If your favorite hobby is playing video games, a career in game development may be the perfect job for you. As the gaming industry continues to expand, studios are looking for even more talented individuals to fulfill their visions. There’s never been a better time to pursue jobs in game development.
Let’s take a closer look at video game development as a potential career path and what you need to become a game developer.
What Makes a Good Game Developer?
Generally, game developers are tech-savvy and good at problem-solving, two traits they usually share with gamers. Video game development is a great role for someone who’s passionate about video games and curious about technology.
Game developers should also be solution-oriented and willing to learn new technologies, a skill that’s becoming even more important as innovative technologies continue to change the way we play games, including:
- Artificial intelligence
- Virtual reality
- Augmented reality
What Do Video Game Developers Do?
Game developers often cover multiple aspects of game development, including programming the logic of the gameplay, adding artificial intelligence to non-playable characters, and tying together various assets and concepts to fulfill the game designer’s ultimate vision. They rely on a strong background in technology and software engineering to accomplish these tasks.
What a video game developer does on a daily basis will depend on the company the game developer works for and whether the developer specializes in any particular niche. However, their responsibilities may typically include the following:
- Use programming and software engineering to translate visions and ideas into reality
- Create a prototype of gameplay for PC, consoles, and mobile devices
- Check for bugs and ensure stability
- Make recommendations for improving code
- Finalize the prototype into a video game to bring it to market
Game developers also communicate and work with producers, quality assurance engineers, designers, audio engineers, and video game artists.
Some video game developers work as generalists while others may specialize in a particular area. Some developers, for example, will only work with certain coding languages or game engines. While you might think this limits their career options, they typically become highly sought-after professionals due to their expertise in a specific area. Other developers specialize in certain genres and become experts for a specific style.
Types of Game Developers
There are four primary types of game developers:
- First-party game developers
- Second-party game developers
- Third-party game developers
- Indie game developers
What kind of game developer you want to be will determine the companies you work for, your workflow, and your compensation.
First-Party Game Developers
First-party video game developers work at the main company that manufactures the game console. For example, developers with experience in software engineering can work as first-party game developers at companies like Nintendo, Sony, Electronic Arts (EA), and Microsoft.
These major companies have studios that employ developers who work solely for them. With first-party game developers, companies have more control over the design and distribution of their video games.
Second-Party Game Developers
Second-party game developers work with companies as a subsidiary in their own studios. They either have a contract with a video game company, or they act as partial subsidiaries. Generally, second-party game developers will have more freedom.
In some cases, companies can provide more financial incentives to second-party game developers for certain projects. You may even make a higher salary in this particular category. Remedy Entertainment, Game Freak, and Grezzo are a few examples of companies that employ/work as second-party game developers.
Third-Party Game Developers
Third-party game developers are independent studios that carefully choose which titles and partnerships to work with. These are often smaller game development studios that can’t risk failed projects.
Third-party game developers seek to create strong relationships, which can help ensure more successful projects. If you want greater freedom in choosing who to work with, you may enjoy working for a third-party game development studio.
Indie Game Developers
Indie game developers either work alone/for themselves or with a very small development team. They typically don’t have the financial backing that larger companies do when creating video games. These creatives have the most freedom to take risks and create new games without focusing on industry standards. However, they also face more challenges since they often have to assemble a team themselves or learn all the required skills to create a finished product.
Game Developer Salary
Now that you know the daily responsibilities of a game developer, you may wonder, “How much do game developers make?” This can depend on several factors, but it usually most heavily depends on whether you’ve just started in the industry or have been in it for a decade or more.
In general, software developers make 6-digit salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers, testers, and quality assurance analysts made an average annual salary of $109,020 in 2021.
An entry-level game developer salary may hover around $81,803 in the United States, but as you continue working in the field, your income will grow. After getting promoted and gaining more experience, a senior game developer makes an average annual salary of $131,588, while a lead game developer can make $139,494. Finally, a principal game developer can make an average of $188,654 a year.
Game development can be a lucrative field, so it could be the perfect fit for passionate gamers wanting to turn their hobby into a rewarding career. Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that could influence your salary.
Type of Company
The largest and more successful companies can often provide game developers with the best salaries. For instance, Microsoft and Sony tend to top the list of companies that pay game developers the most.
Smaller companies, however, with 10 or fewer employees can also usually offer higher salaries than corporations with 200-1,000 workers. It can very much depend on the specific makeup of the company where you work.
Large city jobs will more likely provide you with a higher salary than positions you might find in more rural regions. This is typically due to the local cost of living.
If you’re looking for high salaries in big cities, explore open positions in cities like San Francisco, Boston, or even Las Vegas. Or, to maximize your incomes, you could pursue a remote job that would allow you to work from a location with a lower cost of living.
Explore Top Cities: Best Tech Cities for Young Professionals
Your salary will typically correlate with your experience in the video game industry. For example, when you get promoted to senior roles and take on more responsibility, your income will usually increase as well.
Where Do Game Developers Work?
Game developers can work independently or at small, medium-sized, or large video game companies. They can also work as first-party developers for businesses that manufacture video game consoles.
The top companies for video game developers in terms of compensation and notoriety include:
- Electronic Arts (EA)
- Activision Blizzard
How to Become a Game Developer
If you’re a gamer looking to enter the video game development business, you can move into this exciting new career with a few educational courses and specific skills. Video game development can be an intensive career track, but it can be fulfilling and rewarding if it’s your passion. We’ll dive into the specific qualifications or programs you may need to successfully compete in the game development field.
1. Get the Qualifications & Skills Needed to Become a Game Developer
Before searching for a game development job, you may need to pick up a few new skills. The most common skill you’ll need as a game developer is competence in a programming language. Typically, this will be C, C++, or C#, depending on the preference of your company.
It will also help to have a familiarity with a game development engine like Unreal Engine, though many companies choose to develop their own engines. You may also find that you’ll need some basic math, physics, and storytelling skills.
2. Find Programs or Courses to Develop Your Skills
Depending on your skill gaps, you may need a few different resources to develop the skills you need to kickstart this new career. You could consider taking a class or two to brush up on math or physics, or perhaps even a writing class for storytelling skills.
You can gain coding skills through certification courses, computer science degree, or a coding bootcamp. Many bootcamps can help you gain the skills you need to build yourself a new career. The programs offered by App Academy, for example, can teach you a number of foundational coding skills. While our in-person, full-time, and part-time bootcamp options won’t directly prepare you for a career as a game developer, they can be a great first step to break into tech.
3. Build a Game Development Portfolio
Game developers must have a solid programming portfolio of past projects to show to prospective employers. There’s no better way to show a potential employer that you know how to apply the theory of coding and programming to build a successful video game.
If you’re searching for your first job, add any projects to your portfolio that you may have completed in your courses. Make sure to showcase your creativity as well.
Develop Your Skills with App Academy
While App Academy’s bootcamps do not directly prepare students for a career in game development, our programs can still teach you essential coding and software engineering skills that can provide the foundational knowledge needed to succeed in the tech industry. From there, you can work to acquire any additional skills needed along the path toward your dream career.
We offer a number of different formats for our bootcamps, so we have a program that works for everyone. Plus, all of our immersive programs include resume and career coaching, so you can be confident in finding an exciting and fulfilling career. Check out our programs today to get started.
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