If you are planning to make a game, then it is difficult to imagine a question that has the power to oust the undoubted leader from the first place – how much will it cost? And what could be more annoying than the “it depends on many factors” answer? We will try to tell you more about this, clarify the pricing factors and give examples of the cost of well-known games.
The first thing to understand and accept is that all games are different. The developers strive with all their might for authenticity and novelty to surprise the players. Accordingly, there can be no static prices that can be announced immediately after the first request.
Second, few people disclose this information. The number of development studios that kindly announced the amount of money spent is negligible, and most of the research that we find on the Internet is the opinion of analysts or research groups based on an approximate estimate of the timing of the creation of the game and the summation of the salaries of the development team members.
Thirdly, the range of prices may shock you. For example, talking about mobile development, we said that the cost of Angry Birds is estimated at $ 140,000, while the legendary Pokémon Go cost developers $ 600,000 due to the introduction of a large number of geolocation features. And that’s just mobile games. And the giants for PCs like GTA 5 are completely different budgets of $ 265 million.
Now that we have pretty much confused you, we can start thinking and talking about the video game budget.
Cost Line: General View
Game development is a complex process of creating and combining art, code, sound and testing the performance of the result. The price is formed from the intricacies of factors such as the complexity of the game, its functionality and design, the platform chosen, the experience of the team that is entrusted with the development.
The cost of developer services depends on their location. When outsourcing your game development to India, China or the Philippines, expect average quality work at a low cost. Developers from the United States will charge twice as much for their services, making the work at the highest level. A combination of high-quality performance and competitive prices is found in Central and Eastern Europe. The average cost of programming an entertainment application in Eastern Europe starts at $ 7,500.
After you have decided on an outsourcing partner, the scale and functionality of the project, the selected company forms a team. To create a simple mini 2D game for a mobile phone, one artist and one developer are enough, so the cost of the project will be much lower than, for example, creating an AAA game that requires the involvement of all studio employees.
How Much Do Video Games Cost to Make: Simple Math and What Does Complexity Have to Do With It?
We often hear the words “cost depends on the complexity”, but do not really understand their meaning. In fact, everything is very simple: the complexity equals the more time spent creating the game. And more time means big salaries for team members. The conclusion is simple: complexity is directly proportional to duration.
Is it possible to calculate the cost to make a video game yourself? Why not, this math is very simple. You need to get the following data:
- Team location.
- The number of people who will work on your project.
- The average salary for a developer in the region of your choice.
- The approximate duration of the project.
As a result, you get a figure that reflects the net average wages of people. You can depart from it, but definitely not take it for the final cost.
First, the composition of the team can change throughout the project. The concept artist, having completed his work, leaves the project, but at the same time, animators and sound designers join the work. Secondly, do not forget about marketing costs, which can range from 20 to 100% of the development budget.
Let’s try a little calculation. Let’s say that 10 people from a company in Eastern Europe will be working on your game. The estimated period of work announced by the studio on the game is six months. Taking into account the average developer salary of about $ 40 per hour, a working day of 8 hours, and on average 20 working days per month, we have the following calculation:
(40 x 8) x 10) x 20) x 6 = $ 384,000
We have received the amount that should be paid for the work of the team, provided that the composition of the team is stable throughout the project. In the same way, you can make your calculation by substituting the required numbers into the formula:
(Rate Per Hour x 8) x Number Of Employees) x 20) x Number Of Months Of Work
This is your easy way to find out the answer to the question “how much does it cost to develop a video game?” without any hassle and headaches.
By the way, what do you know about the composition of the team that will work on your game? Let’s go over this issue.
Video Game Creation Team
When looking for an answer to the question of how much does it cost to make a video game, you need to understand that the cost is largely formed from the rate of the team members who are working on the project.
The core team for creating a game looks like this:
- Game designers. These people think over the idea of the game, its content, rules, conditions of victory or defeat, plot, characters, and in general everything connected with it. When it comes to a small mobile 2D game, the responsibilities of the designer can be divided among other team members. But for larger projects, designers are needed: they draw up a special game design document, which is approved by the customer and becomes the main guideline for the rest of the team.
- Artists and animators. The game can be 2D or 3D, and the second option is always more expensive due to the greater complexity and duration of development. Artists also work on interface and menu elements. Animators add movement to static art. Depending on the complexity of the project, the game may require from 1 artist and 1 animator to a whole department of specialists.
- Developers. Most often, video games are made on engines like Unity or Unreal Engine, so it is important to find specialists who understand C ++ and C #. Mobile games for Android and iOS are Java and Swift languages, respectively. Development is, in fact, coding an interactive element, so before starting it you need to know everything you want from the game and have ready-made art.
- Sound designers. Every game, even the most elementary one, has a soundtrack. There are special paid and free sound bases where you can get ready-made options. But if you want to stand out, then your way is to create music and sound from scratch with the help of sound designers.
