New NYC pay law gives us a rare insight into what game devs really make

An image of Kiryu from Yakuza 0 presenting the camera a briefcase full of cash.
(Image credit: Sega)

A new law in New York City is giving us an unusual insight into the earnings of game developers at some of the world's biggest game studios, Axios reports. The law requires that—as of November 1—companies in NYC must include a "good faith salary range" for the jobs they advertise, game studios included.

NYC isn't exactly a hub for game development, but it is home to offices from heavy-hitters like Rockstar, Take-Two, Activision, and Epic. New York job listings posted by those companies have revealed what you can expect to earn working for some of the world's biggest games companies in one of the most expensive cities on Earth.

Rockstar is first up and most extensive, ranging widely—depending on job type and seniority—from $50k to $57k for an associate dialogue designer all the way up to nearly $200k for the company's various open director positions. Those are all above NYC's median individual income for 2020 (about $34k), but with the city's infamously extortionate rent prices, I suspect Rockstar's new associate dialogue designers have a lengthy commute in their future. 

Take-Two, Rockstar's parent company, offers comparable pay for similar positions. Activision only has a single NYC-based job open currently, so we can only tell that a measurement lead position—a marketing analytics job requiring five or more years of experience—will net you anywhere between $77k to $114k a year. Predictably, none of these companies have extended the new pay transparency policy to areas outside NYC, so we can't even compare Activision's pay in New York to the pay it offers people in similar positions elsewhere.

Anyway, get ready to be depressed, because if you want to make the big bucks in NYC, you need to work as a product marketing director of metaverse development for Epic. Pulling anywhere from $197k to over a quarter of a million dollars of a year, you'll get to play a leading role in Epic's metaverse ambitions, whatever they are and whatever that means. Probably something to do with legs.

It's not all bad: Epic does seem to pay relatively well even for positions that aren't shepherding us toward dystopia. A data analyst can expect anything from $126k to $163k, while more senior roles start out at around $160k and hit $210k at the high end. Just, you know, someone is probably going to ask you to do some metaverse nonsense at some point.

The pay transparency law is a rare glimpse into the usually opaque world of games industry salaries, and similar laws are about to come into effect in Washington and California. With any luck, they won't be the last. We could all do with being more open about our salaries: It makes it a lot harder to get taken for a ride.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.