Do Game Developers Make Money? Everything You Should Know

ways to make money as a game developer

Do Game Developers Make Money?

Game development continues to be a great career for individuals who have a passion for both programming and gaming. However, this position can bring with it a lot of uncertainty when it comes to salary, hours, and workload. Many game developers begin their journey as a hobby, realizing that they wish to make it a full-time career.

Do game developers make money? ​Although it is unlike more traditional careers in many ways, working as a game developer can be financially lucrative. There are several ways to make money while working as a game developer, including publishing your own game, working for a large video game developer, or even becoming a game development consultant.

How do you find the best paying positions as a game developer? What is the average salary of a game developer? In this post, we will answer these questions and more, providing you with everything you need to know about the career of a game developer.

How to Earn Money As a Game Developer

The position of game developer certainly carries with it a level of excitement. Who wouldn’t want to make money creating and improving video games? What many aspiring game developers do not realize, however, is that there are several ways to make money in this field.

Game developers and programmers are some of the smartest individuals in the programming field. Depending on the studio, a game developer may also be known as a programmer or engineer. Many game developers have experience in web development or other forms of programming that lead them to a career in the gaming industry.

An aspiring game developer may think that there is only one way to make money in this industry: developing their own video game. This is certainly an important aspect of game development. However, it is not the only way to turn your passion for gaming into a good career.


Make Money By Publishing Your Own Game man making a video game

Although it may be the most challenging way to make a living as a game developer, publishing your own game is one of the ways that you can earn money in this field. After publishing a video game, the developer will receive a percentage of the sales from both brick-and-mortar shops and online retailers. This percentage is usually quite small, creating little profit for small game developers.

Many indie game developers are beginning to adopt a “free-to-play” model. This type of game is free to download and play. So, how do you make money after publishing a “free-to-play” game? Currently, there are a few strategies that game developers use to profit off of “free-to-play” games.

    • Selling additional game features or levels.
    • Micro-transactions selling virtual goods such as power-ups, skins, or decorative items
    • Selling in-game advertising space to corporations.


While developing and publishing your own video game is an aspiration of most game developers, it isn’t always the most financially lucrative position in the industry.

If you are interested in creating and publishing your own video game, foregoing a physical release of the game and releasing it directly to platforms such as Steam, or Apple’s App Store can be far more cost-effective for indie developers.


Earn Money Working As a Game Developer For a Publisher

One of the most reliable ways to earn a living as a game developer is to work for a large publisher. As a game developer, you may partner with a publisher to develop a game. They will purchase the developed game, including the characters and rights. After this, the transaction is complete. As the developer, you will not earn additional income or royalties from the game.

This is only one of many arrangements that a game developer may have with a large video game publisher.

Alternative Ways to Make Money As a Game Developer

In addition to publishing your own game or developing a game for a larger publisher, there are other ways to make money as a game developer. By honing your skills to a specific area of game development, you can become a valuable asset to any employer.

Specialize in A Specific Area of Game Development to Make Money 

Especially if your dream is to work at a large game development studio such as Electronic Arts, Bethesda, or Rockstar, it is wise to specialize in a very specific area of game development. While some may see this practice as limiting, it allows you to focus your time and talents on becoming the best you can be in that one area of development.

In doing so, you can become a valuable asset to a larger studio and quickly earn a position as an expert in your area. This can be one of the most financially lucrative positions for a game developer as larger studios provide steady income with minimal risk involved.

If your goal, however, is to work at a smaller game development studio, this strategy may not be of as much value. Typically, game developers who work with a smaller team must be responsible for multiple aspects of the process.

Make a Living By Selling Tools to Other Game Developers

Another way that a game developer can make money is by selling tools or assets to other game developers. Things like backgrounds, 3D models, or other tools that make a game developers job easier can create a steady stream of income.

There are several online platforms such as the Unity Asset Store where you can list tools that solve common problems for other game developers. In some cases, you can list these assets for a high price and create a career out of this aspect of game development.


Become a Game Development Tutor or Consultant game design tutor

Maybe you are an experienced game developer who is looking for a new challenge or career opportunity. In a quickly growing field like game development, there is always a need for experienced tutors, teachers, or consultants.

Sharing your knowledge and skills with aspiring game developers can be incredibly rewarding and allow you to have more control over the hours that you work. After working several years in the fast-paced world of game development, working as a game development consultant can be a much-needed change.


Average Salary of a Game Developer

Many successful game developers warn interested individuals against becoming a game developer for the money. Although it can certainly be a lucrative career, it also requires incredible dedication. In most situations, a game developer will need to have a second position for the first few years as they break into the gaming industry.

Once you become established as a game developer, you will begin to make a more steady salary. According to ​Glassdoor​, game developers in the United States have a starting salary of around $50k. However, lead developers working for large companies have the potential to make up to $100k+ each year.


Is Video Game Development a Good Career To Make Money?

For individuals who are truly passionate about both programming and gaming, game development can be an exciting and rewarding career path. Game developers often find themselves working long hours to meet project deadlines.

Before working towards a career in video game development, it is important to note that the gaming industry is, at its core, part of the entertainment industry. As such, it can be unstable, with many game developers experiencing frequent job loss.

Individuals who are truly passionate about game development should not be swayed by this fact. Fortunately, there are countless job opportunities in the industry. Additionally, as a game developer, you possess many skills that translate into other areas of programming and web design.

If you have a passion for game development and everything the industry entails, it can most certainly become a rewarding and lucrative career.

Starting a Career As a Game Developer

Working your way into a lucrative career as a game developer takes passion, dedication, and a willingness to work hard. However, for many individuals, game development is a dream job. So, how do you get started as a game developer?

First, you should consider the aspects of game development that excite you. This will help guide your journey to a position in the field that you excel at. Networking plays a large role in the success of a game developer. Connect with other game developers in your area or online to discuss possible career opportunities.

After learning the basics of game development, it will be time to find an entry-level position. It is important to remember that working hard at the beginning of your game development career will reap countless rewards in the future. Most large game development studios require previous experience, making it difficult for beginner game developers to secure a position.

One of the best ways to gain experience in the game development industry is to do freelance work for smaller studios or projects. There are several sites to find positions like this such as UpWork or Fiverr. This type of work will not pay much. However, it will provide you with valuable experience to add to your portfolio, eventually leading to your dream job in a larger studio.

Working as a game developer can be one of the most exciting and rewarding careers. However, without a passion for the industry, you will find it hard to remain committed as you work towards a higher paying position. Once you become a game developer, you will find that there are several ways to make money within the industry that will provide you with a lucrative salary.

Thanks for reading! You can check out my other recent articles here.


Hello there! My name is Collin. I’ve spent hours studying game design via podcasts, articles, and videos. This is where I share the helpful information I’ve learned about creating and marketing great games.

Recent Posts