- Testers. Checking the quality of the game is a very important part of the development of the game since here it is checked for errors and bugs. Testers check its functionality, the response to any player’s action, check the balance, game processes, the correct display of visual elements, etc. Testers cannot be replaced by other team members, and it is better not to save on their services.
Let’s look at an example of forming a team for a game creation project. Working on the mobile game Crazy Roosty in the arcade puzzle genre, designed for Android and iOS, the Kevuru Games team chose the most convenient and common Unity engine and gathered the following command:
- 1 game designer
- 1 3D artist
- 1 3D animator
- 1 developer
- 1 tester
From the beginning of development to release, it took 20 weeks to create the game, that is, 4.5 months.
More than 9 years of experience in game development allowed us to build clear and well-established working procedures for transparent interaction between all departments. We know how long it takes to work on 2D and 3D games of different genres and how long the development will take if multiplayer is expected. Thanks to this, we can give a preliminary estimate of the cost of your future game with the functionality and graphics you are interested in during the day.
The accuracy of the estimate depends on the amount of information you can provide us with:
- Complete understanding of the project. You know your target audience, game genre, its functional and technical features, monetization and marketing options, the degree of user interaction. If there are no additional improvements on our part, then we will be able to give an accurate estimate of the timing and, accordingly, the cost of the work.
- Partial insight into the project. You know the target audience and genre, but have not yet come up with functionality, mechanics and visual features. Then we conduct pre-project analytics and create a prototype, after the approval of which we can talk about an approximate cost estimate with a possible error of 10%.
- Irresistible desire to implement the project. You just really want to make a game, but don’t know which one at all. Then we propose to try to direct your disparate desires in one direction and come together to a more specific option. Why do we, as in the previous scenario, make a prototype and, after its approval, proceed to create a game. Taking into account the possibility of a large number of changes and adjustments, we give a rough estimate of individual blocks of work separately: art and animation, development, sound design, testing, and marketing.
Even if you only have an idea and a lot of enthusiasm, never give up on the desire to create a game. Contact us and together we will evaluate the perspective of your idea and, if necessary, correct it and give an effective direction.
Examples of the Cost of Famous Games: High-Cost And Low-Budget Options
For now, let’s digress a little and take a short excursion into the world of launches and budgets of games you know well.
Despite the fact that cost data are rarely publicly released, some information can still be found. Let’s start with the most expensive options you’ve probably heard of. This will give you an idea of the staggering budgets that can be spent on both game development and marketing.
Grand Theft Auto 5
We have already managed to mention this cult game at the beginning of our article. Released in 2013, it still remains one of the most played PC games around the world thanks to its multiplayer mode and stunningly detailed world. It is also the third best-selling game ever, with over $ 6 billion in revenue and 110 million copies sold, behind only Minecraft (which we’ll talk about below) and Tetris.
So how much money does it take to make a world-class video game that will forever remain in the history of the gaming industry? Its development cost, along with marketing campaigns, was around $ 265 million, making it the most expensive video game ever created.
Considering that the game was made for more than 5 years by a Rockstar team of 250 employees, it can be assumed that the development itself cost the company about $ 150 million, and all the rest of the money was spent on marketing.
While there is no information about the games that surpassed the development cost of GTA 5. Perhaps, when the notorious Cyberpunk 2077 or Star Citizen reveal their budget cards, the leaderboard will change. But we must not forget that GTA 6 is also in development, which, with a high degree of probability, will also make a big splash in the gaming market.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The sixth edition of the Call of Duty series, developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision, is not far from GTA 5. At the time of its release in 2009, it was the highest-budget game in the world. Its cost is estimated at $ 250 million, of which $ 200 million was spent on marketing purposes.
In the first 24 hours, it sold over 4.5 million copies. Grossing over $ 400 million in its early days of sales in the US and UK alone, the game entered Guinness World Records for the most successful launch in the entertainment industry.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Based on the Star Wars universe and developed by BioWare Austin, this MMORPG was released in 2011 and has never released its official budget. However, the researchers did not sleep: it is estimated that more than 800 people on 4 continents have worked for 6 years for this game to see the world. Several thousand characters in the game required voice acting from about a thousand actors, which also affected the cost of the game. It is valued at approximately $ 200 million including marketing.
The game’s revenue for all time is approximately $ 1 billion. It is still available for PC today and continues to attract players who are also looking forward to a new Star Wars IP based game called Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The estimated release date is the end of 2022.
Our next stop is some incredibly low budget games that ended up making some crazy money. There are no exact budget figures here since these games were often created by one person or a maximum of a team of several people. But the more interesting it is to study their phenomenon.
