How much an Artist earns in the Video Game Industry. Average Salary 2018-19

In Art, Uncategorized by improveyourdrawings

Did you ever wonder how much an artist earns in the Video game Industry? Which are the salaries in the different artistic fields of the industry? Trust me, you are not the only one trying to find answers to this questions.

Maybe you are an aspiring artist trying to get his first job in the industry, and want to know how much you can earn as a junior. Or maybe you are already working in a studio but you want to know if you are earning more or less than the average salary. Whatever your situation is, my goal with this article is to give you a clear answer.

I based my research on the latest information we have regarding gross earnings of artist for the first 6 months of 2018. I looked to several studios across United States, United Kingdom and Continental Europe. Regarding other countries I didn´t include Asia or Australia because I want to speak from a point of knowledge an experience and those are the places and studios I happen to know the best.

Another point I will speak about is how those salaries do compare to the standard of living of their respected countries. I will show you a 3 case comparison of 4 cities ( one in EEUU, one in Uk and two in the EU ) ,with some of the highest concentration of video game studios. In this comparison you will be able to see how much it will cost you to live there so you will know if your salary as video game artist is enough.

But before we start let’s check how the Video Game Industry is doing in terms of growth and revenue.

The Video Game Billions

Technological advances have prompted a paradigm shift, with gaming consoles increasingly viewed as mainstream home entertainment systems. According to the ESA, nearly 50% of U.S. households own a gaming system, and leading consoles such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 also function as smart TVs, providing access to Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, and other streaming services.

Smartphones continue to play a major role in expanding the addressable market outside the home, and consumers are increasingly willing to pay for mobile games. The video game industry has expanded every year since 2000, and smartphones are a key accelerator (Figure 1).

How this numbers affects employment

I will say it affects employment in a very positive way. It’s impossible to deny the Video Game sector is a thriving industry. Not even the 2008 crisis was able to stop this constant growth pattern. With this growth in revenue comes the increasing in size of companies and the opening of new studios. Obviously the main side effect is the rising in the number of employees in the sector.

How much workers earn in Video Games

Source Rock Paper Shotgun

In this gross earnings comparison of 2015 we can see how artists are doing compare to their colleagues inside the gaming industry. Certainly we are not into the top earners of our industry, but we are not far away from designers or developers. In 2018 the average salary for a Senior Artists in United States was reported to be over 95000$, compare to the 100.000$ a Senior Programer can get( numbers reported by the website Payscale ).

But, are all artist paid equal?

Surely not. Salaries will change depending on several factors. Artist is a broad term and englobes several types of profiles( environment artists, concept artists, VFX artists, etc…). The salaries from one type of artist to the other can differ considerably. Other factors are the geographical location of the company or studio, your professional experience, the level of your skills and many more. Let’s check this factors one by one:

Different type of artists

There is several type of artists and like in any other industry some types or classes of workers are more demanded than others. Your value will be affected by the needs of the studios. I remember, when I started my career as a Concept artist, how UI artist were very well paid because the small amount of them you could fine on the job market compare to the need of the studios for this type of workers. Plain and simple, is the Law of Offer and Demand.

Experience

Your level of seniority will affect dramatically the negotiation of your salary. The senior you are the better. Juniors tend to have a considerable difficulty to break into the industry. Is not an impossible task but you gotta have a strong will and be able to not get demotivated after rejection.

Your portfolio and skill level

This is another factor will determine how much you can earn. Usually companies will tailored an offer accordingly to the candidate skills. They will try to always to negotiate on the frame of your average market value. But if a company wants you because you have amazing skills on your craft, it is possible you can break those boundaries on your favor. The best example is Riot Games which pays some artists more than the double of the average for artists on United States. The reason is because those artist are really skillful on their craft and highly value for their work.

Where the studio is located

Depending on which continent or country are you working your salary can increase or decrease. At first glance this can seem unfair but you gotta take into account the different life standart of each city or country. Salaries on the States tend to be higher than in Europe. This fact has many reasons, but one you gotta take into account is how expensive is to live in California were lots of video game studios are located.

