Developer backlash over salary article shows the schism in the industry

Alex Hinkley

A few weeks ago at the end of June I published an article on my national video games column at titled “The problem with the gaming industry is that developers make too much.” The article put forth the argument that the six figure salaries of developers and publishers were driving up production costs of video games which are then passed onto the gamer in the form of nickel-and-diming DLC, stuff like paid online passes along, and a myriad of other intangible costs such as the cancellation of potential sequels to great games (Tomb Raider lost hundreds of millions of dollars, do you think there will be a sequel?) and attempts to kill the used game market off completely because it is “hurting sales.”

Despite the fact the article received a lot of support from everyday gamers (at the time of this writing it has 9,000 Facebook likes), a very vocal minority consisting mainly of developers and publishers were enraged and demanded I be fired for even daring to write such a topic. Although the article had been up for five days at that point and had already been previously reviewed by staff at Examiner, decided to fire me for the sole reason that “major developers and publishers” had complained about it. They told me they weren’t going to talk about the content of the article, but they were trying to establish relationships in the industry with other writers on the site and did not want to jeopardize them. In other words, they simply wanted to keep developers and publishers happy so they can keep getting free stuff and exclusive content. What’s that tell you about the legitimacy of what you read on There’s a term for this. It’s called selling out.

But major implications about the credibility of news sites aside, what’s it tell you about the state of the gaming industry if publishers and developers demand a journalist be fired for reporting something they don’t like? Should developers and publishers have this sort of power in the industry? Journalists aren’t supposed to write things to make publishers and developers happy. They are supposed to write things to inform gamers. They are supposed to truthfully write their opinions regardless of what they may be. If you think Call of Duty is the worst game ever, you should feel free to say so and not silence yourself just so someone else on the site can get Call of Duty: Ghosts for free later. That’s bribery. Too many “gaming journalists” today forget that fact. Award winning political journalist Glenn Greenwald has said, “If you are pleasing the people in power with the things that you are disclosing, you may be very good at your job but your job is not journalism.” If developers and publishers love you as a journalist, then you’re catering to the wrong audience.

On July 12th game developer Kaleb Aylsworth wrote a blog on gamasutra, a community site for game developers and publishers (surprise), that was supposed to act as a “counter” to my original article. In his response, he writes the only way to accurately compare average salaries between game developers and other jobs is to ignore overpaid executives in the industry which skew the average. Uh… what? S o in other words ignore the very people that my article was criticizing? That makes no sense. My article was about these overpaid so-called “executives” driving $70,000 sports cars and making hefty salaries. Why should they be ignored? They are the problem! The fact this statement appears in his counter article at all further proves my original article was correct.

Kaleb then goes on to say that game development costs aren’t getting out of control because people like Cliffy B are worth $15 million, they are getting out of control because games today are bigger, better looking, and more mechanically complex than games in the past. In other words, game development budgets in the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars are apparently necessary and worth it to create such “awesome” games regardless of what cost is passed onto gamers.

One of his Twitter followers told him he should get some quantifiable data to back up those claims, such as comparing Metacritic scores from old and new games. So that’s exactly what I did. I found that not a single one of the top five rated PC games was released in the last five years. Furthermore, the top rated Xbox 360 and PS3 game is over five years old as well. Games with “bad looking” graphics tend to sell the best, too. I linked him to this list of the top 10 best selling games of all time. Not one game on that list has blockbuster graphics. There’s a reason for that. There’s a reason that Minecraft is a top selling Xbox 360 game. There’s a reason that League of Legends is so insanely popular despite looking cartoony (and also being free-to-play). There’s a reason indie games with small budgets and retro looking graphics are becoming more and more mainstream. When I pointed this out to Kaleb, he called me a troll and Twitter blocked me. As you can see by the comments from N4G screenshotted at the bottom of this article, gamers agreed that Kaleb was wrong. It’s not just about graphics or mechanical complexity. Things like story, innovation, and fun-factor are just as important if not more so and all those things can be created on small budgets. But developers and publishers applauded Kaleb for a “successful” counter to my article.

This is sort of like if I had written an article criticizing overspending in congress, then a congressman writes up a reply saying how crazy and wrong I am, and all the other congressmen applauding him for “destroying” me. How much weight should such comments truly be given?

This really goes to show the divide between publishers/developers and gamers in the industry is getting worse. Kaleb himself admits to this in his article but claims he is trying to repair it. No he’s not. Otherwise he wouldn’t have called my article “malicious journalism” simply because of what it reported on. Numerous developers called me names such as “another self entitled idiot gamer” in response to my article. Industry analyst and indie developer Sean Malstrom wrote a commentary about my article titled “Article saying ‘game developers make too much money’ is about how out of touch the Game Industry has become” and a lot of it was spot-on. Needless to say developers and publishers insulted his article, too.

Kaleb and other developers complaining about the article want you to believe it is talking about the average developer. This is actually a misconception due to their misunderstanding of what the term “average salary” means. Even Kaleb apparently did not know what an average was, based on some of his tweets. Average salary is not a measure of what an average developer makes. That would be called the median salary. Median salary means half of the people make less, half of the people make more. That is a more accurate measure of what the average developer makes. Average salary doesn’t do that. Average salary is skewed by the guys at the top who make ridiculous amounts of money. That’s was the entire point of the article. These guys are making too much. Their salaries needlessly add millions of dollars to game development and administration costs. Then these same people try to blame gamers for video games no longer being profitable. According to, Cliff Bleszinski is worth $15 million. And yet he has the gall to write tweets that games are becoming no longer profitable because gamers are buying used games? Maybe he should look in the mirror before pointing the finger at us. Sean Malstrom likens him to “a guy in a top hat in a Rolls Royce telling the people in soup lines that he needs more money.” If you are a struggling developer that makes around or below the average salary quoted in my article, the article wasn’t about you.

Some developers attempted to discredit my article by saying the numbers were wrong. One even went so far as to say I “pulled the numbers out of my ass.” Apparently these people did not see the nine different referenced sources that I cited after mentioning a number including Game Developer Magazine and I didn’t come up with or calculate these numbers. They are all referenced from verifiable, trusted sources. If someone doesn’t believe them, they should go to the source and talk to them about it. For example, one developer said calculating average salary is a useless statistic because it tells you nothing. He should tell that to Game Developer Magazine, then. They reported it. Not me.

What it all boils down to is gamers are sick of feeling like they are being taken advantage of. People don’t recognize the gaming industry anymore. It’s become more about making money and less about making fun, innovative games. A developer from Visceral challenged me to name one sequel that had been canceled due to its predecessor having too massive of a development budget. I only needed a few seconds to think of the perfect response. I pointed out that Dead Space 4 had been cancelled and asked her to tell me what the development budget of Dead Space 3 was. She replied, “sorry but I can’t tell you that.” I didn’t think so.

Exorbitant salaries of developers and publishers may not be the only problem in the gaming industry, but it is one problem. The backlash from developers and publishers over this article has brought to the surface what is perhaps the biggest problem in the industry today – the divide between gamers and industry professionals. I’m a voice for average gamers so calling me an idiot and saying I’m self entitled is insulting to lots of other gamers, not just me.

This isn’t the first time it has happened, either. Remember when Rab Florence left Eurogamer because they edited an article he wrote about journalists and PR being too close? You know, the one with the now- infamous picture of Geoff Keighley with the Mountain Dew and Doritos? Or what about when Jeff Gertsmann was fired from GameSpot for writing a negative review of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men? How many more times do things like this need to happen? Whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve said, the industry can’t continue on this same path. Something needs to change, that much is clear.

