How Much Does a Video Game Designer Make?

Dejan Cvetnarevic
Dejan Cvetnarevic

Updated · Aug 19, 2022

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For close to three billion gamers worldwide to enjoy their hobby, someone has to create video games from scratch.

The professionals in charge of this task are called video game designers. Their job includes designing game functions, creating systems, coming up with roles, developing storylines, and more.

Many people consider this to be their dream career. After all, it’s a job that allows you to express your creativity, generate tangible results, and even work independently if you want to.

However, what they usually end up wondering about is its financial aspect.

So, how much does a video designer make?

There are numerous determining factors – from educational background to the specific niche they work in, it all impacts the overall salary. Not to mention that not all studios look at the game designer job description the same way.

In this post, I’ll break it all down and help you figure out what salary ranges you may expect.

How Much Does a Video Designer Make?

As of July 2022, a video game designer in the US makes $88,107 a year on average.

The job is generally considered to be well-paid. It averages a 34.48% higher salary than the national average, which, as of 2022, stands at $67,521 per year.

If this is your dream job, you might also wonder about the entry-level income. Like in all other fields, those who have just started make less than their seasoned colleagues.

The entry-level video gaming designer salary stands at roughly $49,000 per year. At the junior level, it often raises to about $65,000 per year.

The top 10% in the industry make as much as $156,000 per year. However, to reach a salary that high, you usually have to spend years at the position and possess extraordinary knowledge in the field.

Another important thing to remember is that people pursuing this career may encounter different wages depending on their education. It’s always best to have a degree in design from a recognized university or college.

Moreover, the demand for video game designers is quite cyclical.

In years when the position is in demand, the video game creator salary is naturally higher than when demand is lower. So, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on trends when negotiating salary at the new job. The same goes when asking for a raise or promotion.

What Do Video Game Designers Do?

Video game designers are responsible for creative and technical contributions to game development. Duties, job options, and game designer salary often vary by education, experience, and location.

Professionals in the field work for game studios and software publishers. They also collaborate with other artists and programmers to include designs in the final product.

Game designer duties typically involve:

  • Coming up with new and appealing game concepts
  • Developing gameplay ideas
  • Thinking of new themes and genres
  • Developing plots and storylines
  • Building new characters
  • Building new maps and scenarios
  • Coming up with different difficulty levels
  • Designing user interfaces and menus
  • Developing controls
  • Improving existing games

However, the job description usually changes on a project per project basis.

Say a studio is building a highly complex game. In this case, it’ll probably form larger teams and separate traditional roles into specializations like a level designer, system designer, etc. In such environments, the video game designer payment largely depends on the task at hand.

It’s important to understand the difference between game designers and developers. The latter take the concepts that the former come up with and write the code that turns them into actual games.

These two career paths overlap at various points, but their objectives and day-to-day operations aren’t the same.

Estimated Payment for Video Game Designers per Hour

Above, I mentioned that an average US video game designer earns an annual salary of $88,107. This translates to $42.36 per hour.

However, if you plan to pursue a career in the field, looking at more specific data is a good idea.

One of the key aspects to consider is your location.

Depending on which part of the US you live in, you may be looking at different numbers.

So, how much do game designers make in an hour per state?

Here’s a list of average hourly wages in each state, from highest to lowest:

