Salaries & GW – So You Want to Make Games As a Career?

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A lot of recent job posting for the GW design Studio have everyone excited.  Here is what some gamers with salary experience say about what you can expect:

Every Wants to Be a Game Designer!

Everyone has been excited about the recent job posting for Specialist Games that have been going up of late.  Things like these get the blood pumping:

Citadel Technical Editor (Book and Box Games): Nottingham, UK

Friday 29 January, 2016

Do you want to increase the quality of Games Workshop’s books and boxed games by editing the written content to ensure the best possible results? Are you excited by the thought of editing our books and boxed games to ensure they always meet their objectives and accord with our IP and style whilst always maintaining the highest standards of spelling and grammar?

Citadel Rules Writer (Book & Box Games): Nottingham, UK

Wednesday 20 January, 2016

Do you want to write exciting rules that bring the fantastic range of Citadel Miniatures to life? Do you want to develop the game systems of Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 to make them the best they can possibly be? Are you excited about working with a team of professional rules writers to produce new rules for our books and boxed games?

 

Now take a look at some of the general GW Job Posting FAQs for some context:

Q: Why are all your job vacancies in English?

A: Games Workshop is based in England and our global business language is English. To be successful in management and professional roles, the ability to speak English is essential.

Q: Why are there no salaries on your job vacancies?

A: First and foremost we are looking for someone who is a good fit for both the job and our business. We pay salaries that reflect the value that the individual brings to Games Workshop and we resize and reshape roles for candidates that we think bring even more to a given job.

Q: Will you sponsor my Green Card/Visa/Work Permit?

A: Probably not, no. We generally expect anyone applying for a role to already have the legal permission to work in the country concerned. Only in exceptional circumstances will we sponsor a candidiate and even then it is usually reserved for existing members of staff moving to a different part of the business.

Q: Will you sponsor my professional qualifications/exams?

A: Quite possibly, yes. We recognise and support our staff through a range of professional development and qualification courses that are important to the long-term success of Games Workshop.

reality-check

The Harsh Light of Day

Now take a look at what some gamers with experience on the job front say about GW salaries:

via Dakka’s Ian Sturrock

“Average pay in 2008 was about £26K. There’s been no significant rise since then (recession innit)…”

via Dakka’s torgoch

“GW salaries are in general very low and the company has a major imbalance in internal pay due to the legacy of its transition from a private company to PLC.

My understanding is that:

Painters get it worst, I think they are on 15k (whatever the UK minimum wage is)

Design Studio types get around £18k to start with I understand, be they involved in the physical product or IP product. Their is progression, but not a lot.

For roles in which there is a job market, salaries tend to be a bit more market proximate, so publishing is poor (As a Black Library editor I was offered 19.5k about 10 years ago, which was about the market rate really outside London), media is a bit better and the finance, legal and operational dept manager roles are the best paying jobs.

Long-term higher-ups are on wages that are linked to the fact that the company used to pay royalties on products to designers. Those who have joined since it became a PLC cannot expect to ever reach that level, so as a member of the design studio, you will simply cannot aspire to earn what Jervis earns while remaining with the company.”

money-tug-of-war

I know, I know.  Not exactly champaign wishes and caviar dreams is it?  Still though, don’t think this is only a GW thing.  These salary bands roughly line up with trends seen in gaming companies on both sides of the Atlantic. In general fields such game design tend to pay lower than expected wages.  These fields are often seen as highly desirable and like the video game industry, tend to attract a steady flow of applicants – thus the downward pressure on wages.  It’s seen as cool, sexy and exotic to work in the games industry – just don’t expect to get rich quick off of it – because there is a line of folks behind you who want that job.  If you want cash, go write software for Goldman Sachs or a Healthcare or Insurance company.  It’s the “boring fields” like that who often pay though the roof for qualified staff.

As with many things in life, things working in the game industry is that classic balance between doing what makes you happy and what pays the bills.

~So who here thinks a career in tabletop gaming is worth the financial risk?