Your negotiation skills

This factor is usually highly overlook by artists. We tend to be very focus on our art and usually we neglect other important skills, like knowing your market value and how to sell yourself and skills to a recruiter on a job interview. The better you negotiate the more money you will get.

So, how much an artist earns in the United States?

Below this paragraph you will find the salary averages for the different types of artist on United States. The average salary on United States for artists working  on Video Games is 71,000$ per year. The Low/year column represents artists with a couple of years of experience in Video Games. I found a little bit difficult to get some reliable numbers for Juniors on United States. For UK and Continental Europe it was easy to find the salary average for Juniors. As a recommendation, if you want to have an idea on how much a recently hired Junior can earn on the States, you can deduct a 20% on the number on the Low/year column. The High/year column reflects the average salary of a Senior artist with at least 5 or 6 years of experience.

Low average: $47,000                                         Average: $71,000                                                                                High average: $95,000

Low/year High/year
Game Artist (Generalist)
$45,000 $95,000
Concept Artist
$45,000 $100,000
Character Artist
$45,000 $70,000
Environment Artist
$55,000 $120,000
Technical Artist
$40,000 $105,000
Character Animator
$40,000 $100,000
2D Artist
$60,000 $75,000

What about the United Kingdom artist’s salary?

Artists in UK get by average almost 30.000 pounds per year. The Low/year column salaries are for Junior artists with one year of experience or no experience at all. The High/year column show us the average salaries of Senior artists with at least 5 or 6 years of experience in the industry.

As a side note you gotta remember the salaries for Uk are depicted in pounds. The British pound is the currency with the highest value on the exchange market. This is worth notice because at a first glance, numbers could look low.  But you gotta do the conversion to dollars so you can get a better idea if you want to compare them to the United States salaries.

Low average: £18.000                                           Average:  £29.500                                                                             High Average: £41.000
Low/year High/year
Game Artist (Generalist)
£18,000 £46,000
Concept Artist
£16,500 £38,000
Character Artist
£18,000 £40,000
Environment Artist
£18,000 £40,000
Technical Artist
£25,000 £38,000
Character Animator
£15,000 £45,000
Illustrator
£16,500 £43,000

And what about Continental Europe salaries?

Inside the Continental Europe gaming industry I focused my research on countries where the average salary and the standard of living were higher. Countries like Germany, France, The Netherlands, Spain and Italy have a thriving video game industry and studios there pay better to their employees. The average salary for an artist in those countries is from 25,000 to 30,000 euros. The Low/year column before represents the average salary for Junior artist with 1 year experience at most. The High/year column salaries are the average for artists with at least 5 or 6 years of experience.

Low average: €18.500                                             Average: €30.000                                                                            High Average: €41.000
Low/year High/year
Game Artist (Generalist)
€18,000 € 40,000
Concept Artist
€15,000 €40,000
Character Artist
€20,000 €43,000
Environment Artist
€18,000 €40,000
Technical Artist
€20,000 €30,000
Character Animator
€18,000 €52,000
Illustrator
€18,500 €45,000

Salaries Vs Cost of Living?

The first think that we can notice is the lack of uniformity regarding how much the studios pay to their artist from one location to another( which is a common thing across all industries). Like we commented before this is in big part because the difference in the cost of living on different cities and countries.

Los Angeles

A good example will be Los Angeles, California. In this city, and it’s sourrunding areas, we can find some of the best studios worldwide. Artists here, get paid some of the highest salaries on the industry. This of course, do to the high level of super skilled artist working there. But we can not forget also, L.A is a very expensive city to live in. The rent of a 2 bedroom apartment inside the city can reach easily the 2000 to 2500$ per month. This means you will spend at least from 20.000 to 30.000 $ just having a place to sleep. Of course you can downgrade your lifestyle and rent a bedroom, in case you don’t have a couple or a family to support.

