.9% report their teams have expanded since last year.

"The number of high-earning female games professionals appears to be on the rise. 15.6% of our female respondents earn over $80,000 - that's up on the 11% recorded last year"

The number of companies that have shrunk over the past twelve months seems to be roughly the same - 13.4% this year vs 13.9% - while only 4.5% expect further job cuts in the year to come.

Fuelling the expected growth, 68.4% of companies offer internships and work experience. The number of firms with established ties to local universities, schools and colleges has risen 5% to 58.5%.

Hopefully these efforts to find new talent will help improve the industry's diversity because once again the figures aren't as promising as you would hope. Only 15.5% believe the range of people employed at their firm to be 'Very Good', and that's down from 22% last year. Meanwhile, those who would rate it as 'Not Good' rose from 31.4% to 39.9%.

One in three respondents expect this to improve over the course of the year. Fortunately, only 1.9% complained about sexist attitudes and behaviour.

Efforts to protect employees from such behaviour and other forms of harassment appear to be on the rise. Almost half of respondents (48.7%, up from 44.1%) report there is a system in place at their firm to deal with such issues, while those who claim no system exists has dropped slightly from 23.2% to 22.7%.

It's perhaps to be expected that more than half (57.2%) are unaware how often these systems are users, but sadly the amount of participants who say they are never required has dropped from 25% to 21.7%. As with last year, 5% say these systems are required 'Often' or 'Very Often', so there is still plenty of improvement needed across the industry.

Average salaries (click to enlarge)

What has improved is the disparity between pay between men and women. While there remains a lack of the latter in senior positions, the number of high earning female games professionals appears to be on the rise. 15.6% of our female respondents earn over $80,000 - that's up on the 11% recorded last year. This still pales in comparison to high-earning males, with 28.6% of men who filled in our survey earning over $80,000 - up from 20% in 2017.

There also remains a gap in average pay across the two genders. The mean average salary for our female respondents came in at $46,701 - a slight but welcome increase over the $45,171 recorded last year. Meanwhile, the mean average for men is $51,754 (down from $55,554 in 2017), reducing the gender pay gap from over $10,000 last year to roughly $6,500.

When you look at the median, the average woman's salary actually dropped from $40,750 last year to $39,112. The male median also declined from $47,532 to $45,000, which means the median gender pay gap also drops from over $6,500 to just shy of $5,900.

Overall, average salaries dipped slightly. The mean for our entire survey dropped from $52,685 last year to $50,542, while the median fell from $51,619 to $50,000. However, things are looking up for our largest group - developers - where the mean average has risen from $51,864 to $55,970.

Despite the overall declines, most participants remain optimistic about their pay. 65.6% expect their salary to rise in 2018, while 31.2% expect it to stay the same. Even better, 67% of respondents report they received a pay rise in the last year (up from 56.3%). The number of people who saw their salary trimmed remained roughly flat at 5.6%.

More than half (54.8%) believe their skills and experience would grant them better pay and nicer working conditions in other industries, and yet few have plans to leave the games industry. In fact, just shy of 90% said it was 'Likely' or 'Very Likely' they would continue working in games for at least the next five years, an uptick on last year's 85%. Well over half (61.3%) said it was 'Very Likely'.

This is in part thanks to the efforts employers are putting into caring for staff and their careers. The amount of people who have access to skills and training through their employer has risen from 52.3% to 57.9%, while 33.7% are offered higher than the standard maternity or paternity pay (up from 28%).

"More than half (54.8%) believe their skills and experience would grant them better pay and nicer working conditions in other industries, and yet few have plans to leave the games industry"

An impressive 71.9% confirm they are entitled to bonuses and other perks at work - up from 63.2% - with examples ranging from extra pay, share schemes and profit shares to private medical care, gym memberships, massages and personal trainers, and even simple things like free candy and drinks.

The amount of employees encouraged to work on personal projects is also up slightly to 46.5%, as is the proportion offered the chance to take part in game jams (both internal and external), which came in at 51.7%. Disappointingly, less than half (48.8%) said their employers claim no ownership of such projects.

Regardless, it appears the majority of games professionals are comfortable in their current position. Only 22.3% said it was likely they would change jobs in 2018 - a marked decrease from the 40.1% of jobseekers reported last year. A further 23% said they may search for new employment within two years. 17% said they had no interest in moving at all - almost double the 8.7% that said this last year.

Unsurprisingly, the most common motivator for a change of job was salary, followed by an interest in working in a new location. 61.3% said they were tempted by the idea of working overseas.

When asked for the highlights of working in the games industry, the answers varied greatly. Common comments included the great people and camaraderie between teams. Others valued the flexible hours, the chance to express their creativity and the opportunity to engage in their hobby professionally.

Our Methodology

We more than doubled the participants for our 2018 survey with almost 700 participants. However, 18.7% were female, which is down slightly from the 21.4% we achieved last year (although broadly in-line with the predicted industry averages).

We attempted to gather as global a sample as possible, although certain markets do have greater representation. 35.9% of participants were from the UK (less than last year's 47.2%), while 24.8% were from the USA. The next biggest regions were Western Europe (including France, Spain and Germany) at 13.7% and Canada at 9.4%.

This continues to be a relatively young industry, with the vast majority of participants (86.4%) aged under 40. Those between 31 and 40 took a slight lead, making up 43.3% of the panel, with 42.5% aged between 21 and 30.

76% of respondents identified as developers (only 1% of which specifically identified themselves as indies), while the next largest group was publishers, making up 10% of our participants. The rest was a mix of service and tools providers, media, PR agencies, educators, consultants, research firms and more.

When calculating average salaries, we discounted any below $14,000 as these are most often contractors earning a few thousand per year. We also cut anything above $100,000, which are executive salaries that skew overall figures.