God of War- Game Artists at their best

Game Artist Salaries in 2020

Here at Game Dev Insider we usually avoid putting hard numbers on salaries due to the large number variables that go into determining your final wage. Anything from total industry experience and released titles with your name on it to the size of the company or it’s target audience can have a massive impact on the final salary. For this reason, we normally keep it pretty vague, only really explaining it in comparative terms to other roles. Occasionally, however, we get some hard numbers available to us that we are more than happy to share. Here we’re going to cover the average Game Artist salaries.

This particular set of information comes from Skillsearch, a UK based company that specializes in recruitment industries such as Games and tech industries. This is their fifth year producing a Salary and Satisfaction survey wherein the ask a large range of people to list their pay and job satisfaction and combine it to give an overall view of the industry as a whole. Here we will be looking at the results for artist’s salaries so we can get a better idea of what to expect. This survey was held in 2019 and gives a good indication of where salaries will be starting in 2020. Skillsearch also broke down Programmer salaries, that you can check out here.

Salaries Around The World

One of the biggest defining factors for salary is, as you might expect, which country you reside in. The strength of the countries economy, the market they are selling to and the purchasing power of the local currency can have a major effect on pay. The survey breaks it down into 5 areas based on the areas where they got the most correspondents and the focus of the survey was based. These areas are the USA, UK, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Below is a table showing the average salaries in each area. All original salaries are in GPB, conversions are accurate as of Jan 2020.

AreaAverage Salary (£)Average Salary ($)
USA £78,553 $102,000
Canada £44,885 $58,000

As you can see, the place of employment affects the overall results significantly with employees in Asia getting paid the equivalent of roughly a third of employees in the USA. Obviously salaries in each area will vary as well, such as an employee working in London would expect to be paid more than an employee in the North of England due to the increase in living costs. It is also difficult to judge salaries within the larger areas listed such as Europe and Asia as someone working in Japan may earn a very different amount to someone working in Vietnam, for example.

God of War, a game showcasing some very skilled game artist's work.
God of War – Santa Monica Studio

Game Artist Salaries Based On Seniority

Skillsearch also broke down the average salary of game artists based on their rank within the company, from Junior through to Directors and Managers. As you can imagine the higher position you hold with the company, generally speaking, those with more skill or responsibility, the better you are paid. But the path is not necessarily as linear as you might imagine. As with the table above, all original results are in GBP, conversions are roughly accurate as of Jan 2020.

SeniorityAverage Salary (£)Average Salary ($)
Director (>5)£50,619$66,000
Director (<5)£25,498$33,000

As you would imagine, entry-level positions are generally paid less than those with more experience and responsibility. But a few interesting results pop up. Firstly that Leads and Managers make very similar money even though a manager is generally considered above a Lead in most hierarchies. This is probably due to the fact that the roles diverge more than follow a linear path of promotion, with the Leads handling the running of projects and teams and the manager being in charge of the department as a whole, although the scope of jobs is different they offer a very similar skill base at different levels of granularity.

Another piece of information that was interesting is that, as you would expect, in console and PC game development Juniors earned the least, with seniors in the middle and leads earning the most. But in mobile games, the seniors made the most money, even more than the leads. In virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality game production the difference is even more stark, with leads earning roughly in line with juniors. One explanation for this might be that mobile and VR/AR/MR games are generally small than the average PC and console game so the importance of a lead on those projects may be diminished due to the generally smaller team sizes.

Game Artist Salaries Based On Game Engine Used

One interesting way the survey breaks down game aritst salaries is based on the game engine that the artist is working in. Whilst the results of this are in no way a guarantee of earning more based on the engine you are using it does give some interesting results that are worth looking at. As with the above breakdowns, the original amounts were given in GBP, a rough conversion to USD is given as of conversion rates in Jan 2020.

Game Engine UsedAverage Salary (£)Average Salary ($)
In House£47,809$62,000
Unreal Engine£40,542$53,000

As you can see, there is a fairly significant difference in the average salaries depending on the game engine you are creating the assets for with in house game engines, those created inside the company specifically for their needs, earning the most. This is then followed by Unreal Engine and then Unity. One explanation for why people working on in house game engines may earn more is that generally speaking, companies that build their own engines from scratch are normally bigger companies as the cost of developing one is quite high and most small companies will rely on a prebuilt one. As such, they are companies that tend to have more money and as such can afford to pay employees better.

The difference between Unreal and Unity developers is most likely down to the scope of the project that each is being used for. Whilst either engine is capable of producing a multitude of games of different sizes, the generally lower skill cap associated with Unity makes it appeal to smaller companies and indie developers with less experience, whereas Unreal’s better lighting and rendering tech meaning it’s more likely to be used for AAA titles as opposed to Unity.