***Editor’s NOTE: Alex’s views are his own and may or may not represent those of RealGamerNewz and the rest of their staff. This article will not be taken down for any reason(s) citing the 1st Amendment of the United States of America. Thanks, -RGN Staff

  • Kitchens

    I’m sure THQ just made too much and collapsed under the weight of the money it made.

    Or it could be that you’re not factoring in budget. Either way really.

    • If you look up what some of the people at THQ were making while the company was going under, you might see this actually is one of the reasons they blew up. it wasn’t the “weight of the money they made,” but it was the illogical distribution of the money which caused the problems.

      • ugh.

        THQ was our publisher. I made 40k as a developer. Worked 10-16 hour days for a year. Yeah…. Game Developers make too much.

        It is insulting to have someone who doesn’t understand the industry to claim that we’re making too much.

        • If you made 40k a year as a developer there then you should love these articles. Perhaps if the people at the top weren’t cleaning up, you would have gotten a raise. You should not argue with people trying to fight for you sir.

          • Yeah

            I was a content developer too, working on some pretty big MMO titles, and I don’t I ever cleared more than 40k a year. There were other developers that made more, but not 60k a year more.

            I think one thing that would have helped your initial article a lot would be saying that producers, not developers are earning too much. Since that seems to be the overwhelming amount of people you are talking about.

            Also, calling out Cliffy B for being worth 15mil? Really? I mean, I’m no huge Gears fan (or even Cliffy fan really, although I’ve never met the guy)… but didn’t he get started in the industry like 15+ years ago at Epic, and pretty much MAKE one or two studios? I mean, he probably got some great stock options from IPOs, IPOs that did so well precisely because of the games he made? I guess he shouldn’t profit from that, that would be silly. Or maybe you’re implying he made $1mil a year in salary for the last 15 years? How much are Sid Meir, John Carmack or Wil Wright worth?

            Certainly there are issues with how that game industry spends its money, and it *should* be reported on. I disagree with some of your statements, but I don’t think you should be fired for them… assuming the piece is an editorial. Now if it isn’t an editorial, I think at the very least lumping devs and producers together without explaining it is at the very least misleading, shoddy journalism.

          • FFS

            You do not seem like you’re trying to fight for us hard working and, quite frankly, underpaid game developers. What it seems like you were trying to do was write an article sensationalizing the salaries of one or two corporate executives whilst simultaneously tarring the rest of the game development community with the same brush.

            As someone who I assume at one point took enjoyment in playing video games, how dare you point the finger at the developers and say that by us earning a living to we drive the cost of games up. It’s this kind of libel that turns gamers against the people who’re making the games.

            Most game developers voluntarily spend massive amounts of their free time working extra to ensure a quality title, without expecting a word of gratitude from people playing their game. I appreciate that as a hack word-slinger you need to find an hour or two each day to trundle down to Starbucks with your Macbook and churn out another verbose assault against a title whilst pretentiously sipping on your half-fat Mochachino, but if you would pay us the common courtesy of not trying to install misinformation (And without any real sources of fact, I can only assume that you made up a lot of the information in your article) in the gamers of the world.

            Sorry to hear that you lost your job over this. Though I hear that some McDonalds employees earn six figure salaries. Why not drop your resume in at the nearest branch?

        • Esmie

          As he made clear a number of times in the article it’s not aimed at you who make 40k a year. He’s not talking about the wage of the average developer, he’s talking about the average wage which is skewed by the top x% who are making hugely disproportionate amounts. The fat cats in other words, they’re in every industry (banking, power etc) and the videogame industry is no different and why would we expect it to be.


          “how dare you point the finger at the developers and say that by us earning a living to we drive the cost of games up. ”

          Which is the opposite of what he was saying.

          @Author – Good article. I was pointed to this by a game developer who felt it was a worthy read.

  • Dude

    Dude, Comparing yourself to Rab and Jeff. Really?

    Firstly your whole issue is based on entitlement. If you don’t want to be nickel and dimed stop buying the products. The industry sells a product it doesn’t offer a public service.

    You would be wise to save your crusade for another cause that doesn’t require the entire deconstruction of capitalism to occur.

  • Former Game Developer

    It’s not about capitalism. It’s about hypocrites and idiots.
    Yes, if people have a problem with the way the industry works, they should stop spending money on it. But as the author of the article points out, that’s in fact what they are doing. Developers just don’t want to acknowledge it, which is why they are complaining about high costs and trying to stop used game sales.
    The industry is changing, and its no longer possible for developers to make the same large profits they have historically. When profits become less, you either cut your costs (and what’s going to be most effective, cutting the salaries of the lowest paid 10% or cutting the salaries of the highest paid 10%? Duh), or you produce more with what you’ve got. The console gaming industry’s marketing engine won’t allow for producing more without raising costs (because huge, expensive graphics are the only thing they know how to sell, and the new consoles take more work to develop for now), so salaries have to be cut, or developers stop developing (I.e. THQ). It’s pretty straight forward. Regardless, a reporter shouldn’t be fired for reporting.

  • Devdude

    Your original article was one of the dumber things I’ve read. Most developers in the game industry aren’t driving around Lamborghinis. Pay is comparable to what you earn in other areas — it’s $70,000 median salary for an engineer anywhere in the country, whether s/he’s working on ATM software, an iPhone calculator, or a AAA Xbox game. Talented engineers get paid a lot in any industry, and they can earn way more working outside of games (we had a former Google Engineer who was paid $180,000 cut his salary by 2/3 to work at my startup, for example; and you can make a real fortune developing software for the financial industry.

    Certain people in the business make a fortune, much as they do in film/TV, sales, etc. For every Cliffy B or Brad Pitt, there are thousands of dudes busting ass as underpaid QA testers or production assistants.

    • Your reading comprehension levels are extremely poor. The article was not about “most developers.” Why are you makign statements saying that there are thousands of people busting ass in underpaid positions? That has no bearing on the article whatsoever. The article was about the people at the top making too much. The very first line talked about someone driving a $70,000 luxury sports car. Is a QA tester making $8 an hour driving one? No? Article wasn’t about him.

      Either you didn’t read the article before commenting, or you need to go back to school and re-take English. So that I don’t feel I’m insulting you, I’ll believe in the former. Next time try to read past the headline before you comment and you’ll save yourself some embarrassment.

      • tim

        A lot of this backlash could have been avoided if you simply changed the title to not imply developers as a whole are to blame. But you were trying to write a smug partially-inflammatory article to make yourself look insightful when you were actually way out of your league, and now you’re trying to awkwardly backpedal and still save face while insulting your detractors by painting them as high-and-mighty villains. The problem is you though. You are the face of Dunning-Kruger.

        • I’m not sure you know what the Dunning-Kruger effect actually is. According to Wikipedia: “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average.”

          I don’t remember talking about how I am a better, or more skilled developer than anybody. Exactly how would a cognitive bias relating to boasting about one’s skill apply to someone that has not talked about their skill?

          • tim

            It was meant to imply your level of critical understanding about the development industry. Or about why people were upset about your original article. Or at the very least your understanding of how to draw appropriate conclusions from salary data sets.

          • Tommy

            Yup, sounds about right. Defs overestimating your own standing or ability as both a writer and a journalist.

      • MattW

        That’s not true at all. You specifically criticized developers making the median salary (Paragraphs 5 & 6).

        • No I didn’t. I never said the phrase median salary in the original article at all sir.

