Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Cost of Making a Game

A user on the popular question/answer site Quora asked "why have game budgets skyrocketed?"

Aside from the obvious that technology has improved and people are demanding more from their game, thus making them cost more, it's important to point out that only AAA, big studios are seeing profit from this system. Mid-tier studios are feeling the crunch more. Where as small studios the budgets are going down.

Steve Theodore, GDC board member and former director at Bungie, broke it down to give gamers better insight into the industry.

The average game budget has gone down. The average games are not big titles but indies. Have you seen Steam lately? They are littered with smaller developers breaking into the business. For every 1 GTA you are likely to see 200 small games. And that's because of the technology. We aren't working off of RPG Maker these days. Software and hardware has gone down in price drastically in the past decade, and as new models release yearly, it continues to become more affordable for smaller studios to start their own gaming business. Please note that just because it's affordable, it doesn't mean that the games make a profit.

The two drivers in the budget increase for larger and mid-size studios are content cost and marketing. I would not be surprised if EA spends a huge chunk of their budget on marketing. TV ads, radio spots, movie promos, fast-food tie-ins - these are not cheap. And those pre-order bonuses and demos? Those come out of marketing budgets as well.

Content production has also increased to be a multi-person task. It's not one person making one character, but a dozen people working together for multiple weeks. That's more people to pay to create a prettier looking Master Chief. And it's also why a number of people go indie to hemorrhage the costs and the staff into something that's manageable. If you're in the middle? You better hope you get bought out.

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