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Golden State still golden for game industry employment with 4 out of 10 jobs in California

August 10, 2010 |  4:12 pm

California retained its crown as the No. 1 spot for game industry employment, with a whopping 41.3% of the jobs in the sector in 2009, according to a report released Tuesday by the industry trade group Entertainment Software Assn.

ESA State Employment ReportCalifornia's share was nearly four times that of runner up Texas, which had a 10.5% share (see ESA's chart on the right).

What's more, workers in California are paid more than their counterparts in the rest of the nation. Average annual compensation in 2009 came to $97,694 per employee in the state, compared with $89,781 for the U.S.

Nationwide, the game industry employed 32,031 workers last year, up 25% from 24,007 in 2006. That figure includes employees at shops with fewer than five workers, whereas the chart only counts companies with five or more workers.

Sales of software were $10.5 billion in 2009, compared with $144.3 billion for total consumer software, which includes non-fun "productivity" products such as Microsoft Office.

The ESA report contained a few clouds, including a 4.5% drop in the average compensation, from $93,852 in 2008 to $89,781 last year. The report did not go to great lengths to explain this erosion in salaries, attributing it to simply "the recessionary climate."

Another explanation could lie in a concerted effort by game publishers over the last two years to shift jobs toward "low-cost" locations. As of March, 22% of the workers at Electronic Arts, for example, were in low-cost areas, up from 18% a year earlier. This trend does not bode well for states such as California and New York, where average wages are higher. That could also explain why California's share of total game industry employees fell slightly, from 41.8% in 2007 to 41.3% last year.

The report was based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and from the website, which identifies game studios throughout the world.

-- Alex Pham

Chart: The Entertainment Software Assn.