          • CanVox

            “In addition to a high salary, the majority of game developers also receive a myriad of fringe benefits including stock options, annual bonuses, project bonuses, royalties for games they have worked on, medical benefits, dental coverage, and even pension plans.”

            Sure seems like you’re criticizing the compensation of a MAJORITY of developers.

            Your problem seems to be that you don’t believe game developers should be paid salaries that are competitive with other industries, just because games are enjoyable to play. I assure you that software developers as a whole have an average salary a great deal higher than $85,000 per year.

      • J.R.

        I think the responses here are getting skewed by emotions. I was very upset by your original article also. Now reading your rebuttal article, your intentions are made clearer. Intentions that did not come through in the original article.

        What Devdude is trying to say is that you did not make it clear who you were targeting. You only used “developers” as your title for those making too much. If you assumed people would understand who you were talking about based upon the sports car example, that was a bad assumption. Gamers don’t know what people are making, so they will assume you are talking about ALL developers, not just the 1-10% at the top.

        As for the “average” vs “median” term, again the average reader will make that mistake. When you are writing an article for the general populace you must word it for the general populace. That is why developers were upset. You made so many generalized statements that you ended up misrepresenting an entire industry instead of the few it was intended for.

        Now, you could have done this on purpose. An article talking about how the top execs over pay themselves wouldn’t set the game industry apart from any other industry. By generalizing, your article has been shared by more people and generated more attention.

        Whether you were fired because of “Publisher/Developer” strong arming…if it’s true that is unfortunate, because it would give your article superficial credence. How ever, was it company execs that complained to, or just an overwhelming number of developers (individuals working in the industry) that turned the pressure on?

        Your congress and congressmen analogy is poor. A better analogy would be “the problem with the car industry is that car manufacturing employees make too much” and then all the production line labor yelled foul on you. This is why your article was ridiculed. It created sensationalism where it didn’t exist.

        • Average and median are very basic terms that are taught in entry level high school statistics classes. I should be able to assume that people in the video game industry have a high school education and would understand that. especially true of people such as programmers who are knee-deep in code and mathematics all day. How could they NOT know the difference between average and median?

          According to the email I received, it was “major developers, publishers, and public relations people” that complained. They were pretty clear that I was being let go because of the complaints, not because of the content.

          As for the title, people need to read past the headline before commenting. If people had their way the title of the article should have been:

          “One of the many problems with the video game industry is that the top level of developers and publishers are making and unfair share of money”

          Try fitting THAT on the front page.

          • Champagne Comedy Man

            Because when were talking about average we are specific, eg: we say arithmetic mean, or we say median. The term average is somewhat vague, but contrary to your assertions, typically refers to arithmetic mean unless otherwise specified.

      • NYC_Gamer

        Its sad that many sites are under the control of publishers

      • brandofselfmeltdown

        Your reading and writing comprehension levels are extremely poor. The article was clearly about “most developers.” Why are you makign statements about your readers’ intelligence when you can’t spell making?

  • Well Dunning-Kruger isn’t about people’s level of understanding or misunderstanding something. Please don’t use psychological terms that you are not familiar with, it discredits your comment.

    • tim

      No, it literally is exactly about people thinking they’re smarter/better than they really are. The skill in question is not being a game developer, the skill in question is being a commentator about it.

      • Um. Having an opinion isn’t a skill. Just stop, you are embarrassing yourself man.

        • tim

          Then you admit that you are not attempting to be a skilled journalist, just someone with an opinion? Ok thanks for clearing that up.

        • Look at this pud

          Yes it is. Journalists and editorials are supposed to have well-researched opinions. By comparing yourself to them, you’re asserting that your opinion is better than the average. Pud.

        • Wi Tu Low

          Why do you defend yourself by insulting anyone who questions you?

          You managed to collectively p### off the majority of game developers because of lazy journalism in a poorly worded article, then take offense to being called out for it. Now you’ve lost your job over this and STILL can’t climb over your ego and man up to your mistakes.

          If you want to be a journalist, you should start by studying up on journalistic integrity.

        • Captain Obvious

          Actually Tim is humiliating you.

  • You Are a Pud

    Dude. You got canned for sloppy journalism and completely neglected the fact that games haven’t seen a price increase in 20 years.

    • No, actually Examiner approved the article and specifically said the content of the article is not why I was fired. Also, the full Battlefield 3 experience costs $130. That’s a price increase of over double from the previous generation.

      • sanspants

        You said:

        “No, actually Examiner approved the article and specifically said the content of the article is not why I was fired.”

        In the article you wrote, right up there, you said:

        “Although the article had been up for five days at that point and had already been previously reviewed by staff at Examiner, decided to fire me for the sole reason that “major developers and publishers” had complained about it.”

        Real writers and game designers strive for internal consistency.

      • You Really Are a Pud

        And how much more content are you getting for that $130 versus previous generations of Battlefield? Are you getting more items, weapons, and character types? Are you getting more maps? Larger maps? More enemies with better AI? More game types? Better FPS?

        You do realize that a Blu-Ray holds more data than a game cartridge, so chances are your $60 (or even $130) is going way farther these days than it used to. For example, look at the Castlevania series. There is no way you can state that Castlevania: Lord of Shadows has less content and worse graphics than any previous entry in the series. Bottom line, the $60 you spent on Castlevania 1-3, Super Castlevania, Symphony of the Night, or any of the handheld versions didn’t go nearly as far as the $60 you spent on Lord of Shadows.

      • just a guy

        Actually, you’re being disingenuous (okay, spelling not my forte) here. Before we had DLC, on computer that additional content would have been 1-2 expansions, conservatively priced at $30 each on release. Which is $90-120. I’m not extensively familiar with BF3, so you can maybe argue there’s only enough content for 1 pack. I would argue there’s enough for 2, and $120 is not significantly cheaper than $130.

        Being more reasonable, and directly comparing the cost of console video games, we will see a price increase of around 30% from the mid 90s (SNES carts being on average $40 if memory serves). Certainly the jump from $50 to $60 is recent enough that the pud poster there should recall it if s/he is out of his teens… Gasoline has jumped from $2 to $3.50 in my area in that time (75%), A paperback book used to cost $5, now it’s about $7 on average (40%), a can of coke was $.50 from a vending machine, now it’s $1-$1.25. So sure, I guess we can complain that inflation has been SLOWER in the video game industry than many other areas, while becoming more complex and needing more graphics capabilities for those high end titles…

        Sure Minecraft and retro gaming make a lot of money. So did GTA IV, Halo 3 and 4, Modern Warefare, Gears of War, Skyrim… are you seriously claiming there isn’t a market for those games as well? Of course not, so pointing at Minecraft and implying all games can go that graphic route is disengenuous once again. ####, I gotta figure out how to spell that word…

  • And some balls, too.

    Dude you got fired from the journalistic equivalent of Yelp.

    • ^ This

      *high five*

      • Champagne Comedy Man


  • In_The_Industry

    “The problem with the gaming industry is that developers make too much.”
    “My article was about these overpaid so-called “executives” driving $70,000 sports cars and making hefty salaries.”

    C-level execs are not developers. They are leeches. You are right in that they make too much, but you are completely wrong in blaming developers.

    • Cliffy B isn’t a developer? That’s news to me. Also the person I was criticizing in the article is clearly a developer as well.

  • Display Lame

    Painful to read for more than just the content, what a terrible font choice as well.

  • Really

    You wrote for THE EXAMINER. That is not a legitimate journalism site. You can’t get “fired” when you’re an independent contractor who makes basically pennies (until you had a viral hit with this article.) That site is scammy and from what I can tell, you’re not a journalist at all.

