Episode 109: Blow It Out Your Peep Shoes

In: Podcasts by Edie Sellers

4 May 2010

microphoneAnother great episode is here, folks, brought to you fresh and steaming hot by your hosts, Cooper Hawkes, Holy Goalie and Edie Sellers.

This week we, again, have lots to talk about. The industry is gearing up for E3 and we are right there with it. We may very well be the only entity in gaming that’s not suing each other!

In this show we talk about:


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10 Responses to Episode 109: Blow It Out Your Peep Shoes



May 5th, 2010 at 5:45 am

Game Developer magazine, the sister publication to the popular website Gamasutra.com, recently released the results of its 2006 Salary Survey, which polled 5,600 readers of Game Developer magazine and Gamasutra.com and attendees of the Game Developers Conference.

The average American game industry salary was $73,316, slightly down from the previous year. Specifically, the survey showed that game designers’ average salary was $61,538. The International Game Developers Association also has salary info posted on its website, which reports that a designer with just one or two years’ experience can expect a salary of $50,000 at the low end. The average is $57,500, according to IGDA. A lead designer/creative director with at least six years experience can expect to make $80,000, while the highest salary IGDA reported was $200,000.

The average salary in 2006 over all American game programmers was $80,886, “basically flat on the year before, thanks to an influx of entry level coders to the game business, but with significant increases for veteran programmers,” according to Gamasutra.com. According to IGDA’s figures, entry-level programmers earn $55,000, while those with six or more years experience or lead programmers could earn $85,000. The highest salary cited was $300,000 for programmers.



May 5th, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Yes, but first, that’s 2006 numbers.

Second, that’s not as much as it sounds. From a three-year olds story from MSNBC:

This tends to translate into some pretty long hours — called “crunch” in the game biz. The industry is rife with horror stories that sound like urban legends: Two years worth of 70-hour weeks, no weekends. Postponed weddings until ship dates. Guys phoning the office from the delivery room.

“Full-time game developers in most states are classified as exempt, meaning they’re not eligible for overtime,” says Jill Duffy, managing editor of Game Developer Magazine and the principal researcher on the salary survey. “Developers do work immense amounts of overtime.”

With a few notable exceptions, most game development hubs are in expensive areas like the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Seattle. So when you factor in cost of living, says Marc Mencher, president of gamerecruiter.com, that average salary just isn’t that high.

“That might be the average across America,” he says. “But who’s going to be able to live on $73,000 in San Francisco?”


Christine Miller, a Seattle-based level designer with seven years of experience, agrees. “$73,000 sounds great until you realize you’ve just spent 6 months or more working 80 hour weeks, your friends forgot who you are and you haven’t seen your new niece or nephew yet,” she says.

One of the most telling metrics of the survey, says Duffy, are the home-ownership numbers. While California game-makers pull in the most money — a median of $79,000 per year — only 36 percent of those surveyed own a home.



May 6th, 2010 at 5:37 am

Ah, so when y’all said “$25,000″ you were speaking in terms of adjusted numbers for cost of living in the Bay area–I didn’t catch that.



May 6th, 2010 at 10:18 am

Actually, I was thinking of what I read about the Japanese game programmers/designers. Mixing metaphors, but really makes no difference. Low wages are low wages, even though Japanese programmers get it much worse than their American counterparts. From a Kotaku story.

• “¥130,000 (US$1,461) For 256 hours of work a month.” (For reference, a ‘normal’ 40-hour work week equals 160 hours per month.)
• “Let me tell you, the minimum salaries that game companies claim to pay employees are total BS. Ads promising ¥250,000+ ($2,810) a month? In reality they pay ¥130,000 ($1,460) a month. ¥200,000+ ($2,250) a month? In reality they pay ¥110,000 ($1,240) a month. Oh, and then you get taxes withheld. So take-home’s like ¥70,000-80,000 ($790~$900) a month. Ah ha ha ha!”
• “¥160,000 and I am ready to die. I can’t even afford the ‘recruit suit’ I’ll need for interviewing for another job.”
• “Salary varies from individual to individual so it’s hard to say, but speaking about the industry as a whole you can definitely say ‘low enough to make people regret dedicating themselves to games.’ A precious few blessed with talent can earn a living wage. And an even more precious few who get lucky can make more than a living wage.”

Nevertheless, even if they made seven figures, it doesn’t give permission for Activision to steal money from its employees.



May 7th, 2010 at 4:20 am

Say, you mentioned that Maynard was going to review the NXE / XBLA Game Room but it didn’t seem to make the cut. Any chance it’ll be in the next Game Hounds? If not, could you provide a summery?

I’m enjoying it, and realise I may be in the minority on that account. Most of my friends haven’t even downloaded it and of the few that have, even fewer have decorated, much less stocked it with any games.

