This is the fifth year for the indie developer salary report (full 2014 salary report here [PDF]), in which we survey non-salaried game developers. 2013 was a mixed bag overall, with some salaries up, some down year-on-year. The drop in solo salaries is particularly alarming, while the rise in indie team salaries seems promising -- but be careful in making assumptions about this data. We’ve found that average indie salaries are prone to big fluctuations over the years. Practice the fundamentals of good game development, and adjust for a market that is noisier than it has ever been. Here are the highlights from the indie survey*:
1. Solo indie salaries were downSolo indie developers earned an average income of $11,812 in 2013, down 49 percent from 2012’s $23,130 average. This drop may be attributed to the fact that most anyone can make and release a game if they want to, from experienced full-time game developers to part-time hobbyists with less experience with the market.
2. Members of an indie team earned more incomeIndividual members of an indie team fared better than solos, earning an average of $50,833, up 161 percent from 2012’s $19,487. Of course, more overhead for a team doesn’t automatically equate to making more money, but there is something to be said for having more hands (and brains) on a project.
3. Game sales made up most indies’ game dev incomeMost indie game developers -- 57 percent -- said they did not have any additional game dev income outside of game sales. Meanwhile, 27 percent said they made additional income through contract work.
Other sources of income came from promotions (including non-game DLC and other content), sponsorship opportunities, awards or grants, crowdfunding, or other methods. Less than 6 percent of respondents said they made income in any of these other categories.