    • Independent contractors can get fired. Do you know what the term “fired” means?

      • Champagne Comedy Man

        They set you on fire?

  • rbisso

    Agreed 100% that your original article was very sloppy, blaming “developers” as a whole for what you see as an unfairly high price for games. Now, you are backtracking and saying it only applies to top-end devs. And it’s still not clear if you are lumping us in with publishers (a common mistake), who are the guys that make the lion’s share of the game profit.

    All that not withstanding, if you break a game down price over hours of enjoyment, you are still getting much more value than, let’s say, a movie. Much more than a comic book. Sure, there are a few developers making a lot of money off their art, but what you don’t understand is that, without those guys, you might not have a lot of the great things this industry has produced for you, because those people might be doing something else that makes more money. If their skills aren’t worth the price you’re paying, you won’t buy their product, they will stop being able to make as much money as they do, and that’s that.

    I will tell you one thing, though… there is no way in HELL that a publisher will pass any savings from cutting dev salaries on to you as an (I assume) AAA console gamer. You’re attacking the wrong people, man. If you want to see what happens when developers actually get to interface with the public without publisher interference, look no further than Minecraft, Canabalt, and hundreds of other extremely cheap or free-to-play games. The game I’m working on now (Forsaken Planet) is a great example. We put it out for free because we wanted everyone to get a chance to experience it and, if they think the work we do is good, to support us by buying something in the game. We have worked hard to erase as much friction as possible from the free experience, and are actually in the process of cutting the prices of all the items in the game, so that people don’t feel like they’re getting screwed while playing. This is all done because we really care about what the consumer thinks and we want you guys to have a good time.

    This is the way we approach it, and it’s the way that the vast majority of devs approach it. All of us are hardcore gamers and we buy just as many, if not more, games than your average fanboy. And, chances are, we probably make just as much as you when you figure in the places we have to live (like SF, LA, and NYC) in order to make games. We feel the prices of AAA games every bit as much as you do, and even more so because we know that the vast majority of our brothers and sisters who worked their asses off on those games will not be compensated to a level anywhere near the value of their contribution to that game. This is more or less why I’ve stopped buying AAA games and started supporting Kickstarter and buying indie games. Whether I’m buying games or making them, I do everything in my power to bypass traditional publishers.

    I guess it’s all about being able to accurately identify those who add value and those who leech, which is something you should really contemplate before shooting from the hip and wounding those of us who are working hard to make your life more fun. Having said all that, it sucks that they fired you. What a bunch of cowards!

    • The first line of the first article talked about a developer who had a $70,000 sports car. In your opinion, is this the majority of developers, or is it the top tier?

      If you say its the top tier, then obviously I did no “back tracking.” If you say the majority of them can afford it, then…

      • rbisso

        I call BS. The title of your article was “The problem with the gaming industry is that developers make too much”. Not “Studio Heads Make Too Much” or “Top Paid Developers Make Too Much” or anything else even arguable. Just because you talk about a dude with a fancy sports car in the first line doesn’t mean that you’re only talking about those guys. Besides, what the heck do you know about him? Maybe he worked as an investment banker (you know, the guys who really deserve to make lots of money) before, or maybe someone in his family died and left him money.

        Further, you go on to say:

        “If the average salary is $81,000, then a studio with 2,000 employees is paying out roughly $162 million in salaries alone. And that’s not even including any of the bonuses of benefits which if the average is $17,000 yearly would be another $34 million. No wonder games are so expensive to make! What if these numbers were cut in half?”

        This doesn’t sound like you are lamenting the salaries of only the highest paid in the least. You are advocating an across-the-board cut. And, by the way, are you kidding me? Cut the numbers in half? You are seriously suggesting that people with skills like ours who contribute significant value to the lives of millions of people sustain cuts that would bring the the avg salary down to $40k. Considering that the average salary for people with BA or BS degrees (which is required for most of us, or equivalent experience) is $60k… doesn’t look like we’re doing too terribly well, especially given that we’re not shuffling papers in some easy white collar office job, and also given the fact that most of us work ridiculous amounts of unpaid overtime.

        Your suggestions, as many others have said, are just not well thought-through. Take some time to learn from the people who are responding to you. Even though they may be angry, each of us has a story and is more than willing to give you their perspective on an industry that is, point-blank, way more complex than you paint it to be.

  • Jon Jones

    Developer here.

    So League of Legends was cheap to make because the graphics look cartoony?

    Also, you’re confusing developers with publishers. There’s historically a huge amount of waste and crazy high salaries on the publisher side, like ATVI’s CEO, who was the second highest-paid CEO in America in 2012. On the developer side, Gamasutra’s 2012 salary survey put the average developer salary at $84,337\yr. However, different positions and departments pay wildly different rates.

    Starting out in QA could be $18 – 22k\yr, starting out in art is in the $40k range, and as you go from junior to senior to lead you can eventually hit the 60s or 70s. Based on my own experience and being in hiring manager level positions for many years, most dev salaries are in the 50 – 60 range. Higher level positions pay out differently — and they take much longer to attain — but it is extremely uncommon that an actual game developer makes enough to drive around a $70k car or being a big shot like you seem to think. CliffyB being worth $15m also doesn’t point out the fact that this guy busted ass for 20 years making extraordinarily successful games and earning the money, not magically granting himself some huge salary just because.

    The outrage over your article from developers isn’t so much that there’s some perceived threat to our way of life, but that the data you use and the conclusions you’ve made are incorrect, and your tone and delivery were both insulting and misdirected.

    • If you believe the data I have used is incorrect, you should take it up with the sources that I cited. They are all respectable and verifiable sources.

      • mike arkin

        that’s a nice response, but doesn’t change the fact that your facts are wrong.

  • Not In The Industry

    See the name? You know why I’m not in the industry? The pay sucks. The hours suck. You’re utterly daft.

  • VoiceofReason

    I always find it funny when people try to dictate how much people should be paid. It’s not really your call. Unless you run the company. It’s a contract between two voluntary people. But let’s assume you understand this basic principle of the free market, and are simply arguing that gaming companies would be better off if they paid their executives less money. (Though it’s clear you are back-peddling on the developers/software engineers side of things)

    How do you know this? Are you saying this is the singular reason why gaming companies are doing poorly? And how can you say video games are doing poorly? Are you purposefully ignoring all the currerntly successful gaming companies? Do you have data that shows gaming companies with lower-paid execs do better than ones that pay them higher? Do you even have data that shows gaming companies are increasing the pay of their execs, at the same time as gaming companies are doing worse in the market? And even then, you’d have to prove causation, not just correlation.

    Your argument seems pretty weak and poorly supported. Probably more emotional than rational. Another “Man, these people get paid a lot, this doesn’t seem fair” perspective. I wonder if you feel the same about Professional Sports Athletes, Google Execs, or Wall Street brokers. My guess is yes. Either way, you should check your assumptions and data before you make bold statements like that in the future. Journalism is more than just pissing people off. It’s about truth. And sorry to say, but the truth isn’t on your side in this fight.

    • When what they are paid is passed onto the consumer, then it becomes a problem. The scenario is this: people like Cliffy B realize the industry will soon no longer be able to support their buying of luxury sports cars in its current state. Therefore, they want to hurt gamers by taking away used games, charging for online passes, raising prices, etc. so that they can continue to afford the Lamborghini’s that he has. This is when what he is making becomes a problem.

      If he was rich and everything was rolling in fine and they didn’t need to raise prices, kill used games, have games sell 5 million+ copies to break even, and all that other stuff there would be no problem.