  • Maine - $51.37
  • Wisconsin - $50.78
  • Washington - $50.54
  • Rhode Island - $49.31
  • Connecticut - $49.16
  • Indiana - $49.03
  • Massachusetts - $48.87
  • New Hampshire - $48.05
  • Delaware - $47.20
  • California - $47.08
  • Maryland - $46.36
  • Vermont - $46.36
  • New York - $46.08
  • District of Columbia - $46.02
  • Idaho - $45.98
  • Ohio - $45.57
  • New Jersey - $45.49
  • Alaska - $45.25
  • Nevada - $45.16
  • West Virginia - $44.78
  • North Dakota - $43.85
  • Kentucky - $42.99
  • Louisiana - $42.39
  • Michigan - $42.34
  • South Dakota - $42.19
  • Missouri - $42.19
  • Mississippi - $42.18
  • Illinois - $41.78
  • Oregon - $41.72
  • Nebraska - $41.71
  • Colorado - $41.06
  • Utah - $41.06
  • South Carolina - $40.83
  • Montana - $40.81
  • Iowa - $40.29
  • Pennsylvania - $39.88
  • Kansas - $39.36
  • New Mexico - $39.24
  • Texas - $39.18
  • Oklahoma - $38.35
  • Arkansas - $38.31
  • Tennessee - $38.04
  • Minnesota - $37.45
  • Arizona - $37.36
  • Virginia - $37.01
  • Georgia - $36.92
  • North Carolina - $35.15
  • Alabama - $34.78
  • Hawaii - $34.15
  • Wyoming - $33.63
  • Florida - $33.35

Interestingly, some states where the game designer income is closer to the average actually offer the most job opportunities. California and New York are the most common destinations for people pursuing this career.

Internationally, other cities with plenty of game designers include London, Vancouver, Montreal, and Stockholm.

Salary Depending on the Industry

The numbers I presented in this post are averages from thousands of video game design salaries. This means they’re also very general. In reality, many other factors determine how much a person in this position would make.

Naturally, video game designers working for more renowned companies also have higher salaries. Data available online suggests that such employees at Microsoft make as much as $125,000 per year. That’s more than a 40% increase compared to the average game designer.

On the other hand, the pay you’d get at a smaller studio would probably be around the average.

There’s not much data available regarding indie and mobile designers. However, the market structure for those companies isn’t the same, and salaries may be lower.

Some industry sections are known for their higher game designer salaries.

One case in point is online gambling, a.k.a. iGaming. Senior employees at such companies often make as much as $170,000 annually. This is relative to the responsibility the role brings.

Historical Estimate

There’s scarce info regarding how much game creators made in the arcade era of the 1980s and the composite period of the 1990s. Also, the line between game designers and developers was blurrier at those stages.

However, the job has been considered to be a highly-paid one ever since the 2000s. The salary has remained relatively steady ever since this period.

In 2014, the average video game designer salary hovered at around $80,000.

The overall job outlook remains positive, and the demand for workers at this position is expected to go up. Statistics show that 32,090 new spots will be filled by 2029. This represents a yearly increase of 2.28% over the next few years.

In terms of salary, the video game designer position will continue to yield highly-competitive wages in the future. 

Wrap Up

A video game designer’s salary is competitive, and it’s higher than the national average. Also, the game market is ever-expanding. So, it’s highly unlikely there will be a shortage of jobs for both novice and experienced employees.

If you were always dreaming about becoming a game designer, it’s a good career to pursue.

As in all industries, your salary at the entry point may not be as high, but you’ll likely earn much more as you progress.

FAQ.


Do game designers get paid well?

Game designers earn a great wage. It’s 34.48% higher than the national average in the US.

How much money can you make as a video game designer?

The average game designer salary in the US sits at $88,107 a year, translating to $42.36 per hour. Some even make upwards of $150,000 per year, depending on the studio and niche they work in.

Is a video game designer a hard job?

Working as a video game designer is challenging and requires specific skills. Gaming enthusiasts are usually the ones interested in this career path.

Is gaming design a good career?

Yes. If video games are your passion, chances are you’ll find fulfillment working as a game designer. Another benefit would be the salary, which is a lot higher than the US national average. If you want to learn more about this aspect, check out our post on How Much Does a Video Game Designer Make.

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Dejan Cvetnarevic

Dejan Cvetnarevic

Dejan is a techie at heart who always dreamed of turning his fascination with gaming into a career. He finds working for TechJury a perfect opportunity to express his views of all kinds of different software. Being an avid reader, particularly of fantasy and sci-fi, Dejan pursued a degree in English Language and Literature. When not at his computer, he’s watching sports or playing tabletop games.

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