Game Developer vs. Software Developer Salary

Pursuing a career in game development sounds exciting, but does it pay as well as software development? 


Software developers typically make more than game developers. Software developers’ base salary ranges from $50k – $104k, with a median salary of $71,508 per year. Game developers’ base salary ranges from $36k – $94k, with a median salary of $64,530 per year.


This article will go over the differences between software and game developers, including the variations in compensation. We will also go over why game developers make less than software developers, and whether or not it is worth it for you to pursue a career in game development. 

What Is the Difference Between a Game Developer and a Software Developer?

 This section will go over the differences between software developers and game developers.   

Software Developers 

Software developers create computer applications. 


Typically, they begin by meeting with customers and discussing their software needs. The software developer will then create an application that fulfills these needs and meets the customer’s security and performance expectations. Once they’ve created the software, they will write the code and tests out their software to make sure it is up to par. 


Since software developers work closely with other professionals, they must work well with others. They also interact frequently with customers and computer vendors, so they need to be able to explain technical concepts in a non-technical way. 


Software developers are well-versed in various computer languages, including C++, Python, Java, PHP and Javascript. They also are familiar with numerous operating systems, such as Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. 


To become a software developer, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, computer science, information technology, or another related field. You also need relevant job experience. 

Game Developers

Game developers work to create new games or to help develop existing games. They design the game’s layout, characters, and storyline. 


Game developers frequently update their games to stay up-to-date with the latest technology. 


They are also required to fix flaws and bugs. For some game developers, debugging software is their primary job function. 


Game developers are familiar with game development software, including software dealing with 3-D systems. Experience with programming languages such as C++,  C# and Java may also be required. 


To become a game developer, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer programming or another relevant field. Typically employers require game developers to have a portfolio demonstrating their work.

Game Developer vs. Software Developer: Which Occupation Makes More? 

Software Developers, on average, make more money than game developers


According to Payscale, software developers’ base salary ranges from $50k – $104k with a median salary of  $71,508 per year. 


This estimate does not include bonuses, profit sharing, or commissions. When those estimates are added in, Payscale estimates that software developers make, in total, anywhere from $49k – $109k per year. 


Game developers base salary ranges from $36k – $94k with a median salary of $64,530 per year. 


Software and game developers base salaries go up depending on how many years of experience the developer has. 

Why Do Game Developers Make Less? 

Game developers, on average, make less than software developers. Listed below are the reasons why it is harder to earn the big bucks in game development.

A Lot of People Want to Become Game Developers 

A lot of people in the software industry want to work in games because I mean, who doesn’t want to design video games for a living? However, this creates competition and allows game development companies to pay game developers less since there will always be someone else who is willing to work in that position for less.

Game Development Is Riskier 

Making a game that people like and want to play is very difficult. According to NBC News, only 10% of games released each year actually make a substantial amount of money. Since the game business is riskier, game developers can either make it big or make nothing. It all depends on the success of your game.

Game Developers Aren’t As Versatile 

Whereas software developers can work on a wide variety of projects, game developers are limited to games. So software developers can branch out and work on numerous applications for different customers and businesses. These applications are typically profitable and provide a lot of value for the customer, resulting in a stable paycheck. 


However, for game developers, earning a stable paycheck is not that simple. They can spend hundreds of hours tirelessly making a game that ends up not being successful, meaning they make little to no money. 

Game Developers Usually Live in More Expensive Locations 

Large game development companies are typically located in cities where talent is easy to come by. Some of the top U.S. cities for game development companies include San Francisco, Austin, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago.


Outside of the U.S., the options aren’t any cheaper. The major cities for game development around the world include London, Tokyo, Paris, Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto. 


Game developers typically have to move to these game development hubs to find job opportunities. Since it is generally more expensive to live in big cities, a lot of game developers’ salary has to be spent on living expenses.


While some software development companies are located in big cities, it is easier to find jobs in other locations as well. Some of the less expensive hubs for software developers include Bremerton, Washington, Detroit, Michigan, St.Louis, Missouri, Atlanta, Georgia, and Lowell, Massachusetts. 

Is it Worth It to Become a Game Developer?

According to an article by NBC News, game development can be worth it if you know what you are getting into. 


Game development is more exciting than software development and allows for more creativity.


However, it is also more difficult. Game developers frequently have to work long hours to meet their deadlines. Typically, they are not compensated for working overtime because full-time game developers in most states are considered to be “exempt.” So you’ll likely have to work long hours with no additional pay. 


Also, as was previously mentioned, game development isn’t as stable as software development. While a lot of young people are willing to take the risk, older developers often “age out” of game development when they start having families because they want a job with regular hours that provides a steady income.  


So, becoming a game developer is definitely taxing, risky, and requires a lot of dedication.  


However, it can also be rewarding when your game finally hits the shelves. If you are willing to put in hard work and long hours, then this may be the job for you. However, if you are looking for an easier job with a more stable income, software development may be the better choice. 

Summing Up

Software developers typically make more than game developers. 


While game developers can make a lot of money, game development is more popular and riskier than software development, which leads to lower wages. Also, game developers are limited to making games and typically have to live in large cities to find job opportunities. 


While game development is more difficult than software development, it also allows for more creativity and can be incredibly rewarding when your game finally makes it big. So, if you are looking for excitement, then game development may be the path for you. However, if you want a stable income and consistent hours, software engineering may be the better path. 

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