    • Noah

      You raise a very good point.

      One of the highest paid execs is Bobby Kotick of Activision, making roughly 65 million. Despite this astronomical salary, his company’s games do quite well.

  • Displayed

    From reading the comments on the original article before it was taken down, I don’t think there was a huge backlash from developers, but rather a huge backlash from intelligent people…and how do you get fired from Examiner? It’s not even a job. Perhaps, they understood you didn’t really have the experience required to claim an examiner position and bring the SEO dollars their way. That site is a joke.

    • I’ve been working in the gaming industry for 13 years as both a developer and producer. I’ve been writing about it as a journalist for only 4 of that 13 years. I’ve been published in the Software Developer’s Journal and have written a book about RPG mechanics. Yeah, I don’t have the experience necessary. You’re completely right!

  • I hope he keeps writing.

    The comedy is a vast and infinite well. Laughs for days, thank you!

  • Dev

    Article is bad. You should feel bad.

    Also, if you need to try this hard to convince EVERYONE posting in your comments section, its just not working out.

  • Joshua

    The problem is that your original article did not specifically out the issue as being execs. You stated “developers”, which means ALL of us. I’m a 13yr veteran artist and I don’t make anywhere near $70,000/yr. I definitely agree that execs are paid too much but instead of making games cheap like you want, it should be given to the rest of us underpaid workers within the given studio.


    The problem then is the same as the problem now. Your article used single source old data that didn’t actually backup what you were saying without actually skewing the results.

    Your conclusion of execs making too much money is universal. It exists in every big industry. Drawing a conclusion that developers (which is a term that encompasses way too many roles to actually use in this context, but I digress) make too much money because the higher level execs are overpaid is akin to saying that a key grip makes too much money because Steven Spielberg commands an 8 figure salary. It doesn’t make sense.

    You wrote an incendiary article design to ruffle feathers (and it was way more than a vocal minority that called you out on it) and you got caught. Next time, make sure that you acquire multiple pools of data to support your statement, and make certain that you interpret the data in such a way and then present it so that you have some facts to back you up. Then, write an article with an accurate title, and not one designed to get you flamed.

  • I’m a developer (I make the games)

    Hey. Developer here. So the misunderstanding here is that your first article used the word “developer” to talk about the salaries of executives, directors, and publishing staff. In the industry, those people are NOT developers. Only people who make the games bare the title of developer. So when you use the word “developer” and talk about developers’ average salary, you are speaking to the people who make the games, not their bosses. Had the article read “The problem with the game industry is that EXECUTIVES make too much,” no one would have cared. But that is not what you said, no matter how hard you try to ret-con the article.

    Your assertion that using average salary is proof of your intent rings pretty hollow to me. Instead why not quote the multi-million dollar salaries of guys like Bobby Kotick, John Riccitello, Mark Pincus, which are all public record?

    • Game Developer Magazine reported it as developer average salary. If you believe that term is wrong, you should tell them that.

      • I’m a developer

        You’re just shifting the blame. You personally used the word “developer”. That isn’t the fault of GDM. Your message in the original article was extremely unclear and generalized.

  • 10_year_game_dev

    “Exorbitant salaries of developers and publishers may not be the only problem in the gaming industry, but it is one problem”

    It’s inflammatory comments like these that angered game developers in the first place. In your original article, you never took into account many things.

    -what was/is industry experience of the developer(s) in question
    -the overall value of those employees to the studios they work for given their experience and skillset
    -You never differentiated the difference between the duties and hours put in by the executives, producers, programmers, artists, animators, designers, QA testers, etc…
    -the cost of living per state/territory of the game companies you mention
    -whether or not the developers in question worked for small, independently owned studios or if they worked for publisher owned studios
    -in your original article, you stated that on top of these salaries, employees get stock options, full coverage of health benefits, 401k’s, etc… This is not true. (Not all studios, or even that many for that matter do this for their employees) it should also be noted that these benefits come out of the salaries of the employees, meaning that they pay for their own health insurance and they put their own money into their 401k’s. Yes, SOME employers match those contributions, but very very few of them do, as this is a cost to the company itself.

    You seem to not know that most video games aren’t actually developed by publisher owned studios. They are in fact, made by small, independent companies. Like VFX studios, these small game developers have to out-bid their competition for game projects by dramatically lowering their quotes in order to stay competitive. This also means less wages for their employees.

    I also dont remember you mentioning how many of these independent studios have shut down in the past 5 years because of this practice. Last year alone, thousands of American, Canadian, and European game developers were laid off, but your article seemed to focus solely on the fact that a friend of yours had damaged an expensive sports car that she got from her fiance who was a “prominent game developer”. This fact seemed to irk you and seems to be the motivation for your entire article.

    You also took a lot of time to mention how this was hurting, not the people who make these products, but the people who buy them. The turmoil of video game industry isnt about how consumers cant buy all the games they want because they are, 50-60 dollars a game, but that employment in this field is lower than it has been in the last decade, and that the average employment time frame of a game developer at any studio is somewhere between 6 months and 3 years. Thats INSANE and should be the thing that’s looked at. Especially since the games industry is so vastly spread out. It’s not Hollywood. You cant just uproot your family every 6 months to 3 years and move across the country, or in some cases, to another country, just to stay employed. Think about the stress and emotional turmoil that puts on a game developers family. On their wives, husbands, or children?! Wont somebody please think of the children?! (Did you read that in Helen Lovejoy’s voice? I did when I wrote it. But I digress…)

    Getting back to my original point. It seems that your article was solely an attempt to troll the people who make video games and really give them a hard time for earning a living.

    I know that you think of yourself as a journalist, but real journalists have integrity and strive to tell the people about real problems in society, not to bitch and moan about how someone who works in a field that you have no real experience in, happens to make more money than you’d like them to. And that, is the real problem with the article you originally wrote.

    • 7_year_game_dev

      ^ Beautifully written and I completely agree.

    • As I quoted in the article, Glenn Greenwald has said, “If you are pleasing the people in power with the things that you are disclosing, you may be very good at your job but your job is not journalism.”

      The fact there is such anger over this article alone proves I’m a real journalist. As HipHopGamer said, if it wasn’t at least a little bit true, people would have just brushed this off. The problem is what I’ve written is true, and people know it.

      • Champagne Comedy

        The Dunning-Kruger is strong with this one!

      • 10_year_game_dev

        What you’ve written is not true.

        You wrote; “The problem with the gaming industry is that developers make too much”

        Caps Lock time!


        Opinions and facts are two completely separate things. It is not journalism to lambaste an entire industry of workers and present it as news just because YOU PERSONALLY believe that that they earn too much money.

        Again, as you said; “The problem with the gaming industry is that developers make too much”

        You based your first article’s premise on the fact that one developer you know purchased a $70’000 car. Therefore, we, game developers, as a whole, earn too much money for your liking. The reason I say “as a whole” is because you wrote this: “The problem with the gaming industry is that developers make too much”

        Whats too much? Is making $70,000 a year in San Francisco as a game developer too much? What about Manhattan? Those are two of the most expensive cities in the country and thousands of game developers are employed in those cities. And of the ones I know who work in those cities, they dont even earn that much money. They’ll never be able to buy homes there. Own cars there. Raise kids there. But your article still implies that they make too much money.

        A lot of us have made very valid points as to why your assumption about our earnings is wrong, but you seem to have dismissed those comments and taken them as an attack against you. Yes, I know that many people on the Examiner page swore at you and called you names, but you wrote an OpEd attacking our wages because you disagreed with our earning potential based on ONE person in your personal life. What did you think was going to happen. But this is another digression.

