The yearly Game Developer magazine salary survey has been released for calendar year 2008. The average salary for an American developer across all disciplines and experience ranges is $79 000 USD. That’s a useless stat really since there’s so much variability due to different job functions, companies, geography, and experience.

The stat I’m most interested in is how much do programmers make. In the US, the average programmer salary is a whopping $85K USD. If you convert that into Canadian dollars (for today at least), that’s about $100K CAD. I make considerably less than an average American game programmer, especially if the dollar is factored into it.

I have the hard copy version of the survey which actually has Canadian survey data. While the sample size for Canada is smaller (and thus possibly less accurate), I believe it maybe more relevant. The average Canadian game programmer rakes in $65 500 USD or approx. $77K CAD. This stats makes me feel slightly better but it still doesn’t change the fact that I would almost definitely get paid more if I plied my trade in the US. Also of note is that if you’re gonna makes games in Canada, do it as far west as you can. People making games in the Maritimes make the least, while those in B.C. make the most. Keep in mind though, the cost of living goes way up as you move from east to west.

Last but certainly not least, is the data on QA personnel. The average salaried QA person in games in Canada makes about $35K USD or $42K CAD. In both Canada and the US, people working in QA still make significantly less than all other disciplines. That’s just the QA people who have managed to get a salaried position. The majority of the QA workforce are hourly workers not represented in the survey. It’s been a while since I was in that position but I believe the hourly wage is still in the $10-12 range.

In the end, the stats are nice to know but the thing I appreciate the most is that as of now, I can continue to make a living writing software for video games. Given how the last couple months have gone, I feel pretty lucky about that.

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