  • LordRao

    While it is good to get some inside figures, these are, as you say, hardly surprising. It is true everywhere in the world that the most sought after jobs get crap wages. And these wages are always competitive, by definition; otherwise any company would be out of employees real quick.

    • Ben_S

      Yeah, just look at football players 😉

    • Dan Prosser

      As somebody who works in TV, I know how this feels

  • Erik Setzer

    Yeah, that’s the biggest reason I’d never apply. Moving to England wouldn’t bug me that much (especially as three of my hobbies are well represented: drinking, miniatures games, and slot cars). But it’d be a notable pay cut, and that’s before my inevitable bump in title and pay.

    While other companies might not be any better (hard to tell), they also likely don’t have a board making ridiculous amounts, or “consultants” paid obscene amounts. And because G-Dub needs to make sure the profit looks as good as possible in the midst of falling revenues, they have to keep non-board salaries as low as they can get away with (much like every other cost).

    My “dream job” doesn’t involve making less money for a similar amount of work, so yeah, not really my dream job. Besides, when you make your hobby your job and think of it in job terms, you tend to lose some of your interest in said hobby.

    • Muninwing

      see, i’d rather write and publish “game accessories” for GW games…

      get a license from them, then write source books not unlike AD&D 2nd about how to run games in differing formats.

      it wouldn’t be a job so much as a secondary project. it wouldn;t pay the rent so much as allow me to add to the game i love and to maybe give me some extra spending money (to put into more minis, let’s be honest).

      but i’d love to assemble a team that can write better fluff than AoS (i’ll ask some middle schoolers), some people who are better at rules balance than GW seems to be (i’ll ask more middle schoolers), and who have more of a longterm vision for what they want to do with the product (nobody older than 18 need apply due to lack of experience needed).

      or, you know, actually do it right. bother to playtest. set up some guidelines. and give a larger vision with smaller pieces — namely, bring some professionalism to the field,

  • This doesn’t surprise me at all. I used to freelance write for RPGs – because of the glut in supply of people willing to write – the usual rates were *less* than I’d make editing other people’s writing. The rates were so low that almost any other job pushed it into “More trouble than it’s worth”.

    • JN7

      That and the randomness of payments. It once took me two years of badgering a company to get them to cough up a measly $250.

  • Andrew Webb

    Probably explains why they have so many rules open to “interpretation”…..

    • Drpx

      And a lack of FAQs (but they included one for this).

      • euansmith

        That is a delicious irony. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Valeli

    Can’t say I’m surprised that the pay is fairly low. I guess that 26k pounds is around 40k US dollars. A touch less.

    A lot of important and overworked jobs get under-payed though. I think it’s more of an issue that people like nurses have poor salaries than that games devs have these issues (although in a happy world, everyone would make bank).

    Is it a job you genuinely enjoy though? If you can take their corporate culture, and actually enjoy what you’re doing and where you’re doing it, that can be a pretty priceless set of perks.

    Would I apply for a dev spot with GW (even if I was much more qualified)? No way. But could I understand someone wanting to and being serious about it? Absolutely.

    • Ben_S

      Cost of living in the UK is probably much higher than in Australia though, which makes the comparison difficult.

      Average wage I gather is about £33k these days.

      • MPSwift

        UK average wage for 2015 was about £26,500

        • nurglespuss

          And unfortunately, that average is hugely skewed by higher earnings. Average wage amongst working people (discounting rarer, higher pait jobs – I.e. what the majority of folk on a street would earn) , is £15-18 … Not a great deal.

          Back when I worked as a staff member (admittedly quite a while ago) I was getting 7k a year, my manager, £12k and he:D been there years. GW can be a very good company to work for/with, but the pay is not competitive. My next job, was also in n sales and started on £15…

        • Ben_S

          I definitely saw the £33k figure reported somewhere recently. I forget where, but I remembered the figure, because I thought it was high. To be fair, I think it was based on advertised salaries, or something like that, so I guess it’s on the higher side than what people actually earn.