        Getting back to my point:

        Imagine if an exec at a big publisher saw your original article and thought to himself; “You know what, Im paying my developers way too much. I dont want them buying $70,000 cars. So im going to cut their salaries in half. All of them. From my $12.50 an hour testers to my top engineers who are making $85,000 a year.”? Granted, I dont think that would ever happen considering how that would immediately destroy that guys business as all of his people would quit right then and there, but its merely a hypothetical example of what your article implies.

        Now, if your intention was to talk about a high level of inequality in the earnings of executives and the people who work for them, then you really failed in your attempt to tell that story. But as stated in these comments by other people, that trend is a world wide business practice that doesn’t fall squarely on the shoulders of the games industry.

        Again, you didnt write truth, you wrote opinion, and to be honest, thats okay. If your opinion is; “The problem with the gaming industry is that developers make too much”, then have at it. Think that all you want. But please, dont present that as a cold hard fact.

        I personally believe that the Kardashians make too much money. I see no intrinsic value in their lives and I have yet to see any meaningful contributions that they have made to society at all, but many people invest hundreds if not thousands of hours of their lives into following the exploits of the Kardashians on TV and in magazines. Therefore, they earn millions in endorsements and from the network that runs their show. Is it fair, no. But for me to write an article stating “People who work on reality TV shows earn too much” would be a blanket statement that includes the bottom of the line people who barely earn a livable wage doing the jobs they do.

        If you were fired because the examiner felt that your article hurt their relationships with the game development community, than, in my opinion that sucks. But seeing your responses to the comments here and on the examiner page, I believe that you did a poor job as a journalist. You simply werent able to do the job you had and you were fired because of that.

        Which, is my opinion, as I dont know the details, I just know your side of it from the article above.

        I hope that you can learn from this experience and become a better journalist. I really do. I think good journalists are almost non-existent. But writing about something so personal as the wages of people, specifically, game developers, which you did a poor job researching, is not good journalism. Its barely gossip. Its complaining. You didnt even attempt to differentiate between executives, engineers, producers, designers, artists, animators, and QA testers. You just used the blanket term; “developers”. This is poor writing at best. But if you work hard, and apply yourself, remove your opinion and feelings from the equation, and really try to write about important issues, I think that you’ll be able to become a good journalist.

  • Industry_Person

    I understand your qualms with industry executives, but this is a systemic problem that’s far beyond the scope of the video game industry. Executives make more money across every sector, not just video games. It’s myopic to say this problem is just within this specific industry.

    Also, game devs work 60+ hours a week for months on end, while writing extremely complex codes and working in experimental game engines. If you really want to criticize a “lazy executive”, look at a different industry. I’ve worked in video games my entire life and I haven’t meet a dev or executive that hasn’t grinded his/her way to the top.

    Furthermore, all entertainment is a luxury product. It’s pretty absurd that you call out the quote from Sean making a the comparison of a wealthy person asking poor people for more money. Video game consumers pay for products they want. It’s not like dev’s are trying to take money from some underprivileged child that doesn’t have access to clean water.

    In summation, if you want to talk about a disparity of wealth within an industry, look into an industry that actually matters within the greater social context.

  • Making too much moola

    Man, I guess all that money I made while doing QA went straight to my off-shore account, since I never actually saw any of it.

    Oh wait, I was making $12.50 doing QA and that probably puts me in the top 5% or 10% in the QA area of the games industry.

    You have literally no idea what you are talking about. I hope the ad revenue you’re getting from these articles pays so much that we never have to hear about you again.

    • If you’re making $12.50 an hour doing QA you should love these articles. Perhaps if the people at the top weren’t making such ridiculous amounts of money, you’d get a raise! Don’t denigrate people arguing for you man.

  • Anthony

    “If you are a struggling developer that makes around or below the average salary quoted in my article, the article wasn’t about you.”

    This is the biggest problem with your original article and this one as well. You are trying to back peddle on the fact that you lumped ALL game developers in your original “The problem with the gaming industry is that developers make too much”. You never once in your entire article mention you are referring to the top/over paid executives. Like any job in capitalist America, the top % make an exorbitant amount money, while the majority of people in that field make FAR less.

    Your article was NOT about just these people. The way your article is written is saying all developers make too much. You try and use skewed average salary results to bolster your claim. “Median salary means half of the people make less, half of the people make more. That is a more accurate measure of what the average developer makes.” If this is a more accurate measure of what the average developer makes then why in your original article are you using skewed averaged results? You used the average results of salaries as the basis for all developers.

    Again, you were lumping in all developers together in your article. You were not speaking of the top over paid 5%. Had you been, you would have clearly stated so in your article. But you never did. Even if it was entirely your intent to be only calling out these top 5% you did not write your article that way and that is why you received so much backlash which you rightly deserved.

    As for the comment about DLC and such you have to remember DLC is NEVER a requirement. If you dont buy any DLC it will not hurt your gaming experience. DLC is an optional extra that can extend your enjoyment out of the original product you bought. There is no game where there is some required DLC to see the end of a game. Its much like a car, you buy the base car but if you want to get some extra add on’s such as satnav, power everything, a spoiler, those are all optional extras you dont need to buy into to get the full enjoyment of the product you purchased. Much like DLC is an optional extra that is not needed.

    • The very first line of the article was about people driving $70,000 sports cars. It also later talks about six figure salaries. This is clearly not all developers.

      • Noah

        Your language is not clear. The confusion that has arisen is because the language you used in your article did not EXPLICITLY state that you were talking about a select few people. Perhaps it was clear to you, but it was not clear to many of the people who read the article.

      • DaveC

        So, you wrote a rant saying games cost too much because a very small subset of developers make a lot of money?

      • somebody

        So you never took in to consideration everybody that drives a BMW, you don’t need to look hard to find a car in the 70K range there, and you see a lot of them on the road. These guys are sure not all game developers. And also for all you know he could be living at home and spends all his money on his car, or maybe he has family with money. He could have taken up a loan for the car and is spending the next 10 years paying it off. Maybe you should lump in the doctors that make 250K a year for driving nice cars too. 70K is a nice sports car. If it was a 250K+ car I would say write something about this. I have seen people working QA driving a nice Mercedes that is at least 80K and I knew that that guy only made $13.15/hr. So you start of assuming too much. I also heard about a person turning down a job at fortune 100 company with a salary of 130K a year, since when he counted how long he had to work (12-14 hour days, 6 days a week) it came down to a salary below the average income in the US. Salary are matched for the skill set you bring to the table. If the game industry had been part of the government I am sure you would see salaries matching what a teacher or police officer make. But hey that is not the game industries fault, that is the governments. Your article builds on false assumptions from start to finish, you find info that supports your story, you paraphrase were it suits you. You are not looking at this objectively, you went in with an agenda and you make your article fit it. A journalist is suppose to be objective. But if you are in the market for a new job, you should talk with Fox News they do need some help gathering folklore.

      • Dumb###

        I earn 99,999 and drive a 69k car. Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? Please advise.

        • Mike arkin

          clearly you Glenn are the problem. its all YOU!

  • Consequences

    “The problem with the gaming industry is that developers make too much.”

    Had your article been, EXECUTIVES make too much money (which I agree, it’s the whole issues that the top %1 make too much money), I suspect you would not be in this situation. The tone and the way the article was written was poor. You got a huge backlash because you where not specific and all the people who work very hard and make 90K or less where insulted and/or pi#### off. If you wanted to target the executives, you could have.

