How Much Do Video Games Cost to Make? 5 Real Examples! [2019]
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How Much Do Video Games Cost to Make? 5 Real Examples! [2019]

How much do video games cost to make? How much should you budget for your indie
game? How much money should you save before going
full indie? We get these types of question a lot! For any aspiring game developer out there,
it’s important to not just know how much it can cost to make all sorts of games, but also
where these costs come from and how budgets for creating games are decided upon. That’s why we took a look at what it cost
to make a game. Today we are going to look at 5 real world
examples of video game production budgets. We are Ask Gamedev this is how much video
games cost to make! Welcome back! If you’re new to Ask Gamedev, we make videos
to help you learn about the gaming industry so that you can elevate your games and inspire
others. If you’re on a gamedev journey yourself,
consider subscribing. We’d love to help you along the way! And if you’d like to continue the conversation,
join our Discord server. Check out the description for an invite link. In order to figure out how much it costs to
make games, considering the wide array of games that are out there, we looked into examples
from several different games from different studios. Each has different styles, budgets, and retail
costs. We hope this list will help all of you up
and coming devs to know when the time is right to start pursuing that passion project you’ve
been pining to pick up. Cultist Simulator, produced by the British
Indie Studio Weather Factory, is a card-game simulator revolving around an incredibly deep
lore surrounding the Eldritch mythos, sunken cities and features a nostalgic roarin’ twenties
aesthetic. The Lovecraftian, loving couple behind Weather
Factory, Alexis Kennedy and Lottie Bevan, embarked on their mission to create narrative-heavy
games in 2017 and have already made this multiple award-winning cult hit. Although it appears complex, the development
team spent way more time honing the story threads that weave the intricate mechanics
of the game into its incredibly fun final form, than they did lacing together overly
complex strings of code. According to a blog post released by Alexis
Kennedy himself, in service of supplying all you curious devs with straightforward answers
to your questions about “what it costs to make an indie game”, the estimated production
budget for Cultist Simulator was £134,760.00. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Alexis and Lottie estimated that their internal costs for staffing themselves would be £63,500. Freelancers for UI, Art, Music, and SFX: £22,300. Licences, Software and Hardware: £6,000. Marketing: £15,000. Operations and Legal: £5,500. And finally a “pessimistic contingency”
on the final total to account for anything they may have missed, bringing their grand
total to £134,760.00 So how did the development team do against
their expense budget? They were almost spot on, with a total cost
of £131,515. As of February 2019, Cultist Simulator, which
retailed for $19.99 on Steam, had sold roughly 105,000 units. In terms of platforms, the majority, at 88%
of the share of these units, were sold through Steam, followed by Humble, then GOG, and finally
Itch. This lead to a gross revenue of £1.76 million! After accounting for all the costs of operation
and the cuts taken by platforms, their partners, and taxes, Weather Factory definitely still
came out way ahead, and Cultist Simulator was a clear financial success. Their blog post isn’t just about the numbers
though. It includes a wealth of information and is
a must-read for any dev thinking about starting their own studio. We’ll have a link to it in the description. Another Kickstarter success story, Shovel
Knight, is a side-scrolling 2D adventure game reminiscent of NES-era pixel art action-platformers
like Mega Man and Ducktales. Created by Yacht Club games, and since expanded
upon in multiple versions available on a variety of platforms, the game wasn’t originally a
sure bet. The game raised over $328,000 through its
Kickstarter and PayPal donation campaigns in 2013. That sounds like a lot, right? Well, after paying taxes and Kickstarter fees,
that large sounding number didn’t turn out to be so big, especially considering that
a team of six people were being employed to develop the game. The team actually had to operate in a very
lean way given their budget. There’s a common metric that professional
game development producers use to define staffing costs – and that is the “man month” rate. , This metric is the monthly cost of employing
a staff member. Based on the 2 year development timeline projected
for Shovel Knight, a six person team would need 144 staff months of capacity. At a fairly conservative cost of $10,000 a
staff month, a simple calculation shows that this project would need $1.44 million dollars
to cover staffing costs alone! Yacht Club Games made up for this budget gap
by asking their dev team members to go without pay for a portion of development. Thankfully, Shovel Knight became an immediate
success and sold over 75,000 copies in its first week. It then exceeded the expected lifetime goal
set by the team of 150,000 units within its first month on the market, selling roughly
180,000 units. Fast forward to today and Shovel Knight has
released on 12 platforms and sold over 2.5 million copies! He has had over 25 appearances and cameos
in other games, including Smash Brothers! And there’s even going to be a Shovel Knight
board game! Shovel Knight is an indie legend and the dev
team’s days of working with tight budgets are long gone. Alright, let’s talk AAA development budgets. We’re taking a look at the wildly popular,
massive global hit, Destiny. Developed by Bungie, Destiny is an online
multiplayer FPS combined with elements of a sci-fi RPG. During the development and pre-release period
following the game’s announcement, there was a lot of buzz going around that the game would
have one of the largest budgets any game had ever had. This was because Bungie had made a deal with
the then newly-merged Activision Blizzard for them to work as Destiny’s publisher.Activision