          On the other hand, I think your figure is low. These recent pieces both report a median of around £27,500:

          http://metro.co.uk/2015/11/18/how-does-your-salary-compare-with-the-rest-of-the-country-5511194/

          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/britains-top-bosses-earn-average-uk-annual-salary-in-22-hours-of-work-a6796761.html

          The mean is almost certainly above the median, for the reasons Nurglespuss mentions.

          The exact answer presumably depends a lot on exactly what assumptions and calculations are made, e.g. whether were talking a mean ‘full time equivalent’, including overtime, bonuses, and tips, how zero hour contracts are calculated, etc.

          • MPSwift

            £33k is definitely too high for general employment but would make sense for a specific industry like advertising. The £26,500 figure was from the gov website for 2015 but the average should definitely increase to around £27,500-£28 this year as the first stage of the living wage increase comes into play (£7.20 per hour). Most of the graduates I work with had an increase of £1k over what my starting salary was the year before for the same role so if that happens across the board that would explain the increase to £27.5k.

          • Ben_S

            I don’t mean salary in advertising. I meant that the figure quoted was something like the average salary appearing in job adverts. Obviously this may be skewed when adverts focus on maximum salaries (up to £X) or if low paying jobs like this are less likely to disclose the salary.

      • Grafton Is Dust

        Actually the cost of living is much less than the UK, according to friends I have who worked over there.

        For one, you blokes down-under get ripped off on your beer.

        • Ben_S

          I said “Cost of living in the UK is probably much higher than in Australia”.

          So “the cost of living [in Australia] is much less than the UK” is re-stating my point, rather than contradicting it.

          Mind you, I gather GW products are more expensive over there…

          • Grafton Is Dust

            D’oh, I meant much less in the UK. The cost of living in Australia is ridiculously high.

          • Ben_S

            Anything imported is bound to be expensive, and that’s a lot, but cost of housing is so much lower over there. I suppose how that plays out depends on your income level.

  • rickyard

    Nice to hear that, next time someone says that GW prices are somewhat normal because you got desiners, painters, writers… I am going to post a link to this article.

  • Local Ork

    Great offers if Your car run on positive attitude.

  • Delicious

    To be honest, 40k for writing lore for a setting you love does not sound that bad…

  • ForgottenLore

    Many years ago at a Con, a friend of mine was talking to a couple game designers who commented that working in the gaming industry is a job where you can literally make hundreds of dollars a year.

    • Prisoner 42

      Yea I’ve just left games because of that. The owner was making millions of pounds a year and didn’t even pay for the stamp on my p45. I knew someone with a masters degree in computer games programming on 14k a year for 4 years then fired before Christmas with a weeks notice no one should go in to games its painful for me to see intelligent decent people taken advantage of because they love games then get treated so badly.

      • nurglitch

        It’s why I work in IT. I’d love to work on games, but I prefer being able to afford to play games.

        • ZeeLobby

          Same boat here. Software Engineer. I love games, always think about getting into it professionally somehow, and then rethink it based on reality, haha.

  • benn grimm

    They make more than enough to pay their staff more, they just choose not to, because they know they can get away with it. Disney does the same, just like the big comic book publishers used to. They don’t value creative people, they just need them. As long as a steady stream of naive graduates, and a steady stream of governments, de-value the work of our talented young people and over-value the worth of lawyers, finanacial analysts, promotional tools, stock market aficionados etc etc, these companies will continue to get away with it.

    Just think, if all these young people realised the value of what they produce and with-held their services; how much of what we consume day to day, month to month, would cease production. Games, movies, miniatures, comics etc etc are all produced by exploiting people who don’t know better, or who know better and do it anyway out of love.

    For any lethargic devils who question the power of the creative; just look at Image in the 90s; fed up with getting ripped off by Marvel and DC, those guys made a real change in the industry.and got paid properly off the characters and products they produced.