American developer Eric Barone created this simulation role-playing game alone. He really wanted to understand how it was to do everything on his own, from art to music. How much does it cost to create a video game like this? It’s hard to say, because it was made by one person, and the only resource here is his time. He began work on the project in 2012 and finished in 2016. In its first year, it was acquired by over 2 million Steam users.
Based on this information, it was estimated that the game earned more than $ 25 million. Since it was later released for Android, iOS, Xbox One, PS4 and Linux, this income can most likely be doubled. These are the wonders that just one person can do!
It’s hard to ignore another gaming phenomenon, also originally developed by one man, Swedish developer Markus Persson. The release of the demo version of the survival sandbox game took place in 2009. In 2011, the full release took place and in the same year the millionth copy of the game was sold, a few months later the second, and some time later the third.
In 2014, Microsoft acquired Minecraft for $ 2.5 billion. Over the years, Minecraft has generated over $ 3 billion in revenue. That being said, the game has over 130 million monthly active players, ahead of Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone.
This is one of the video game budget examples that you involuntarily talk about with respectful reverence. Tetris is a puzzle game originally invented and developed by Soviet programmer Alexei Pajitnov back in 1984. Particularly famous in the United States, Europe and Japan is the version for the handheld GameBoy console produced by the Japanese company Nintendo.
The game has consistently appeared in the lists of the best PC games by platform and throughout history. With over 500 million copies sold, Tetris surpassed Minecraft to become the best-selling game in history.
Game Genres That Will Steal the Show in 2021
The year 2020 presented us not only with a lot of problems, but also with a good package of gaming novelties. 2021 is not going to slow down, and now we can talk about several game genres that will definitely stand out from the rest.
We did a detailed description of the 2021 game design trends in our large research. Now let’s recall which genres will rise to prominence and set the pace of the gaming industry.
The most popular genre of 2020, Battle Royale requires constant attention and fast reactions from the player. Many games competed for the championship in the genre in 2020, many developers grabbed for this genre trying to take off on the wave of incredible popularity. And while PUBG and Fortnite are trying to determine which of them is cooler, players are looking forward to new products: Farlight 84, Scavengers and Naraka: Bladepoint are coming out very soon.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena
MOBA games continue to showcase the wonders of character refinement and demo of their skills in multiplayer battle arenas. Despite the fact that the battle royale genre has pulled off the blanket and attention of fans of active and dynamic battles a little, the genre remains at the top, largely due to the success of Mobile Legends. Players await new additions to the ranks: Ignis: Duel of Wizards, Rise of Winterchill and Circuits and Shields are on the way.
Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game
MMORPG is one of the oldest game genres. Thanks to the improvement in the technical qualities of smartphones, these games now feel great in the mobile segment and continue to collect millions of players. In 2021 we expect to see new titles such as Blue Protocol, Corepunk, New World and Project TL join the genre.
It also makes sense to celebrate the rise of the survival genre combined with FPS. A number of interesting new products are eagerly awaited by players this year: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, Resident Evil Village, The Outlast Trials, JETT: The Far Shore, Back 4 Blood, to name just a few of the most prominent examples.
How to Choose a Company to Develop a Game
Now that you have a video game budget breakdown, you might consider choosing a companion for development. We have already said in which regions you will find studios with a reasonable price-performance ratio – these are Central and Eastern Europe. Here you will find a large number of good studios with roughly the same average cost to make a video game.
What then to look for when choosing a partner?
- Team experience. Enthusiasm and creativity are important, but if they are not backed up by experience, the effectiveness of the project will be in question. The modern gaming market is a mega-specific environment and recent games simply dissolve in a huge number of analogues. Choose a studio that has been in game development for several years and already knows a thing or two about creating games.
- Games portfolio. Note that it is important to look at a portfolio of finished games unless you intend to separate tasks and outsource art, animation and development to different companies. Examine the portfolio for full-fledged projects: this is how you will definitely find out with which engines the studio worked, what is the expertise of its artists and animators. You can even download the games released by this studio and evaluate them from the player’s point of view.
- Feedback from previous clients. This is important, because here you can get valuable insights about the convenience of communication with the team, the streamlining of processes, the timeliness of delivery of results at different stages, etc. The testimonial section is usually located on the company’s website. If not, you can specifically request feedback from previous customers from company representatives.
Our team will gladly take on your project at any stage, be it just a raw idea, prototype or half-finished product. Kevuru Games is a company of 150+ inspired people, passionate about games and new challenges. Extensive experience in the gaming market gives us the opportunity to direct creative initiatives into the most relevant channels in order to obtain the optimal result both in terms of player engagement and profit from the game.
And yes, we never avoid answering questions about video game production costs: such calculations are not difficult for us, so you will be able to plan your budget.
We are ready to discuss your idea and start lighting a new game star: we are separated by only a few phrases from your side sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.