If you’re planning to make a game, it’s hard to imagine a question that can dislodge the undisputed leader from the top spot – 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.
Top Secret: Why There Is So Little Information About Game Pricing
The first thing to understand and accept is that all games are different. Developers strive with all their might for authenticity and novelty to surprise players. Accordingly, there can be no static cost of making a video game that can be announced immediately after the first request.
Second, few people disclose this information. The number of development studios that kindly provided reports on the money spent is negligible. Most of the research we find online is the opinion of analysts or research groups based on a rough estimate of the time it took to make a game and the sum of the salaries of the development team members.
Thirdly, the range of prices may shock you. For example, talking about mobile development, we know 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 PC giants like GTA 5 have a completely different $265 million budget.
Now that we’ve got you pretty confused, we can start thinking and talking about a 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 video game development cost is formed from the subtleties of such factors as:
- the complexity of the game;
- its functionality and design;
- the chosen platform;
- the experience of the team entrusted with development, etc.
An average cost of video game development depends on the location of the developers:
- When outsourcing your game development to India, China, or the Philippines, expect average quality work for a low price tag.
- Developers from the United States will charge higher prices – 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 to produce a video game 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. Thus, such video game production cost will be much lower than, for example, the cost to make an AAA video game that requires the participation of all studio employees.
How Much Do Video Games Cost to Make: Simple Math
We often hear the words “cost of developing a video game depends on the complexity”, but do not really understand their meaning. In fact, everything is very simple: the difficulty is equal to the time spent on creating the game. And more time means big salaries for team members. The conclusion is as follows: complexity is directly proportional to duration.
Is it possible to calculate the cost to make a video game yourself? Why not, this math is elementary. You need to get the following data:
- 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 or her work, leaves the project, but at the same time, animators and sound designers join the work. Secondly, focusing on how much does it cost to build a video game, do not forget about marketing costs, which can vary from 20 to 100% of the development budget.
Let’s try a little calculation. Let’s say 10 people from an Eastern European company will work on your game. The studio’s stated estimated development time for the game is six months. Taking into account the average salary of a developer about $40 per hour, working day 8 hours, and an average of 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 x 8) x (Employees x 20) x 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 rates 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 make up a special game design document, which is approved by the customer and becomes the main reference point 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 require knowledge of 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 from scratch with the help of sound designers. The same goes for all game sounds, from character footsteps and wind noise to interface sounds. All sounds and music must match the style of the game.|
|Testers||Checking the quality of the game is a very important part of development, as here it is examined for errors and bugs. Testers check its functionality, the response to any player’s action, 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.|
The number of specialists increases – the price increases.
Let’s look at an example of forming a team for a game creation project. Type of game – arcade puzzle. Working on the mobile game Crazy Roosty, 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 10 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, and 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 come up with functionality, mechanics, and visual features yet. Then we conduct pre-project analysis 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 suggest trying to channel your disparate desires and come to a more concrete option together. Then we, as in the previous scenario, make a prototype and, after its approval, proceed to create a game. Given the possibility of a large number of changes and adjustments, we give an approximate assessment 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 prospects of your idea and, if necessary, correct it and give an effective development.
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 V
We have already managed to mention this cult game at the beginning of our article. Released in 2013, it 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, second only to Minecraft (which we’ll talk about below) and Tetris.
So how much does it cost to produce 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 game cost the company about $150 million to develop, and all the rest of the money was spent on marketing.
So far, there is no information about games that have surpassed the development cost of GTA V. Perhaps, when the notorious Cyberpunk 2077 or Star Citizen reveal their budget cards, the leaderboard will change. But we must not forget that GTA VI is also in development. With a high degree of probability, it 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 V. 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. It never revealed its official budget. However, the researchers do not sleep: it is estimated that more than 800 people on 4 continents 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 it is all the more interesting to study their phenomenon.
American developer Eric Barone created this simulation role-playing game alone. He really wanted to understand what it was like 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 started working on the project in 2012 and finished it 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 (Stardew Valley also supports Xbox 360 controllers on PC), PS4, and Linux, this income could 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, a full-fledged release took place, and in the same year the millionth copy of the game was sold. The second million was sold a few months later, and the third after some time.
In 2014, Microsoft acquired Minecraft for $2.5 billion.
Over the years, Minecraft 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 example of a video game budget that you can’t help but 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 consistently appeared on 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 2022
Despite the horrors of 2022, the gaming industry has continued to evolve. Many games that have become key entertainment milestones of the year have been released.
Check out a detailed description of the game design trends of 2023 in our case studyLearn more
Take a look at the list of the top 10 best selling video games and their game publishers since the beginning of 2022.
|1||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022)||FPS||Activision Blizzard|
|2||Elden Ring||Action RPG||Bandai Namco Entertainment|
|3||Madden NFL 23||Sports simulation||Electronic Arts|
|4||LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga||Action-adventure||Warner Bros. Interactive|
|5||God of War: Ragnarok||Action-adventure||Sony|
|6||Pokemon Legends: Arceus||Action RPG||Nintendo|
|7||Pokemon: Scarlet/Violet||Action RPG||Nintendo|
|8||Horizon II: Forbidden West||Action-adventure||Sony|
|9||FIFA 23||Sports simulation||Electronic Arts|
|10||MLB: The Show 22||Sports simulation||Sony and MLB|
According to Statista, the ranking of the most played game genres in US is as follows.
Puzzles and arcades, leading by a significant margin, are another proof of the dominance of mobile games in the market. Among hardcore genres, action, shooters, and simulations remain the most popular.
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 which regions to target to find studios with an acceptable price-quality ratio – these are Central and Eastern Europe. Here you will find a large number of good studios with roughly the same average cost of 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 questionable. The modern gaming market is a mega-specific environment and the latest 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.
- Game portfolio. Note that it’s important to look at a portfolio of finished games, unless you’re going to split tasks and outsource art, animation, and development to different companies. Examine the portfolio for full-fledged projects: so you will know exactly what engines the studio works with, what the expertise of its artists and animators is, etc. 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 delivering 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 400+ 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 get away from answering questions about the cost of a video game – such calculations are not difficult for us, so you can easily plan your budget.
Our team is 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 email@example.com.