I’ve been chatting with a few undergraduate MIT students who already have full-time offers from video game companies. Most had summer internships with one of the large publishers, and all appear to have worked on video game-related projects, in and/or out of class. I thought some of you might be curious to know what those offers look like.
Students who applied for engineering jobs seem to be getting offers in the 70s — in some cases, the high 70s. The same students got offers approximately 10K higher from companies in other industries; i.e. Oracle, Microsoft, etc. So the gap between game company offers and non-game company offers appears to be narrowing for engineers. In general, I was amazed at how high the offers were!
On the other hand, students who applied for production jobs (even students with a double major in computer science) seem to be getting offers in the 30s. I find this to be completely bizarre. I mean, yes, I understand the laws of supply and demand (there are more wanna-be producers and designers than well-trained engineers). And yes, production skills are harder to learn outside of the work environment. But are talented entry-level producers really worth only half the equivalent engineer? Even when they have the same academic training? (After all, a solid grasp of programming is useful to both producers and designers, not just engineers!)
I think this exposes one of the industry’s most fundamental flaws. Producers are expected to keep game development on schedule and under budget. They are expected to act as the bridge between the various development groups, the mouthpiece to the outside world, and the interface to marketing and sales. They facilitate (and in many cases participate in) the creative design process. In other words, producers are the oil that keeps the machine running smoothly — indeed, keeps it running period. If entry-level salaries are any indication of how much (or how little) the industry values its producers, it’s no wonder so many games run over schedule and over budget!
Update: many people have asked where the job offers came from, since location obviously affects salary. I haven’t had a chance to reconnect with every student I initially spoke with, but it appears the majority of the offers were from studios in California and Seattle.
2nd Update: As promised in the comment thread, I’ve posted a followup editorial (which has been reprinted with permission by Next Generation.