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GigaMedia Acquires Games Development Team

GigaMedia Ltd.'s China online games platform Jidi Joy has acquired a specialized Web-based social games development team in Shanghai and expects to roll out the first of its new proprietary social network games in March.

"We are making rapid progress in China, positioning ourselves to benefit from two powerful market forces in online games: the ongoing shift into Web and mobile platforms and the continued strong popularity and growth of social games," stated Jidi Joy CEO John Huen. "Web-based and social games are projected by industry analysts to grow at up to triple-digit rates in China – faster than traditional client-based or PC games."

"This SNS-focused R&D team is a crucial extension of our business in China," stated Jidi Joy CEO John Huen. "Beta testing is now scheduled for late March 2012; we expect to launch multiple new games in China this year on our platform as well as on high-traffic social networking portals and are excited about the opportunities this creates for us."

The cornerstone of GigaMedia's growth initiatives in China, Jidi Joy is a developer and operator of online games in Shanghai. The company is led by a team of industry veterans and is a fully-licensed, full-service online game platform with ISO 9001 certified customer service and technical support.

University Game Design Programs Explode

The number of programs in video game design, development and programming continues to rise at American colleges, universities, art and trade schools. According to new research from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), American colleges and universities will offer 343 programs in game design, development, and programming, including 301 undergraduate and 42 graduate programs, during the 2011-12 academic year.

"It is encouraging to see so many institutions of higher learning preparing students for careers in our creative and high-tech industry," said Rich Taylor, senior vice president for communications and industry affairs at the ESA, the trade association representing US computer and videogame publishers. "With an increasing number of schools now offering graduate programs in game design and development, students have even greater access to the training they need to meet this growing demand."

Students interested in game design and development careers can choose from a broad range of degrees and geographic options. Schools offer programs ranging from professional certificates and associate degrees to master's degrees and doctorate programs. This year's list includes graduate programs such as the Game Design and Development program at Rochester Institute of Technology, the Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development program at Southern Methodist University, the Game Development program at DePaul University and the Serious Game Design Program at Michigan State University.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are home to schools offering design and development programs. California remains at the forefront of this educational field, with 54 institutions of higher learning offering game-related programs, followed by Texas (24), Illinois (20), Florida (18), New York (15), Minnesota (14), Massachusetts (13), Arizona (10), Michigan (10), and Pennsylvania (10).

The continued growth of videogame programs coincides with the overall growth of the entertainment software industry. Computer and videogame sales in 2010 totaled US $25.1 billion and game companies now directly and indirectly employ more than 120,000 people in 34 states. 

Game Developers Win Higher Salaries

The American mainstream videogame industry--including salaried participants in the AAA console and emerging social/online game areas--saw a 7 percent salary increase in 2010 over 2009, according to Game Developer magazine's annual salary survey.

Annual full-time salaries reached an average of $80,817, while independent contractors earned an average of $55,493, and self-identified "independent game" team members trailed with a $26,780 average, up $6,000 from the previous year, the survey found.

Programmers continue to be some of the highest paid talent in both the console and online game industry, after production and those in the business and legal sectors, with an average annual salary of $85,733. Salaries for programmers increased some $5,000 over 2009 numbers, except in entry-level positions, which saw a $1,000 decrease in salary.

Artist and animator salaries hold steady at $71,354, with the slight bump in compensation coming from pay raises for art directors. Game designers earned slightly more, with average salaries of $70,223. And after seeing an overall salary dip in 2009, producers rebounded with a more than $13,000 increase, for a total average salary of $88,544, the Game Developer magazine survey indicated.

Sound designers and composers earned an average of $68,088, with 15 percent of respondents reporting that they earned less than in 2009. The category typically has a low response rate, due to the fact that there are few full-time audio professionals employed in games, but individuals in the field are those most likely to receive royalties for their work.

Home to many entry-level game industry positions, quality assurance remains the lowest paid discipline, with an average salary of $49,009 being reported. Business and legal employees remain the highest paid in the industry across all levels of experience, with the average salary being reported at $106,452. Along with having the second-highest numbers for female representation, those working in business and legal are also more likely to receive additional compensation, with 85 percent of respondents reporting that they had.

Salaried respondents stated that working in the traditional structure is "frustrating," lamenting that larger studios are "trimming talent" and crunching harder. Meanwhile, independent developers, though they made far less money, felt the industry was more fertile and innovative than ever, praising the arrival of new platforms and revenue streams, even going so far as to call 2010 "the year of the indie."

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