    Some one (identity hidden) came up with the Centurions. Some one came up with the Riptide and the stormy Flatley bot. Some one came up with the Stormcast, some one came up with all the new names for all the races. Was it all Jes and Jervis? I highly doubt it, so why should they be getting royalties but the newer guys get nothing but a warm feeling of achievement, which later turns to a cold shiver when they realise they gave their best ideas and years to a company who doesn’t value what they do.

    • Master Avoghai

      Actually, those salaries could be perfectly fair if EFFECTIVELY they had a feeling of achievment in what they did.

      I used to be a student in medical research : 6 years of university and at least 3 more to do… At the end what I could expect was a 25000€ job… For 10 years of studies and the responsability to form other future scientists…
      I didn’t care. The only reason why I left is because my public laboratory had no money to pay for research and every experience I made was first a struggle to find the material.

      Salary is important but breaking your creativity and why you chose this job rather than another is the most important.

      Like you’ve said : when a design is made, you don’t know who made it. In the WD you have few articles involving different staff members. If you’re a rule writer, you’re limited in what you may do : you cannot make FAQ because it’s not the politic of the company, create rules only for models designed by the sculptors (see the interview during the last FW day : someone come with a model and say “create rules for this, no rule designers come and say “I need a model that fit this entry”)

      Hence your creativity is limited.

      Same thing for the sculptors actually. You have to put skulls everywhere, your model may have blood and dead corpses but don’t show a boob….

      And before you could meet your fans. You went to GD, signed up autograph and lots of young fans showed they were honoured to make a photo with you…

      So : restricted creativity, no reward, anonymous for the fan…
      That’s why the salary looks so bad IMO

      • benn grimm

        I dunno, I have friends who work in graphic design, animation, fashion etc etc, and none of them are on less than 30k a year and tbf, where they work (Central London mostly), you’d really struggle to live well on less than that.

        I don’t know a massive amount about it, but I’ve heard that the pay gap between public and private funded medical research is quite astonishing.
        How the same politicians who allow/encourage Pharmaceuticals to charge what they do for essential (public-bought)drugs, can also on the other hand leave publicly funded research projects so woefully underfunded, is beyond me.

        • Master Avoghai

          Indeed

          I now work for a private laboratory and I can tell you that the salary is way higher.

          What i just meant was, at that time, what made me give up was not the salary. It was what I had to work with. There were actually strikes of the government’s lanoratories, not to claim for salaries up but only to buy materials in order to do the job.

          I don’t think a 25k/year salary for a job that doesn’t require a grade is THAT bad around Lenton, the only reserve I have is the capacity of GW to leave you the freedom to express your art or at least canalizing it so that you like what you do.

          Salary is something, going at work with the feeling you’re at the place you’re born to be is another.

    • Grafton Is Dust

      I get paid less to design and build electronic systems for the offshore industry.

      Wages in Britain are terrible right now.

      • euansmith

        Can’t you use you position to syphon off a few billion barrels of Brent Crude and sell it down the pub carpark out of the back of a van?

        • Grafton Is Dust

          That stuff sells for less than a KFC family bucket these days.

      • benn grimm

        Sorry to hear that, must be a struggle. I think the so-called economic crisis has been very convenient a lot of big firms, as they have an excuse to pay the way they’ve always wanted to. The death of the power of the unions in the 80’s was a big contributor to that as well I’d say; people nowadays are just so much less aware of the value of their work. It’s funny how as wages have been frozen for the peons(shrunk in some cases), the bonuses for the fat cats just keep on getting bigger. The moneys still there, they’ve just gotten better at keeping it for themselves

        • Grafton Is Dust

          I work for the oil industry, so I know exactly what you mean.

    • Captain Raptor

      Well said!

    • euansmith

      I used to get paid pretty well by Marvel and DC back in 1990s; not lawyer money or accountant money, but it was pretty sweet none the less.

