Despite Pandemic, Gaming CEOs Made An Obscene Amount Of Money In 2020

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick talks at a rich person conference in 2017.

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick seen here wearing a luxe cashmere turtleneck in 2017.
Photo: Stuart C. Wilson (Getty Images)

In 2020, as the world grappled with a paradigmatic societal shift in the form of a globe-spanning pandemic, chief executives of the biggest gaming companies collectively brought home close to $1 billion. That’s according to a new report from market intelligence firm Games One, which collates a handful of key metrics regarding the video game industry.

As noted by, the report details compensation for 42 of the highest-paid CEOs in the video game industry. The report doesn’t just factor in raw salary, but also measures stocks, bonuses, and benefits.

“Publicly-traded companies are owned by shareholders, who elect the board of directors, who select the CEO. The board is responsible for compensation, and their decisions are ratified by shareholder vote,” the report’s authors write, in explaining how this all works. “The list is … democracy in action.”

So, what does democracy in action look like?

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, who’s sat at the helm for three decades—a tenure under which a culture of abuse and harassment was allowed to proliferate, detailed in a bombshell Wall Street Journal investigation that revealed he knew about it all the whole damn time—clocked in second with a roughly $150 million payday. Robert Antokol, the CEO of Playtika, a developer known for Bingo Blitz (described on the company’s homepage as “the most exciting free online multiplayer board game of our time!”) and Board Kings (described on the company’s portfolio page as “the most exciting free online multiplayer board game of our time!”), ended the year with nearly twice that in his pocket.

Strauss Zelnick, the fitnessobsessed CEO of Take-Two Interactive, made about half that of Frank Gibeau, who runs Zynga. Earlier this week, Zelnick’s firm announced it would acquire Zynga for just under $12.7 billion. (As Axios Gaming’s Stephen Totilo noted, either company has until February 25 to turn down the deal, at the steep price of approximately one gaming executive’s salary.) Meanwhile, Lars Wingefors, CEO of the Embracer Group—which apparently has enough money on hand to go on a veritable studio shopping spree, scooping up developers like Gearbox and Aspyr in recent years—brought home a bit less than a white-shoe attorney fresh out of law school would.

Anyway, that’s enough ado-ing. Here are the top 10 highest-earning CEOs of gaming companies:

  1. Robert Antokol, Playtika; $372,008,176
  2. Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard; $154,613,318
  3. Andrew Paradise, Skillz; $103,321,052
  4. Andrew Wilson, Electronic Arts; $34,715,802
  5. Frank Gibeau, Zynga; $32,003,768
  6. John Riccitiello, Unity; $22,001,733
  7. Strauss Zelnick, Take-Two; $18,111,761
  8. Taek-Jin Kim, NCSoft; $15,620,773
  9. Min-Liang Tan, Razer; $10,457,000
  10. Debbie Bestwick, Team17; $10,242,642

And here are the bottom 10 (out of the top 42 in the industry, that is):

  1. Carl Cavers, Sumo Group; $685,495
  2. David Braben, Frontier Developments; $581,516
  3. Kati Levoranta, Rovio; $535,722
  4. Anton Gauffin, Huuuge Games; $470,800
  5. Alex Nichiporchik, tinyBuild; $419,460
  6. Darcy Taylor, East Side Games; $418,473
  7. Adam Foroughi, AppLovin; $409,462
  8. Hannes Wallin, Fractal Gaming; $238,447
  9. Claude Guillemot, Guillemot Corporation; $185,004
  10. Lars Wingefors, Embracer Group; $162,293

While I have you, does anyone know where a journalist could sign up for CEO school?