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There seems to be a lot of turnover in the game industry. I'm curious what the average job length is for game developers.

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I should have added that I'm assuming the company is stable. Turnover in companies causing a job change is another matter :) –  Tim Holt Mar 11 '11 at 1:16
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There is no such thing as a stable games studio (with the only 2 exceptions being Blizzard and Valve, as they have massive non-conventional sources of income - WoW subs and Steam?). Anyone else can go from a huge success to mass layoffs/studio closure within a year. If you work for any of the big publishers, or even the first-parties, expect annual redundancies as they approach their year end! –  bluescrn Mar 11 '11 at 8:50
    
Like the salary question, I am -1ing any personal anecdotes. This is an objective question with numerical answers; that you don't have the answer is not an excuse to commit statistical crimes. –  user744 Mar 11 '11 at 11:46
    
@Tim: If you want to ignore turnover from instability, you might want to ask about career length or total years in the industry, rather than job length. –  user744 Mar 11 '11 at 11:48
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@Joe: How very generous of you. Surely that's your opinion which, too, is subjective. I'm +1 industry 'anecdotes' as I think they are relevant. –  Luther Mar 11 '11 at 12:23

6 Answers 6

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Average time in a job at a single company or average time in the industry before total burnout?

Since the industry is project based job length tends to be directly associated with product cycles.

The is often the result of the post ship layoff. Companies tend to dump staff once a project ships since they don't need a full production team for pre-production on the next project. Now the nicer companies tend to use temporary contract hires for short term production staffing needs. This lets the employee know that they likely don't have a paycheck when the project ends. However the big publishers regularly cut even full time staff once the xmas games are sent to manufacturing.

The other piece is that when finishing up a title employees are more likely to look around at other options. If you've just shipped your third football title and are burned out on the genre you tend to wait until the game is done and then find another job somewhere else.

While there are some devs that have spent an entire career at a single company, what is far more common is finishing 1-2 games at a developer and then moving off to another one.

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My experience, in numbers:

  • 10.5 years (starting in summer 2000)
  • 6 studios. 3 redundancies, a 4th looking likely.
  • 4 moves, to jobs in new towns/cities
  • 8 shipped titles (4 in the first 3 years)
  • 3 cancelled console projects
  • 8+ platforms (GBA,DS,PC,Xbox,PS2,Wii,360,PS3)
  • Team sizes ranging from 6 to over 100
  • 1 case of severe burnout/depression...

This is maybe a little worse than average, but not entirely unusual... The industry has always been unstable, but in the last couple of years it's gone from bad to near-meltdown. Not sure if new hardware is going to save it this time, or just make things worse...

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That's pretty bad bro. Don't let the b@$7*£"s grind you down. –  Luther Mar 11 '11 at 11:21

Programmers average 5 years... I am not sure about the rest of the professions as I am just a programmer :)

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5 years really? –  Notabene Mar 11 '11 at 1:05
    
I've heard 5 years quoted as an average games industry career length. Seems a bit high for a single job. I'd guesstimate that 2-3 years would be more common if you just looked at the last 5 years or so. Before that, things were a bit more stable, studios were more likely to work on multiple projects, so had a chance of surviving a cancelled project - unlike today's 'all eggs in one basket' situations –  bluescrn Mar 11 '11 at 8:47
    
5 years is the Average a general programmer will stay programming video games. I know it sounds low and lame and who wouldn't want to make video games forever. But crunch times can really take a toll, especially when working directly for some of the larger publishers. On AAA titles you will be spending 16 hours a day, 7 days a week for about 6 months at the end of the project.. After a few of these people start getting burnt out.. So again, its just an average.. as for studio hopping, thats a common occurrence and usually matches the end of a project, released or not. –  James Mar 14 '11 at 16:38

Worked QA at EA Burnaby on 4 and a bit titles, call it 2.5 years. Worked QA at Radical on Scarface: TWIY, let go at end of project so about 1 year. Worked at United Front Games on True Crime: Hong Kong, let go at end of contract so 1 year.

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At my company there are quite a few developers who've been here more than 10 years and some for the entire length of the company. Turn over is higher at the end of projects and I think some people have itchier feet than others. Turn over is pretty low here I think - certainly I've been in this job longer than another other I've had (4 1/2 years so far).

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I have several friends at Ubisoft that have been working there for more than 15 years now.

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There's a lot of luck involved. Over 10 years in one job happens, but it's increasingly rare. But for people that started 15 years ago, they are likely to be in management/lead positions, or real specialists in their fields. Those people tend to be less at risk when the redundancies hit. –  bluescrn Mar 11 '11 at 8:44
    
thats lucky for any job you get into. If I took a programming job anywhere, it would be lucky to stay there for more than 5 or so years. Unless its government/union –  Spooks Mar 11 '11 at 22:22

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