  • Someone smarter than you

    “My article was about these overpaid so-called “executives” driving $70,000 sports cars and making hefty salaries.”

    No, your article was about the average game developer, not executives. That’s why you wrote, “the average salary for U.S. developers in 2011 was $81,192 a year” and not “the average salary for an executive working at a U.S. developer…”. If you had specified that you were only talking about executives or that executives were skewing this average salary number, you probably wouldn’t have riled up so many publishers and developers.

    • The term average developer appeared nowhere in the article. Average salary =/= average developer. That would be median salary. Please look up the difference.

      • Someone smarter than you

        I understand the difference between median and average. However, do you have any data on the median salary? You continually bring it up as if it proves something. Unless you have data to support it, there is no reason to assume the median and average are completely different numbers or are statistically significantly diverse.

        Sorry, I misspoke, your article was about game developers as a whole. When you write statements like “In other words, the average yearly earnings of a video game developer is about six figures!” you are talking about all video game developers, not just a certain subset of them. The terms “video game developer” and “executive” don’t mean the same thing. Please look up the difference.

      • Kivna

        Both the term “average” and “majority” appears in your article in reference to game developers. Which communicated to many readers that the article was about most of the people working in the game development and publishing industry.

        I also find much of your writing and responses to comments as very condescending and unprofessional.

        Those are a couple of my observations.

  • Witty Name

    Really quick, I just have a couple things I’d like to say. 1) You are NOT the “voice for average gamers”. You just aren’t. Stop. 2) The people that your article should be directed toward is the heads of studios, not actual developers. 3) You mention the cost of a sports car SEVEN times in two articles including comments. People buy expensive cars all the time, and most of the time, even they can’t afford them. Did he pay for the car in cash or unicorn tears? Probably not. They are probably making payments on a car just like everyone else. Finally here’s a hot tip; some developers and publishers actually like journalists because they are cool people. It has noting to do with journalistic integrity, but with feelings and emotions. My friend might insult me about a review I wrote, but he’s still my friend.

  • James

    Perhaps you should think about why so many people got the impression that you meant all developers.

    Perhaps you shouldn’t have used the term “developer” as a blanket label for every employee of companies that make games, including executives.

    Perhaps you also should have compared salaries of software developers in the game industry to salaries of software developers outside the game industry, instead of to people in non-technical fields.

    But really, you should just save some face and admit that it was a poorly researched article. Anyone who has spent any time around software development at all knows that decisions made by management tend to have far more to do with costs than software developer salaries do.

  • Alex

    Agreed with what many people have already said. You should not have used Developer as a blanket statement or used average “developer” salary like that. The fact of the matter is that a huge portion of people working in the game industry could work anywhere else with their skill set, on an easier job, with less overtime, and make more money.

    • The term average developer salary was referenced from Game Developer Magazine. I did not calculate it nor was I reporting it.

      • rbisso


  • James H

    Well written article man. Even though some people may not agree with your opinion, it’s great that you took the time to express it. Kudos and good luck with the career.

  • Courtney

    “But major implications about the credibility of news sites aside, what’s it tell you about the state of the gaming industry if publishers and developers demand a journalist be fired for reporting something they don’t like?”

    It wasn’t something publishers and developers didn’t like — you were fired because what you wrote was opinionated, uninformed, and completely inaccurate. Your exaggerated numbers and childish tantrum over having to pay for downloadable content despite spending $60 on a game have no place in the world of journalism.

    Grow up.

    • No they were pretty clear that it wasn’t due to the content of the article, it was due to the complaints.

      • herp derpery doo

        Man, you really must be a crap-tastic writer. Have you never heard of the word “causality”? Gee I wonder if your article had been better written, less generalized, and insulting, you might have gotten less complaints.

        Herp Derpery Doo strikes again!

        • Champagne Comedy Man


          • Oh no he didn’t


  • Developer

    I am a software developer, and a gamer, but do NOT work in the game industry. I’ve looked into it many times and found I would have to take a significant pay cut, and likely work significantly more overtime than I do now (and I actually get paid hourly for overtime now, which would be unlikely as a game dev). So it would be more hours, less pay, and less time for me to pursue my own gaming hobby? Also, last time I checked game companies are not trying to entice police officers to staff their game developer positions so I’m not sure why their salaries are relevant. I started my software engineering career (non-gaming) with a starting rate of 60K per year. Within 5 years, I now pull in just over 100K. I doubt I would have seen that type of growth in the game industry. And you think they should pay their developers even less? Be even less competitive compared to software jobs outside of the gaming industry? Oh, and I drive a 2001 Honda Civic when I’m not using public transportation. Just under half of my take home goes to my mortgage, because the cost of living is high in the cities where there are software jobs. Given that software is my specialty, and not police work, I might have to stick to tech oriented cities.

  • crazysammy

    That was a very interesting read. Thanks for taking the hits that a lot of “Game Journalists” wouldn’t. I think its a reasonable statement he made.

    • No problem. I report for gamers, not for the people in power.

      • developeroo

        And you think game developers aren’t gamers either? Man, I must love creating content for GAMERS because I enjoy getting criticized by you lot all the time.

  • azazel665

    It is just strange how they say the argument is wrong but then development budgets and breakdowns are all kept secret. Why can’t people know?

    • Seriously?

      Almost all budgets are kept secret, especially their breakdowns. Also, they’re not keeping them secret so much as out of the public; they are under no legal requirement to tell you what their budgets are. While you can look at IMDB to see the production costs of a movie, they never include a breakdown and even the number they do show doesn’t factor in marketing and some other stuff. What is Coca-Cola’s budget breakdown for a single can of Coke? What was Honda’s budget for the Civic? Look at the very computer you are using and tell me what the budget breakdown for it is. Can’t? And then you wonder why game developers and publishers don’t allow the public to view their budgets and breakdowns.

    • Secret Dev-Man

      The same reason why development budgets and breakdowns for building airplanes, windows software, computers, and any “high-value” technology is kept a secret.

      You’re not going to go online any-time soon and see how much Amazon spends on their algorithms, or their budget for marketing, etc…

      Its really simple, game development is a business, just like anything else, and there’s a lot of things budgets, breakdowns, etc… can tell competitors. If you owned a business for selling cupcakes, and you had a secret ingredients, would you release any kind of information that might help people figure out what your secrets are?

      That’s the same as a budget. Budgets allow developers to figure out how to do things faster, better, areas to improve, etc… They’re essentially a list of every studios secrets. Someone outside of the studio gets a hold of it, they could definitely take it apart and figure out EXACTLY how a game was made, time spent, etc…

      Here’s a major difference between us and other industries. We make products for consumers, so ultimately, gamers, such as yourself, have a level of cooperation and influence unprecedented in other industries, like engineering, science, bio-medical fields, etc… You should actually be thankful game developers are so open already, very few other industries are as open to the public as a lot of studios are…


    If he were to start his own gaming news site with like minded staff I’m sure they would do well. Its one of the reasons I like game informer so much. They can be pretty stoked on a game in development sometimes but if its garbage on release they’re not afraid to say it. I wish every news site had such standards.

  • mmj

    The blaming of piracy and used games has always been a ruse for the big AAA publishers to monopolise the industry, if either of those things hurt the industry it wouldn’t have grown as big as it is today.

    I am glad Sony is offering independent developers a platform to reach out to gamers because if it was up to the giant publishers they wouldn’t be allowed to, not without surrending most of their profits at that is.

  • Someone who knows

    One issue with your reasoning is that generally people who earn a LOT of money don’t have fixed salaries anywhere near what they make. You can say Cliff is worth $15m, but that’s not what people make. That was income as someone who owned a very successful company at the point of a major buyout event.