      • benn grimm

        That’s good to hear, I grew up loving those companies, so it was a big kick in the nether to find out how badly they treated their talent. I met Todd MacFarlane at a convention, about ten years ago, I was doing a research project on the whole situation at the time and it was amazing to hear from the horses mouth so to speak. But he didn’t appear bitter or angry, just very emphatic that the old ways had had to be gotten rid of.

        It isn’t all about money, though that is a big deal. What really irks me more than that, is how still, after so many years, these companies are still ripping kids off for their ideas. IP is massive now, and should be some-how written into the bill of human rights; it is not acceptable and should not ever be considered acceptable to put clauses into contracts that steal a persons creative input FOR ALL TIME. If you come up with a concept, a product etc etc, even as part of a team, you should own the credit for production of it. If the company wants it they should pay for it and keep paying for it, but ownership should always remain with the creator, until death, at which point it becomes public property (imo and sorry for the rant… ;)).

        • WH100M

          Yes I kind of like that. But I can sense an issue in some cases, i.e. what to do with all the alternate versions of made by 50 different authors once it’s public domain ?

          What if what is made of the creator’s universe goes again what he created ?

          • benn grimm

            Well that happens already; the other day I was looking for a digital version of Flashman’s Lady on amazon, and a whole bunch of books featuring Flashman, that weren’t written by George Macdonald Fraser, popped up on screen. My curiosity piqued I read an extract; absolutely dreadful, like fan fic of the worst kind. I’ll never buy it, but i’m quite happy for it to exist. Really, these guys would be better served coming up with their own original ideas, but it is great that they have the freedom to do what they want, even if it a bit rubbish.

          • WH100M

            I understand that from the reader/consumer point of view. However from the authors’ point of view, I’m not so sure I’d like that. If I was a creator, and I created a successfull hero saga, with certain values in it, I wouldn’t like to know that there could be successfull copy of my work, with for instance a completely commercial mindset that makes it a basic endless repetition of tasteless adventure stories. I say that because most of the superhero production from DC and Marvel is just that.
            For instance, I would have never done what George Lucas has done with Star Wars. Let pure commercial entertainment cash machine do endless reboot of my original work.
            But maybe that’s just me.

          • benn grimm

            Yeah and on the whole I totally agree, while the creator is alive. After you’re dead it doesn’t matter, because you’re dead. 😉 Lucas chose to sell Star Wars, most people don’t get that chance. The guys who came up with Tom n Jerry didn’t even get paid properly for it when they made it and they’ve never been properly credited or paid since. First and foremost, creators need ownership enshrined in good practice, we can worry about the ‘after death’ etc clause later 😉

        • euansmith

          I felt faint when I heard that 2,000AD kept all the artwork from the early issues in a cellar and used to use pages to mop up puddles…

          • benn grimm

            Its crazy how little the oiks who get to be in charge know about the stuff they’re in charge of. Did you hear about how the BBC were about to tape over a whole bunch of Monty Python, till Gilliam stepped in and bought up the tapes? Crazy. But I guess there must be certain benefits to your boss not really understanding what you do…;)

          • euansmith

            Apparently Bob Monkhouse swiped a whole pile of Dr Who tapes from the BBC because they were going to be recycled. Many of the “missing tapes” that turned up when the BBC started reissuing them on VHS came from a chest in his attic.

          • benn grimm

            Good ol’ Bob, now there was a character! I miss that guy, I saw him live once, I was only little and with my parents, he was doing a routine about the first president Bush and I remember he kept pretending to jump out of imaginary bushes, whilst saying ‘behind the Bush’ loudly. There were lots of other words he used, I’m sure of it, but I was only little and that was what stuck 🙂

  • MPSwift

    While I wouldn’t want to defend a company for paying a crap wage (mainly because paying employees poorly is, in my opinion one of the reasons for the financial crisis – no disposable income = people using credit they can’t afford from banks that are out of control…) it is worth noting that the majority of British companies have hiked most people’s wages across the board due to the increase in minimum wage in April to just over £7 an hour meaning that the average should go from about £26k to £27-8k. In addition to that the jobs will almost certainly be based in the Nottingham site which is an area that has a much lower cost of living than other areas (such as Bournemouth where I am, and obviously London). So, yes the pay is low but it *should* increase every year from now until 2020 as the minimum wage comes up and your money would go further in the area you’d be living.

