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US developer salaries up 7% according to annual report

Game Developer survey shows growth, and increased satisfaction, for indie devs

Mainstream developers in the US saw a 7 per cent average rise in salaries from 2009 to 2010, according to the latest results from the tenth annual Game Developer Salary Survey.

The average full time salary for a US developer was put at $80,817 (£48,400), with independent contractors earning an average of $55,493 (£33,300). Self-described indie developers earned an average of $26,780 (£16,000), an increase of over $6,000 (£3,600) on the previous year.

Despite the difference in pay, mainstream developers were more likely to voice a bleaker outlook on the industry and their position. Independent developers proved much more positive, and considered the industry to be more fertile and innovative than previous years.

In terms of specific roles programmers continued to be the highest paid after production, business and legal staff. Salaries increased by around $5,000 to $85,733 (£51,000), except in entry level positions which saw a decrease of $1,000.

The average salary for art and animation staff was almost unchanged from the previous year, with a slight rise of $283 to $71,354 ($42,800) - attributed to pay raises for art directors. There was also little change for game designers, at an average of $70,223 (£42,100).

Following a fall in salaries in 2009, producers saw an increase of over $13,000 in 2010, to a new average of $88,544 (£53,100). The rise was attributed to the strong experience of survey respondents, with over half having been in their role for more than six years, and better paying social game studios. Producers also saw the highest proportion of female respondents, at 17 per cent.

Sound designers earned an average of $68,088 (£41,000), with 15 per cent claiming they had earned less than in 2009. Quality assurance staff earned an average of $49,009 (£29,400), an increase of $11,000 from the previous year - again attributed to the increase in Web-based casual game positions.

Business and legal staff remained the highest paid within the games industry, across all experience levels, with an average salary of $106,452 (£63,800).

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David Jenkins