    There aren’t generally developers sitting at desks and making games that demand vast salaries causing projects to get cancelled, they earn bonuses or royalties based on performance. Nobody cancelled Dead Space 4 because they couldn’t afford $4 million for a famous designer… it doesn’t work that way.

  • Veteran Developer

    The problem with your article, and this follow up, is you are basing your argument that “developers” make too much money on the income of less than 0.1% of people in the industry enjoy. Games are no different than any other industry – there are a handful of people at the “top” who take the lion’s share of the money, while the other 99.9% of people that work in the industry make modest livings.

    I have been in the industry 15 years, shipped several AAA titles, and while me and my family of 4 (for whom I am the sole provider) live comfortably, we are as middle class as you come. Is making a middle-class living after 15 years in the business “making too much money”?

    I personally know several programmer friends who, when I asked if they ever thought about working in games, replied: “Why would I work double the hours for half the pay?”

    How about for the next article you write about game development, you research the number of hours the average developer works to ship a project. Personally, I am now in month 6 of overtime, working 12-14 hour days, including weekends. But, according to you, I guess I am lucky to be working 80 hour weeks to make my “overpaid” middle class salary.

    • The article wasn’t about the average developer. The term average developer appears nowhere in it.

      • Veteran Developer

        Nor did you specify the specific people you *were* talking about, i.e. the less than 1% of “developers” in the industry. What do you expect people to assume you are talking about with lines such as:

        “The tweet has since been deleted but statements like this make one start to wonder if game developers and consequently publishers really should be making enough money to afford $70,000 sports cars to begin with.”

        “When you juxtapose the idea of publishers and developers complaining about the cost of making a game with the fact that they are driving around in $70,000 sports cars, it gets to be pretty absurd.”

        “In addition to a high salary, the majority of game developers also receive a myriad of fringe benefits including stock options, annual bonuses, project bonuses, royalties for games they have worked on, medical benefits, dental coverage, and even pension plans.” (This is categorically false, btw).

        “Why are developers making so much money?”

        In fact, after re-reading your original article, not once do you mention that you are only referring to the >1% of developers. Meanwhile you use the general term “developers” in several statements as I outlined above. That is why you got, and continue to get, the strong negative reaction from so many of my fellow game developers.

        Now if you want to write an article about the executive management at major publishers, and how they are taking the lion’s share of the money off the blood, sweat and tears of the average game developer, I think you will find much more agreement from the very same crowd that you have angered with your original article.

        • Amber

          THIS is EXACTLY what caused us developers to get upset. Hinkley, I think that you didn’t understand how the game industry uses the term “developer” and who falls under that umbrella. If you say “developers make too much” that includes C-level managers, directors, engineers, artists, qa, localization, producers, etc. All of us are considered “developers”.

          If the article had been titled differently, such as “Why are C-level developers making so much money?” then at least it would have been an accurate title to what you were trying to say.

          Lastly, you should try to do better at not insulting those who post here. Even if people post and insult you first, stay calm and learn to listen to feedback especially if you don’t agree with it. Any future employer of yours will read your replies here and see how rude you are to being to the public. Not only have you lost your current job but you’re risking you’re future of it as well.

  • de la Planet

    Another thing to consider:

    I’ve been working in game development for almost 9 years. My first job was in Boston, my second one was in the San Francisco Area. San Francisco and Boston have some of the highest costs of living in the united states. A 2-bedroom apartment in SF is around $4000/month right now…so, multiply that by 12 months/year and you get $48,000/year in rent.

    Let’s say you are making $80k (which is a low salary for a professional tech employee in the SF Bay Area). You probably take home about $60K of that, in cash after taxes, etc. That means you are spending 80% of your salary on rent. Now, you have to get to work (car), you have to pay $6 to go over the bridge every day, you probably have to pay for parking, you need food, you need some kind of internet connection at home, maybe a cell phone, etc…when you add it up, $80k/year for a job that you have to work 50-80 hours a week at in a one of the most expensive cities in the world is not a lot of money.

    Another thing here – If Activision makes hundreds of millions of dollars on Call of Duty, doesn’t it seem cool that the people who actually created the game get to share in some of that wealth in the form of profit-sharing bonuses or higher salaries?

    I do think that the game industry is “trapped” in a non-creative rut by sequels and marketing people at this point in history, though, and is slowly devolving into the same lowest-common-denominator feedback loop that Hollywood has long succumbed to. I wish publishers would be willing to take more creative risk and be just a little bit less greedy in terms of demanding that 12m units of every one of them games get sold.

  • Arithon

    Pure comedy. The original article made a comparison between the average salary of a game developer, and the average salary of police officers. The rebuttal pointed out that this was an absurd comparison to make since the game dev salary *included* execs and the police officer statistic didn’t, and now you claim that including the exec salary was the whole point? Why on earth did you even mention the police officer salary then? This is an absurd amount of backpedaling.

    Also, if one of the founders of one of the most successful game studios on the planet isn’t worth more than $15 million, that means that game dev execs most likely are paid *far far less* than any other industry. Absurdities on absurdities.

  • Burdie

    “Despite the fact the article received a lot of support from everyday gamers (at the time of this writing it has 9,000 Facebook likes), a very vocal minority consisting mainly of developers and publishers were enraged and demanded I be fired for even daring to write such a topic.”

    I don’t understand why there’s a “despite” in there. You would think that, in and of itself, would be cause to step back and say, “Hmmm, maybe I missed the mark on that one?”

  • Lord Scottish


  • Display Name

    oh, and one more thing.

    the game studio you’re calling out/using as your punching bag in your original “article” is Riot Games… but then in this, your follow-up, you praise League of Legends as being a good game model, and it being free to play. do you not know that Riot make League of Legends? the guy who got the pricy car for his girlfriend, the non-essential employee who is costing “the gamerz” so much hard-earned money works for a company that makes a free to play game.
    why is it that every single one of your “examples” doesn’t fit the thesis?
    that’s like me saying “apples are dumb because monkeys”. and then i follow up with this example: “cats, LOL!”

  • Ogilvy

    To quote Alexandre Dumas “I prefer rogues to imbeciles, because rogues sometimes rest”. I find it easier to believe that the original article was (admittedly successful) trolling than it was sincere, because otherwise we’re talking Moon Hoax-levels of militant stupidity and facts-ignorance here.

  • yo

    lets make games in china
    i heard people work almost for free over there

  • Learn from this…

    Your original article was poorly received, chastised for not only an over-generalization of a very complex subject, but also because it failed to remain consistent in tone and point (as this op-ed makes more apparent), as well as not providing multiple sources for your ultimate conclusion. You lead in with a dev’s girlfriend tweeting about a sports car. The majority of your readers replied, “So?” Yet, despite all of the negative (and factually considerable) feedback you received, you still push forward with all your might. You’ve done a grand job of convincing yourself that you’re not wrong and that you have this insanely broad perspective on the entire industry.

    You’ve even stepped forward and crowned yourself a “voice for the average gamer.” Such is the self-appointed mark of every BS egotistical journalist that exists today. I’m the “average gamer,” you do not speak for me. Do not pretend otherwise.

    I hope you learn from this experience. You’re not infallible. You’re not always right, and you’re certainly not exempt from criticism due to open mistakes. And this is not some case of a corrupt industry out to get you because you threatened to expose some ruse.

    You said some very ignorant things, and poorly said what might have otherwise been somewhat valid points, and people voiced their agitation with you.

    Deal with it and move on with your life, man. Grow.