Blizzard CEO, Bobby Kotick, had controversially stated in May of 2014 that Destiny’s overall
budget would be a whopping $500 million. Bungie’s COO tried to soften those statements,
alluding that the $500 million figure was far greater than the actual budget for the
development of the game. A statement was made that “For marketing
you’d have to ask Activision people, but for development costs, not anything close to $500
million. I think that speaks a lot more to the long-term
investment that we’re making in the future of the product.” Bungie’s Eric Osborne added “We’re pouring
everything it takes into Destiny to ensure it meets our fans’ expectations, and our own,”
and “Activision is, too. But the budget for Destiny, including associated
marketing costs and pizza Wednesdays, is nowhere near 500 million dollars.” So how much did they spend? Well, the LA Times, has a copy of the Bungie
/ Activision contracts on their website where it says that they’ve allotted $140 million
for development and marketing. This is much less than the original assessment
but was it the final cost? Nothing has been said publicly to confirm
on deny this number. This at least this gives us a glimpse into
the 9 figure budgets that are commonplace with AAA publishers. Fast forward to January 2019, Destiny and
Destiny 2 have been hugely successful, with over 50 million copies being sold, expansions
included. However, in that same month, Bungie announced
that they had decided to part ways with Activision, and self-publish Destiny going forward. Where the Water Tastes like Wine is definitely
a very unique game, particularly in this list. This title unfortunately did not make a huge
amount of money and it did not make back its development budget. When you look at a game like Where the Water
Tastes Like Wine, the striking and unique art style jumps out at you right away. Usually, games like this will attract some
sort of cult following based on its visuals alone. The game moved some units, but suffered from
a host of issues coming from a first time solo-developer making a game. In an article on Medium, the project lead
on Where the Water Tastes like Wine, Johnnemann Nordhagen detailed his experience with the
game, it’s critical response, and it’s financial performance. It took Nordhagen 4 years total to make this
game, and he had ended up spending $114,000 out of his own pocket to pay for many of the
contractors involved. The game had received many accolades and lots
of media coverage early on in its development, which lead Nordhagen,to believe that this
was a sign that the game would surely do well. Knowing now that these signs are not guarantees
of financial success, Nordhagen doesn’t seem disheartened or broken over failing to break
even financially. Like a true indie, he seems to have a positive
outlook on the development and values the lessons he learned from the experience. Where the Water Tastes like Wine should be
taken as a cautionary tale to aspiring devs that sometimes games just don’t make much
money. However, the love and passion for the project
can sometimes be even more rewarding than a paycheck. Before we get to the final entry on our list,
it’s time for another inspiring Ask GameDev Community Member Game of the Week! This week’s game is Must Dash Amigos by miniBeast
Game Studios. Must Dash Amigos is a top-down, battle racer,
party game. Inspired by games like Mario Kart, Overcooked,
and Toybox Turbos, the devs wanted to create a local multiplayer racing game. The title was made in Unity by a team of two,
Ben & Anthony, who worked during evenings and weekends since 2015. Must Dash Amigos is now available on Steam. Brigador is an isometric, real-time tactical
mech game that was the brainchild of the Indie studio Stellar Jockeys. The game took 5 years for the team to develop
completely from scratch. It runs on an entirely original custom engine
and was made with the goal of being a truly unique experience. This example will be a little bit different
than the rest on this list, because instead of the cost of development, the developers
chose to talk about their opportunity cost instead. If you haven’t heard the term “opportunity
cost” before, it is defined as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives
when one alternative is chosen”. For example, if you choose to quit your day
job, and go “full indie”, the money that you would have earned had you kept your day
job, is your opportunity cost. But why would a dev talk about their opportunity
cost? What sparked it? The answer is forum comments. On the Brigador Steam forum, some users pointed
out that $20 was too high of a price for the game. One user commented “$15 is perfect for this
game.” while another said “£10 sounds about right”. To explain why they thought the game should
cost $20, the devs talked about what they sacrificed to release the game: The team spent 5 years working on Brigador,
with most of those 5 years being full-time, working 6-7 days a week, and 8+ hours a day. There were 4 team members in total and they
funded the project entirely out of pocket. After platform fees and taxes (which the team
calculated would be roughly 50%), without factoring in expenses, at a $20 price tag,
the team would have to sell 25,000 copies to compensate themselves at minimum wage. With expenses factored in, and to give themselves
a reasonable living, they’d have to sell roughly 50,000 copies. So let’s work with that last number: 50,000
copies: 50,000 copies at $20 would yield $1,000,000
After platform fees and taxes they would be at $500,000
$500,000 would give the team what they thought was a reasonable wage, and cover all development
expenses. Mind you this would have had them each making
less than $12.5/hour for the last 5 years, so it is not an extravagant living wage. If you’re planning your own gamedev budget,
you would be hard pressed to find talent to work for that much, let alone for 5 years. At the end of the day though, Brigador did
well enough to enable the devs to make a 2nd game! It was also followed up by an extended edition,
Brigador: Up-Armored Deluxe. The sequel, Brigador Killers, is set to launch
in 2020! For more Ask Gamedev on how to plan a development
project, check out this recent video. Or alternatively watch this video on the most
sought after gamedev roles.