Yes, there are gamer points when you decorate or play in another Game Room the first time as well as the exchange of tokens back and forth when you visit or are visited by someone else.

On that front, I asked Edie to visit my arcade to see what sort of interaction between players there would be. For instance, when a friend is online, I am more likely to see their avatar in my arcade than not. During Edie’s visit, her avatar was not present in my arcade and the only way I knew she was or had been there besides sending messages back and forth was that she got a high score on one of my machines that she didn’t have in her Game Room and a notice in the News section of the interface telling me in one entry that she had visited and another telling me that she had made a high score, thus giving her a red banner over one of my games.

I’ve made posts on the XBL Forums recommending not only some future games but perhaps some additional items such as a “claw” machine that rewards a succesful player with XBL avatar items.

The question has also arisen about using emulators instead of Game Room. I for one, haven’t had any exsperience using them and don’t mind paying for the license to play them. Come to think of it, I’m probably in a way saving money this way as compared to feeding, I don’t know how many quarters into each machine to get any good at them.

When I was a kid, allowence was a rare thing so most of my time in arcades usualy consisted of watching other people play and on rare occasions playing a few minutes myself. So for me, the Game Room is sort of chance to do what I didn’t have the opportunity to when I was younger and not only play some of my favorites to my heart’s content but also explore and discover new games that I’d never seen and heard of before.

Another way to look at it, to me, is that it’s an arcade Sim, in the vein of an airport sim, or a rail road sim but without the tedious resource management. I’m slowly playing my way up the ladder unlocking items to make my Game Room a better experience for me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put on my Pac-Man Fever albumn and go try to break Maj. Malfuncions high score on Scramble. Darn red banner. lol.


Gemini Ass

May 7th, 2010 at 6:31 am

While I agree that Activision not paying bonuses outline in the contract is bad, I do have to side with Holy Goalie on this a bit.

Personally, I hardly think it’s being held hostage if you’re waiting for a million dollar pay day. Do you think their work conditions have deteriorated to such a state that they have to poop in a bucket and walk around homeless people laying in the aisles? No, they’re in a nice office getting paid damn good money. I find it hard to sympathize with these guys that, even adjusting for cost of living and long hours, get to do what they love and getting paid handsomely for it. We should be so lucky.

I’m sure there are guys from Ensemble, or any other shuttered studio, that would love to be held hostage right now.

Also, I would like to point this out. These guys are suing for additional money to the tune of what, 60 million? If these guys want to do something good, they need to set up a foundation for the industry, kind of like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. http://cbldf.org/

Yea, it’s great you’re getting your payday, but how about do something productive with it? I mean, you know West and Zampella are just going to get pissed at EA in a few years and throw a hissy fit.



May 9th, 2010 at 7:32 am

Great show as always and great discussion about Home Run Challenge. I picked this up after someone on my friends list send me an message with his score on it and I’ve been addicted to it ever since. In fact yesterday he send me a message saying he got a score of 927033! I guess he’s ranked #1 in the world now. Go figure.


Holy Goalie

May 9th, 2010 at 7:56 am

Louis, there will be more talk of Homerun Challenge on next week’s show for sure.



May 11th, 2010 at 7:08 am

Actually the Activision-Blizzard thing came from a merger of Activision and Vivendi Games. I believe Vivendi owns majority share of the new company but Activision is the “face”. The Wikipedia entry is well written and sourced,


Also, gaming industry, can we please stop taking sides to the extreme on this Activision-Infinity Ward thing until the lawsuit is over? It’s getting to a point where if the opposite becomes legal fact people will still refuse to believe their company of choice could be wrong.

Great show though! :)



May 11th, 2010 at 7:36 am

Oh and I forgot to mention, Call of Duty: World of War sold 11 million units as of June 15, 2009. Call of Duty 4 sold over 13 million copies as of May 2009.



I’d say World at War outsold Call of Duty 4 especially when you consider how it sold 11 million units within six or seven months after release. However, Call of Duty really seems to gain fans after each release, two sold more than 1, 3 sold more than 2, 4 sold more than 3, etc.

People said World at War would fail because it was Treyarch and World War 2, the game got some great reviews and sold phenomenally. I don’t think the masses care much about developer, as long as the game does what they want they’re happy.

I wasn’t a huge fan of MW 2 asides from the mulitplayer, the singleplayer felt really incomplete and the ending was pretty stupid too. The US missions ended on a lame cliff hanger and the plot twist only made plot holes, I mean, where the hell did these new soldiers come from?!?!

About GameHounds

Bringing you the latest in news, GameHounds delivers an adult perspective on the video game business and culture.

This podcast is explicit and is intended for adults ages 18 and older.


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