Video Game Programmer Salaries

Video Game Programmer Salaries in 2020

Finding good resources for Video Game Programmer salaries can often be difficult. Plenty of factors go into determining your final wage slip including where you work, what role you fit into within the company and what level of seniority you are aiming for. For this reason, we don’t generally like to put a number to it, as they can be wildly off the mark and possibly raise expectations too high. As such, when we can get some solid numbers like this it’s interesting to take a look at them.

The information that we have today is from a company called Skillsearch, a UK based company that specialized in recruitment within the games and niche technology industries. They ran a survey in 2019 based on the salary and satisfaction of those working within the game industry. They then broke these results down into different categories. One of those categories was Video Game Programmer Salaries, which we take a look at here. As this is a UK based survey the original figures are in GPB and all conversions are to USD and correct as of Jan 2020. If you would like to see how many the average game artist makes then check out this article.

The average salary for a Video Game Programmer is £39,000 ($51,500). This is a pretty good base point if you want a rough number, but there’s a huge amount of variables that go behind that number. We’re going to break down a few of the bigger differences that can affect if your salary should be lower or higher than that figure.

Video Game Programmer Salaries Around The World

Possibly the biggest varying factor in what wage to expect when getting a job is where in the world you are based. As with all jobs, the country that you are working in will affect your wages massively. This is probably the single biggest variable in the numbers on that list, hence why we’re talking about this first. Unfortunately, the survey results only break down certain areas, based on the response that they get, and some areas are quite broad and not especially useful. The regions are broken down into the UK, the USA, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

RegionAverage Salary (£)Average Salary ($)

As you can see, the difference based on which country you work in can vary massively with the average survey result in Asia being less than half of that in the USA. There are other things to bear in mind though, such as locations within each region. An employee in Japan, for example, might be paid more than the average for Asia. On the other hand, a Video Game Programmer Salary might be lower for a company based in a less populated US state outside of a city than one based in the middle of New York, due to the cost of living in each area.

Programmer Salary Based On Seniority

As you would expect, another huge factor in how much you get paid as a Video Game Programmer is what position you hold within the company. A Lead Programmer who runs a whole team of programmers is going to be paid more than an entry-level Junior Programmer, obviously, but it’s interesting to take a look at the differences anyway, whether it’s to see if you are being paid what you would expect to be in your current position or if you want to see what the future may hold.

RankAverage Salary (£)Average Salary ($)
Director (>5)£69,684$92,500
Director (<5)£34,181$45,000

Generally speaking, the results are what you would expect. The only outlier in these results is the fact that Senior Programmers on average have a higher salary than Lead Programmers, whereas these are usually the other way around, as with the artist results. Managerial positions have a significant lead on Lead roles when looking at the Programmer results where the artists found that they were very similar.

Wario in a pile of gold - Video Game Salaries Nintendo
Wario – Nintendo

Video Game Programmer Salaries Based On Engine Used

One of the more interesting categories that had an effect on wages was which game engine the Programmer was working in. At first, this might not seem like an area where wages vary much but there is a surprising amount of difference on average wages. It’s important to state that just because a Programmer is working with one engine over another doesn’t mean they will definitely earn more or less than another engine, but it is interesting to note the differences in averages as they’re quite significant.

Game EngineAverage Salary (£)Average Salary ($)
In House£44, 591$59,000
Unreal Engine£38,436$50,500

The results here are very similar to what is seen when looking at the artist’s salaries. This would suggest that the overall difference is based more on the projects that each engine is used for as opposed to the engine itself. For example, in-house engines are generally favored by bigger companies who can afford to pay a team to build a game engine from scratch. This will predominantly teams creating triple-A games that require a very specific engine for their circumstances and allows them to achieve the very best graphics possible.

The difference between Unreal and Unity can probably be explained through the differences in the engines and their unique advantages. Unity is generally considered easier to pick up and has good support for mobile development, as such it’s often smaller teams that work with Unity. Unreal is a more powerful engine that has better rendering techniques, as such it’s used more often in bigger titles, and often for a fair few tiple-A games. This is most likely the cause of the pay disparities.

It’s important to remember that all the figures listed here are averages and in no way mean you will get this amount in a job. Some people will get more, others less. But it’s always good to keep these figures in mind when applying for a job, a raise or simply scoping out a career path.