    • Big Fat Fred

      “While I wouldn’t want to defend a company for paying a crap wage (mainly because paying employees poorly is, in my opinion one of the reasons for the financial crisis ”

      Marxist 😉

      • MPSwift

        Less that more that it is easier to stimulate a capitalist economy when people actually have money to spend :P.

        • WH100M

          Well tax havens are also to be pointed out. Huge corporations not paying for their bandwith of countries infrastructions, living all those costs on the individual taxpayers.

          You mention increase until 2020, does your business case includes brexit ?

          • MPSwift

            The increases aren’t linked to brexit, they are the increases the Conservatives are implementing over the next 4 years incrementally to reach a “living wage” (ish) of £9 per hour by 2020. It was announced as a part of last year’s budget.

        • Ben_S

          Keynesian!

  • Ed Butlar

    So how much do the other gaming companies pay?

    • Grafton Is Dust

      A lot of them tend to hire novice sculpters and operate on a shoestring budget, hence why startup companies like Mantic and Knight have God-awful sculpts when starting up.

      So not much, I imagine.

  • Thedinosaur

    This just in: unskilled workers paid less.

    Seriously you’re kidding yourself if you think these sorts of jobs are highly paid. This is one of those “do it for the love” jobs.

    • Patriarch

      I disagree that these jobs are unskilled.

      Generally younger people with imagination, written English skills and enthusiasm more than experience, but I don’t believe just anyone can do these jobs.

      As with all companies, the employer pays as little as they think they can get away with, depending on the competition and the labour pool for these roles. Not particularly evil, just economics.

      From what I’ve read on the subject, I gather FFG (for instance) aren’t regarded as good payers in the States either. I don’t think it’s just a GW thing.

      • WellSpokenMan

        If it doesn’t require post graduate work and some kind of certification, it’s unskilled by some people’s standards.
        Labor Economics is a murky place. A firefighter in NYC with a couple of years on the job makes $45k. The minimum salary of a Major League Baseball player is over 10 times that amount. The worst paid player in the Major Leagues makes twice what a US Supreme Court Justice makes. Supply and demand only go so far to explain wages.

      • Local Ork

        Most 14 years old can see loopholes (both logic and due to faulty spelling) and see why 90% of Codex options never get chosen.

        I dare to say it take “special” qualifications to produce garbage GW pulls. Probably why they get paid so low.

    • MPSwift

      They frequently hire CAD modellers from the University of Nottingham out of the back of 3 year degrees… not exactly unskilled labour. Average salary of a UK graduate is around the £24,000 mark so if they are earning £18-20k then they are falling behind a bit.

    • eldarconvert .

      says the man working in the account department lol

  • eldarconvert .

    I think once you know about the painters and the designer ranking low in the scale of the whole the company then its obvious why the company is going down hill fast, no one is being payed enough to be inspired to make some thing truly great instead of just following Blind old Jervis off a cliff

  • Captain Raptor

    Unfortunate that the pay is so low but I think it’s the same story for most large companies from what I’ve seen. That being said there’s nothing wrong with taking a lower salary to do something that you love as long as you can make ends meet.

    • Muninwing

      i’m a public school teacher, so i understand what you are saying.

      in college, i left the engineering program i was in when i got a vision of my life in ten years… cubicles and projects… and i realized how miserable i’d be. so i found something else i thought i’d enjoy far more, even if the money was lesser.

      • Marky

        Cool, I am paying my house off then I’m going to do a job I want to do when I’m 40.

  • nurglitch

    Well duh.

  • Stan

    They don’t even sign their work anymore, whats the point?