About Ralph Robinson

Read All Posts By Ralph Robinson

37 thoughts on “How Much Do Video Games Cost to Make? 5 Real Examples! [2019]

  1. Thanks for watching! For More Ask Gamedev, watch: How to Plan Your Game Development Project

  2. Very true story. Its easy to overlook the value of time. $12.50/hr is less than minimum wage in Seattle.

  3. Another great video as always. Now I know how much it cost to make a game. Will keep working on it as paycheck doesn't mean everything. 🙂

  4. How can making a game like shovel knight for example be so expensive? The 8 bit sprites and music sound like everybody can do like it in any free software available, I understand that publishing a game is expensive, but what about the other simple stuff?

  5. I'm working on games on a zero dollar budget but you'll be able to donate on itch but you won't need to. The game after that is going to cost about 1$. If I make money from that I'll get a small budget. On a bigger budget I'll be able to sell games for more and maybe I'll get a bigger budget.

  6. This is a really insightful video, with excellent production value! And thank you for featuring Must Dash Amigos as Community Member of the Week – really awesome of you 🙂

  7. First things first, great video!
    No offense to Stellar Jockeys but but players don't care how hard we work as devs or what we sacrifice in our personal lives to ship a game. What matters to them is the enjoyment value, as it should be.

  8. Nice video, I want to make games to but sigh… time 12:09 etc break down of why the game is $20. Having to give half of tht money back in fees & taxes is Freaking Crazy thts to high how will they be able to fund a new game or build a studio this is crazy.

  9. It's important to remember that a multi million dollar game can fail financially (see "Duke Nukem Forever" and "Superman" for the N64 for example), while 50,000$ indi games can make millions (see "Undertale" and "Minecraft"). So to all indies out there (like me) that don't have this 6 – 7 digit budget – don't be discouraged, people were able to do alot with 5 digit budegts as well.

  10. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine ‘suffered from a host of issues’ including being called fucking Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

  11. Most of the reason why large games don't show their cost is because they are affected by windowdressing. They just only have to pay less tax if they show less money than the original one.

  12. This is probably one of the most important videos you have done, as it can easily be shock to find out how much making a game can cost you.

  13. Yeah yeah, I agree with the Opportunity Cost. That's how I actually calculate my crowfunded stuff or even freelance works.

  14. That arguing about how much a game would cost coming from gamers are completely disgusting, based on actual data from developers. On consumers perspectives, they might have a point, but generally speaking, game consumers know nothing about how much a game actually costs at all. Knowledge is indeed power tho.

  15. I am a game developer, and I never paid thousands upon thousands of dollars to develop games. I simply download free game engines like Godot or I got Notepad++ and made games in JavaScript. I also used free art toolsets on the web like Blender/Paint (dot) net and put my game together. At best, I bought AppGameKit for $25 when it was sale. But, I NEVER spent thousands of dollars.

  16. can you try my game and tell me your opinion about it , i developed it alone , it's for android , just give it a try i appreciate that <3 <3

  17. wait a fucking second, 10k a month per person wtf is going on there.
    even 5k per month is still fuck ton of money for most people, they have no fucking decency developing the game at any lower living costs?

    God that's just kinda pathetic.

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