Groceries and living related expenses ( like electricity, Natural gas, etc…) can take easily a 20 to 25% of your gross salary depending on your needs. A car can become a luxury item for the low earning tears.

Finally you gotta remember California has some of the highest taxes on all United States. A friend of mine hired by Riot earns 100.000 $ per year before taxes. After the Goverment and the State of California get their cut, my friend gets a net income of a little bit more of 60.000$. We are speaking almost a 40% cut of the gross income.

Summary about cost of living in Los Angeles:

  • Four-person family monthly costs: 3,546.66$ without rent .
  • A single person monthly costs: 981.33$ without rent.
  • Cost of living rank 59th out of 531 cities in the world.
  • Apartment rent ( 1 bed room ): 1500$ to 2500$
  • Apartment rent ( 3 bed room) : 3000$-5200$

London

UK has some of the highest paid salaries in all Europe. But of course the cost of living there is quite high too. Specially if you live in London where the rents are sometimes even higher than Los Angeles. If we compare how much artists get paid in London to artists in California we can clearly see an artist will struggle to live in London city without sharing an apartment with other 2 people at least. The only alternative left is to live in one of the towns near London, but depending of the proximity to the city this can become also a big challenge to your economy.

As one fellow concept artists, who worked and lived in London until recently, said “ in order to be able to afford an apartment for yourself in London and have something left for your personal expenses “ you need to earn at least 4000£ per month, net income.

Regarding the rest of United Kingdom, salaries are usually 10% lower on average compare to London. The good side of it is home and apartment rents are more affordable in other cities across England, Wales and Scotland.

Summary about cost of living in London:

  • Four-person family monthly costs: 2,763.95£ without rent .
  • A single person monthly costs: 772.94£without rent.
  • Cost of living rank 33th out of 531 cities in the world.
  • Apartment rent ( 1 bed room ): 1,200.002,500.0£
  • Apartment rent ( 3 bed room) : 2,500-4,500£
Barcelona

Like we saw on the salary tables above, the difference in terms of salaries from UK to Germany, France or Spain is not very big. The cost of living in Germany or France is higher than Spain or Ireland. Obviously salaries are higher in Germany than Spain for example. But there is an exception regarding Barcelona. Several big names like Ubisoft, King, Social Point or Scoopley have studios here and the salaries are the same than in Germany. Is not uncommon to see artist getting paid 40,000 euros per year.

Barcelona is the most expensive city in Spain, but compare to London, rents are not as higher. You can find 2 bed-room apartments for a 1000 euros inside the city and located in nice neighbourhoods.

Taxes for salaries above 35000 are close to the 33%.  If we compare this to Germany we can see taxes there can reach more tan 40 % for the similar amount of income. But in the German case you gotta admit, they pay much because their social benefits and state sponsored retirement plans are way better.

Summary about cost of living in Barcelona:

  • Four-person family monthly costs: 2,367.09€ without rent .
  • A single person monthly costs: 671.77€without rent.
  • Cost of living rank 33th out of 531 cities in the world.
  • Apartment rent ( 1 bed room ): 800.001,200.0€
  • Apartment rent ( 3 bed room) : 1,000.002,000.00€

Summary about cost of living in Hamburg:

  • Four-person family monthly costs: 2,786.07€ without rent .
  • A single person monthly costs: 804.80€ without rent.
  • Cost of living rank 122th out of 531 cities in the world.
  • Apartment rent ( 1 bed room ): 800.001,200.0€
  • Apartment rent ( 3 bed room) : 1,200.002,200.00€

Conclusion

I hope by now, you will have a better understanding of how much you can earn as a video game artist and how your salary will perform compared to the cost of living in the different cities around the globe. If you are interested in pursuing a career in video games I encourage you to read my article about ” The top 15 online art schools “ where you will find information and links to some of the best online schools for video game art. Also, if you want to follow the route of the self-taught artist I will recommend you my article about ” The most affordable online art courses “. Finally if you want to become a professional concept artist, you should check my article on ” How to become a concept artist”.

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See you in the next post.

Toni Justamante Jacobs.