I've been in the software industry for quite some while though my primary interest has been game development. I keep hearing about how the game industry is one of the most terrible for working in compared to other software areas, due to low average salaries and long hours. Remember the EA incident a while ago where one of the wifes spoke out against this? I'm wondering if this is still true nowadays, or has things changed?
For example, for an experienced developer, it's quite easy to find a job with around $150K in salary in Silicon Valley. Do game development companies pay similar and have reasonable hours?
Uhm... well, I live in different country - and you will get here more likely $30K (~$50K before taxes come in) in salary as experienced software developer (and for older colleagues of mine, it's a nightmare to search for jobs).
As for game developers, I know just about indies around me, and well I'm not quite sure whether I can count them.
My experience is that things haven't really changed much since the famous EA Spouse event. I think companies are generally more aware that employees will complain about crunch and that therefore it will end up looking bad for them. But on the whole, large amounts of crunch does still happen from place to place. And you're not going to get paid as highly as someone at a Silicon Valley startup, not even close.
Game companies are becoming increasingly aware that they need to have reasonable work-life balance for employees and that they just can't burn out people in few years to have sustainable business. There's a history in game industry where people just willingly did all-nighters because it was fun to work in games and hang around with your pals, and they were all young with full of energy. This mentality is still in the back of the head of some old-school developers, but attitudes are changing. Over the years the industry has matured, the average age has increased and people appreciate the life outside of work. The game industry is becoming more like any other industry in that sense. Some companies make people crunch more than others, and I think this is an issue more in the states than anywhere else in the world, but then you also get better compensation. I haven't worked outside of game industry, but I believe crunches are part of most software development companies though.
I personally find game industry good place to work. If you have good amount of experience in the game industry you can get quite well compensated, but I'm pretty sure that with similar experience you would get few tens of thousand of $ more in other industries. You can check the 2013 salary survey to have some idea of salary levels in the states. For me it's not only the money though but being able to work on things I'm passionate about, so that alone is worth the difference I feel. Also some things to look at is what's your expected hourly income (not annual), which is influenced by the overtime you have to put it, and the cost of living and taxation. Silicon Valley is notoriously expensive place to live so be sure to check that when comparing options.
Hey, I am from Romania and here a medium-to-high income for a developer in general is between 1200-200 euros/month, taking into consideration that I live in the second largest city in the country. But with indie devs is a different story, I know a few with a small success story (who can pay their living out of their own games), but most of them have a job and keep their projects as a hobby.
Market of indie game developers is pretty crowded. The success stories is The factor that attracts more game developers to enter this industry. However, the most majority have a job on the side. You always have to try, to see where its gonna take you. But my honest advice - be realistic and if you will decide to go for it have your plans A,B,C and D of financing ready. Its a risk and the possibility to cut through depends on many factors.