Not all coders are John Carmacks. In fact most coders are average employees just like any other. The only reason there are very wealthy coders is because they are most likely considered as being some of the best. Whether or not that's true doesn't matter.
It`s also very very rare to see famous coders rise up these days.
I'd also like to note that coders like Gabe Newell and Carmack actually own (or partially own) their respective companies which also gives them quite a bit of income...
I ramble, and have trouble being concise.
My problem with what your saying is simply that it makes no sense. Where are all of these massive piles of money going then? When your dealing with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars it's not all being eaten up by renting some cubicle space and buying a bunch of computers. A lot of the actual coding is already done in most games due to using engines like "Unreal" or whatever as the basis, and even if getting the rights to use those engines is expensive, it's not that expensive.
Basically since the only real "expense" is the employees, it means that all of that money is getting divvied up somehow between the coders, graphic artists, and everyone else. Nobody, including the artists is doing anything that I think justifies the amount of money they are being paid.
When questioned about game prices and such people in the industry ramble on about the number of employees and such, but even when dealing with a couple thousand people the budgets here are so overwhelmingly massive that the only possible solution to where that money is going is into the pockets of those human resources (which is pretty much what they say anyway).
Okay granted, maybe there is some fat cat at the top that is like say pocketing 50% off the top or something, but it doesn't seem likely, and even so that comes back to "how do we justify him pocketing this much, and passing the bill on to me?".
At any rate to finish the rambling, think of it this way. Someone budgets Modern Warfare 2. They spend a couple million dollars on renting cubicle space and buying a bunch of computers. Then they take the OTHER 498 million dollars and send it somewhere. Let's say you've got a thousand people in development, and a thousand people in marketing (both sides which had half the money)... the costs here might be high but not in proportion to THAT cash mountain, so it's all going into someone's pockets.
Even if you put a "mere" hundred million on each side to pay the people involved your still talking about each person walking off with a hundred thousand dollars sticking out of their back pocket... and that's less than half the bloody budget so chances are they are getting more than that.
I think the game took two years, so we're basically talking about these "poor oppressed employees" making $50k a year to write lines of code.
Not a proper analysis, but I mean think about stuff like this. Capitolism is fine, and I'm sure everyone wants to be paid as much as possible, but as a certain point I as the consumer am going to look at the price and go "WTF" since I'm the one they are expecting to cover this.
Ahem. let's have a look at this claim you're making...
Most expensive game I know of:
GTA 4. - It cost $100 million to make.
Here's a list of the complete credits for everyone that worked on it:
Now, a quick estimate of that list shows at a rough guess 400 or so people.
The other article I linked to says 1000.
About half of these are actors and/or the credits for music in the game (and it's already well established how bad the music and acting professions can get with money.)
I'd say a huge chunk of the budget goes just to all the voice actors and licensed music.
But, even then, consider, 100,000,000 among 1000 people averages 100,000 per person, over however long it took to make.
Considering that it most likely took more than 1 year to make, it could be a lot less than that.
Edit:Oh, and before I forget, for a typical contract, the game development company will only get 10% of the profits from their publisher, and the development cost is given as an 'advance'.
That means, if you develop a game and it earns, say, $20 million, you get $2 million out of it.
But only after you've paid back the publisher whatever they gave you in advance.
If that was $2 million, you get nothing extra, even though the publisher gained $18 million from it...
Is that a lot? Yes it is. But in context, it should be remembered that 70 work weeks are 'normal' in the game development industy. the 'crunch' mode people talk about is when it gets into the 90 to 120 hours or more a week...
Then there is the undeniable fact that whatever you think of it, game industry workers are underpaid for their profession.
They typically earn only 70% of the wages in a comparable job working for say, a bank, normal software developer, advertising company, film special effects company, etc.
Taking this in conjunction with the hours they work, it'd be very callous to say to someone working much longer hours, and earning less than their counterparts in related industries that they themselves could be working in if they chose to, that they are overpaid.
What's your line of work?
How much do you get for it?
How would you feel if you knew that you worked almost twice as many hours, for 70% of the pay of someone with the same skills as you, and were then told that you don't deserve even that?
I had to laugh last time someone argued your position. I doubt it was you, but it was funny to hear someone say they were a lawyer, and then argue that game developers were overpaid...