Sales in the videogame industry have been declining for more than three years, due in no small part to competition from mobile devices. Yet it's still a field that's creating high-net-worth individuals at a rapid clip.
On average, rank-and-file videogame professionals pocket more than $81,000 per year, according to a study by Game Developer Magazine. That alone is nearly double what the typical American takes home. But a few game-box heroes (who undoubtedly weren't part of that study) blow the curve.
So, who are the richest people in gaming today? Click ahead to find out.
By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 5 June 2012
The co-founder of Valve Software and creator of the Steam digital distribution service, Newell has been on gaming's cutting edge for more than 16 years. This year, he became a recognized member of the billionaires club, with Forbes Magazine estimating his worth at $1.5 billion — a figure that could continue to grow as digital delivery becomes more common.
As president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, Mattrick is responsible for overseeing all things Xbox. Before that, he headed up worldwide studios at Electronic Arts — and cashed in $21 million in options before leaving the company. Married to the daughter of a major Canadian telecom founder, Mattrick works in Seattle but calls Vancouver home, where he lives in a 25,000-square-foot estate that was valued at $28 million Canadian in 2008.
The creator of the Ultima role-playing game series, Garriott now runs Portalarium, which focuses on social gaming. His success has allowed him to explore other fields of interest, including spaceflight. In 2008, he flew to the International Space Station, reportedly paying $30 million for the 12-day journey. His Austin, Texas, home, is filled with hidden passages and is for sale for just over $4 million.
The CEO of Activision’s aggressive attitude has made Kotick plenty of enemies, while making the company the industry's biggest player. Last year, his earnings jumped 46 percent to $8.3 million from $5.6 million the year before, but that was down from $40 million in 2009, when his stock options were at an all-time high. Nongamers got a look at Kotick in his uncredited cameo in the Brad Pitt film "Moneyball" as the (fictional) owner of the Oakland A's.
Game developers have dubbed the 84-year-old former chairman of Nintendo "the mean old man" because of his unpopular business deals. His riches — he was once the third-richest person in Japan and is now no. 11 — may be a balm for the unkind words. Yamauchi ran Nintendo for 55 years before retiring in 2005 and is still the largest individual shareholder. He's also owns a majority stake of the Seattle Mariners, though he has never seen the team play in person.
The "Call of Duty" creators parted bitterly with Activision, but may have come out on the winning end of a recent settlement — details are being kept confidential, but Activision hinted that had the current quarter not been performing beyond expectations, the settlement could have impacted its earnings. West and Zampella were already sitting comfortably with the millions in bonuses from better days. Their next franchise, for Electronic Arts, will likely only add to their pile.
As co-founder of Bungie, Jones was a key figure in bringing the "Halo" franchise to life. That series has sold more than 40 million games since 2001, and when "Halo 3" was released in 2007 it was the biggest consumer-product launch ever.
Jones is the key creative person at the company, and except for his leadership in the developers’ movement to break Microsoft’s domination of the industry, he tends to avoid the public eye. These days, Bungie has a 10-year publishing deal with Activision — one that likely came at a premium after EA acquired the rights to West and Zampella's next franchise, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Take Two Interactive Entertainment has twice re-signed the Houser brothers to multi-year deals, avoiding bidding wars for the creators of the "Grand Theft Auto" franchise. Their compensation has never been disclosed, but we can extrapolate from Sam’s recent purchase of the Brooklyn mansion where Truman Capote wrote "Breakfast at Tiffany's" for $12.5 million — the most ever paid for a house in the New York borough.
If Activision ever cast off the leader of its Blizzard Entertainment studio, the severance package stipulated in his contract would be twice that of CEO Kotick’s. Morhaime is not the highest paid person in the industry by any means, but with Blizzard planning to release at least two (perhaps even three) titles this year, 2012 could be a banner year for him.
Zynga's IPO didn't set the stock market on fire; neither, famously, did Facebook’s. But Zynga’s co-founder owns such a large hunk in both companies, including a majority stake in his own company, that his net worth is still substantial. Forbes estimated his fortune at $1.2 billion before Facebook went public. As of this writing, you can add another $115 million.