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In comparison to the U.S.A., there seem to be far less leading or successful game companies in Europe.

The recent salary survey of GameCareerGuide shows that the average salary of a games programmer in Europe is only 46k versus 80k in the U.S.A. While only 378 European developers replied to the survey, 1014 developers from the States provided usable feedback, which might also indicate that there are less people employed in game development in Europe.

What makes it so much harder to develop games professionally, both AAA, indie and casual in European countries?

Note: the total number of game companies in both continents seems to be rather equal (see wikipedia for a complete list, around 117 companies are U.S based versus 106 European). But we have to take into account that, although North America is 2.5 times larger than Europe, there are many more people living in Europe than in the States (731,000,000 versus 309,944,000).

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By the way, I suspect most answers without hard numbers and research are going to verge on nationalism and possibly racism, so I'm not really sure I'd like to see this question stay open. –  user744 Aug 17 '10 at 15:00
    
Please, if you use hard numbers, provide references. I observed the facts and wondered upon their origin: the question is open for anyone to provide insights. One good point would be sponsorship, which is provided by the state in Canada for games like Assassin's Creed. I never heard of such sponsorships in Europe, but I'm don't know for sure. I believe that there are people in here who will be able to give insightful and useful views upon the stated question. –  Nef Aug 17 '10 at 15:11
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I don't feel this is a fair study; there could be other reasons the USA had greater response, for example perhaps this "GameCareerGuide" is most popular in the USA and has few subscribers in the Europe. Or perhaps there's a more "serious" game developing periodical available in Europe that the more professional game developers subscribe to. I feel this is terribly biased towards the USA. –  Ricket Aug 17 '10 at 15:23
    
"It is not harder" is also a good answer :-) People like Richard already stated that, "the people I know (pro game dev) are definitely getting nearer the U.S. pay level" so if more people can confirm this, we can decide that the survey was biased. However, some facts would be nice :-) –  Nef Aug 17 '10 at 15:33
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-1, subjective and argumentative. –  Tetrad Aug 17 '10 at 17:19
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closed as not constructive by JasonD, Tetrad Aug 17 '10 at 21:26

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6 Answers

There are a number of costs that go into game development beyond salary. While base pay is lower in the EU, when combined with higher taxes, property costs, and Euro vs. USD$ exchange rate fluctuations development costs in EU are often higher than in NA. At least for the big western European nations (UK/Germany) where the salaries are higher then that average. Salaries in East Europe are still very low so places like Croatia or Ukraine are interesting from an outsourcing standpoint because they do offer a lower cost. But outsourcing teams rarely get the sort of higher profile projects that can make them truly successful.

The lower cost of NA development means it's much easier to start a new company in the US, more companies means more chances that one is a big success. There is also a general momentum that happens in the development community. Highly successful teams tend to lead to individuals branching off and building new companies which have a greater chance of forming more successful teams in the surrounding area. Most of the development in NA is based around these sorts of hubs in SF, LA, Seattle, Austin/Dallas and in Vancouver and Montreal in Canada.

Also it should be noted that these things do change. Japan used to be absolutely dominant in the console space a couple of generations ago. Today NA seems more dominant. Some of this comes from a number of long time strong PC developers moving into the console space. Epic, Bungie, Valve and the 2015 core of Infinity Ward were all PC-only teams that have transitioned to building console titles.

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The domestic market is huge in the U.S. and thus it's much easier for any company/industry to succeed. In Europe, you have to cross borders to get a market. It's not really directly related to the game development business.

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I don't know, but I think it might just be a culture thing. Certain countries specialise in certain industries and are then driven by momentum as skilled people move between different businesses in the industry that are located nearby, or set up satellite companies.

I also think you can't easily compare the USA to "Europe" because Europe isn't one homogeneous state but many different places with different cultures (eg. working hours), languages (23 official in the EU alone), standards of living (the average Luxembourg citizen has a GDP 14x higher than one from Romania), different laws and currencies, etc.

It's also interesting to note that Eidos were a UK company and Ubisoft are a French company, and they have both had a massive impact on the industry, so there's certainly precedent for success in Europe. (Although both had the advantage of being well established in one form or another during the 80s.)

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You can't take Europe as one blob and make any meaningful comparisons with the US. The cost of living in e.g. Greece is quite a bit lower than the US, so it doesn't matter if your salary is lower.

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Localisation?

No, but seriously, It might be something to do with all the game-dev closures. Now isn't a good time to be taking polls.

I'm probably quite horrible in that I think that this might be do do with who actually fills in the forms. I think that the polls respondents are the subset that wants to divulge their details. In europe, the underdog is more prone to whinge about their state of unfair pay. In the U.S. there's a contingent that wants to boast. Maybe the proportions are right to make a difference to the results?

In any effect, I'm aware that a lot of the people I know (pro game dev) are definitely getting nearer the U.S. pay level, if not over it, so I'm not sure of the validity of the whole thing.

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A detail might be that the education quality across US is relatively consistent whereas a fair part of Europe lacks (or lacked) that, so there's just less programmer output. Also, immigration is still a fair step in ones life. Same for access to computers, in the US everyone and his dog had a game system as a kid, in Eastern Europe they're still catching up (fast though).
Also, it's much easier to move from, say, LA to NY for a job, than it is to move from Poland to the Netherlands, as there's the language issue which you won't have within the US. So it's easier to fill positions in US as you can source from a much larger pool (heck most Europeans speak English, but good luck finding a French speaking coder in the US if you have a French office).

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