Software Vs. Game Development: Where Is The Money?

Written By John Sonmez

Software development is a big big world. Just like any other area, there are a lot of paths you can pursue, with a lot of different specializations and things to do.

One of the most common questions from newbie (and even experienced) developers is the difference between software and game development, especially when it comes to its career viability.

Where is the money? Can you actually make money as a game developer? Or should you pursue software development if you want to make money? What are the upsides and downsides of game development?

Watch this video and find out!

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: Hey, what's up? John Sonmez here from Hey, I just want to give a quick thanks to one of our sponsors at Simple Programmer which is DevMountain Bootcamp. You should go check them out. The link is in the description. They are a coding bootcamp and they can teach you web development, iOS development, UX design, a lot of good stuff. I get a lot of feedback from a lot of you out there that email me have told me about DevMountain, so I decided to check them out myself. I like what I found. I like their programs. They offer some 12-week intensive programs. They also offer some after-hours programs which I know that some of you will like. Go check them out. You can see the link in the description below, DevMountain Bootcamp. A big thank you to them for sponsoring Simple Programmer.

I got a question about software versus game development. This is something that I've addressed a few times. I think we should probably have a game development playlist by now. You can check that out if you want to see my answers to questions on game development. I've never actually been a professional game developer although I have developed some games and I have taught some PluralSight courses.

This question is from Dogukan, I think. He says, “Hey John, I know you've answered some game programming topics, but mine is a little different. I'm 16 and I have a passion for game programming, but in my country there isn't a lot of jobs but there are for software development.” Awesome that you're 16 and you—I wish I would have gotten a start like some of you have. I get emails from some of you that are 14, 15, 16, 17, that's pretty awesome.

He says, “My question is: Which should I choose? I would much rather prefer Game development and if I'm going to pick one, I have to give my full focus on becoming the best of that.” Damn right! Good! I like your attitude. You have to give your full focus on becoming the best of it. I totally agree. “I thought about going abroad but I don't know what is life actually like there. I need your help. Additional info, I'm 16, proficient in C++, memory management, AI and Unreal Engine 4.” Wow! That's quite a resume at 16.

Okay, I'm going to start off by recommending a book that you should read which is a book by Cal Newport it's called So Good They Can't Ignore You. That book is all about choosing your career, essentially, choosing the path in life that you go not necessarily based on your passion. Now, I'm not saying that you're choosing based on your passion. I mean obviously you're a pretty logical guy. It's pretty smart to say that whatever you're going to do, you're going to be the best at it. I totally like that approach, but that book might help you and it might help some of you out there that are really like, “Ah, I got to find my passion” and trying to figure out what makes sense.

One of the really good things that he says in this book, he's basically like—he's basically like, “Look, pick the thing that's going to make the most logical sense for what you're trying to achieve in life that's going to give you the kind of life that you want, not necessarily the thing that you love so much. Keep that as a side job, but essentially pick the wisest choice.”

The reason why I'm saying that is because in your situation, if your country, if you want to stay where you're at there's really not an opportunity for game development, but there's a lot of opportunity for software development in general, you might want to just pick that. You might want to say, “You know what, maybe I'll do have development as a hobby or on the side, but I'm going to put my full focus into software development” specifically niche down as well. I'll give you a link to my blog or my blog course. I've got a blogging course on how to create a blog to boost your career and I talk about how to niche down in that, but that's really important. When you just say software development I don’t think that's good enough. Even when you're saying game development you need to niche down further if you're going to go down that route.

I would say, again, if you're going to stay in your country and there's not a game development opportunities that's going to be tough. If you really, really want to do this, that's fine and you really want to stay where you're at, but just recognize that you might not make a lot of money. You might have to do this totally independently and it's really difficult to be an independent game developer. Believe me, I know a lot of them, and it's really, really hard. It's like being a starving artist. But you know what, money is not the most important thing in life. If that fulfills you and you enjoy doing that and you can get by doing that, then hey, I mean that could be the life that you want. You got to really think about these things.

But I would also say that if this really is your passion. I shouldn't use the word passion because I just pointed you to the book where it said don't follow your passion. If this is really what you want to do, and you're willing to pay the price for it and this is the thing that you feel is your purpose and that you feel like game development is just the thing that you've got to be doing then just go abroad if you have the opportunity to. Yeah, it might be scary. Yeah, you might not know what to expect, but you know what, think about it like this. Sometimes I try to fast forward my life so that I can get perspective. I say, “Well, what's it going to be like in 3 years from now?”

When I first started this YouTube video and I was like committing to doing a couple of videos a day, and I upped that, I was like, “Man, that's a lot of commitment. It's hard to come up with ideas. I'm nervous in front of the camera.” But then I fast forwarded and I said, “Okay, how comfortable will I be in 3 years? What will my channel look like? What will my videos look like in 3 years? That helped me. Same thing here, fast forward your life and say, “Okay, yeah, moving abroad might be scary. I might not know anyone. I might not speak the language. It might be weird customs, I might not be used to it.” But if you've been living abroad for 3 years, imagine how it will feel. It will feel comfortable, it will feel normal, you'll adjust to that.

A lot of times what prevents us from doing things—the reason why we have fear in life is because there's the unknown element. If you fast forward 3 years in the future, almost in all cases you can realize that the unknown will be solved and then that fear can dissipate and go away. I wouldn't let the fear of the unknown stop you from pursuing this, but again, this might not be your best choice. You have to logically decide. Again, whatever decisions that you make, go all in with it, give yourself the best opportunity for succeeding with it. Like I said, I think if you go into game development, if you got to go abroad, do it. Or just be an independent game developer and say, “I don't care about making money. I just want to do this. This is just what I want to do.” That's totally fine. Make that choice. Or just say, “Hey, look, I'd like to do game development on the side, but it's not practical. It's not pragmatic. I want to have other things in life and I want to be successful in my career so I'm going to go in software development t in my country and I'm going to devote my focus to that and then I'll maybe do some game development on the side.”

Coincidentally that's the choice that I made. When I went into software development I really wanted to be a game developer but I wanted to have a successful career and life more than I wanted to be a game developer. So, I did some game development on the side and I went full force into what made more sense, what was more practical where I could actually find a job and have a career at. That's the choice that I made. Whatever choice you make, I agree with you though, go all in on it. Go full in. Play full out as Tony Robbins always says and make sure that you commit to it.

All right, if you have a question for me, you can email me at and if you like this video, if you haven't subscribed already, click that Subscribe button. I do about 2 to 3 videos a day. You don't have to watch them all, but you can if you want to. I'll talk to you next time. Take care.