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How much does it cost to make a game? One team's experience

LoktofeitLoktofeit Stone Mountain, GAPosts: 14,247Member Rare

The team that created Dustforce details the cost of development for their project and the varius steps post-release that spread the word and kept copies selling.

http://hitboxteam.com/dustforce-sales-figures

 

 

 

There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to play, if you want to use a screwdriver to put nails into wood, have at it, simply don't complain when the guy next to you with the hammer is doing it much better and easier. - Allein
"Graphics are often supplied by Engines that (some) MMORPG's are built in" - Spuffyre

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Comments

  • RobokappRobokapp Dublin, OHPosts: 5,688Member Uncommon
    41% into dev pockets is great.

    image

  • Instigator-JonesInstigator-Jones Posts: 530Member Uncommon
    Great article; transparency makes game development real in the sense that THIS is what new developers are faced with. Heading over to steam to check out this game now.
  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member Uncommon

    Very informative.  The question I'm left wondering is where does this game fit on the curve of hits and misses?

  • SovrathSovrath Boston Area, MAPosts: 20,546Member Epic
    Nice article. Thanks.
  • MMOman101MMOman101 Posts: 1,370Member Uncommon

    How much does a year cost? We were all living in different areas of the world at the time (Brisbane, Tokyo, New York, and Cincinnati) – on average, it would cost us around $20k per person per year to live frugally.

     

    20k?????

     

    That seems a bit low to me.

  • SovrathSovrath Boston Area, MAPosts: 20,546Member Epic
    Originally posted by MMOman101
    How much does a year cost? We were all living in different areas of the world at the time (Brisbane, Tokyo, New York, and Cincinnati) – on average, it would cost us around $20k per person per year to live frugally.   20k?????   That seems a bit low to me.

    my guess is that they were young (I believe it mentions that) and they essentially put themselves on a tight budget.

    Probably why "patience" was running out.

    when you are young you are willing to do a lot of things to save money. Sleep on couches, eat Ramen noodles, live with your parents, shop at thrift stores, etc.

    Obviously as one get older the patience for some of that stuff wears away.

    Never mind whether or not they had health insurance or even insurance of any kind.

    The article is more about "how much does it cost to make a game when you are willing to live bare bones".

    They increased their "salary" for the second run through but it still doesn't answer some of the questions one might have such as "do you have a savings, health insurance, do you want to eventually buy property, have a family, etc".

    One can live pretty bare bones, even as an older adult, on 20k. The question is, how long could you do this and would you even want to do it?

  • MMOman101MMOman101 Posts: 1,370Member Uncommon

    I get that.  Poverty is like 12k a year for one person in the US.  That is above poverty, but not a lot. 

    I think their development till the end figure is 2+ years in length.  Maybe 2 and half.  Unless they all picked up immediate jobs afterwards they would would still have costs while the game is selling for that entire year. 

    I don't know if I would consider 20k a year a resonable cost.  I understand you can do it.  People can do all kinds of things.  I understand that they were close to that. 

    That just seems crazy to me.  I know people do live like that.  It just seems odd that anyone would use that as a figure for cost on a project. 

     

  • LoktofeitLoktofeit Stone Mountain, GAPosts: 14,247Member Rare
    Originally posted by MMOman101
    I get that.  Poverty is like 12k a year for one person in the US.  That is above poverty, but not a lot.  I think their development till the end figure is 2+ years in length.  Maybe 2 and half.  Unless they all picked up immediate jobs afterwards they would would still have costs while the game is selling for that entire year.  I don't know if I would consider 20k a year a resonable cost.  I understand you can do it.  People can do all kinds of things.  I understand that they were close to that.  That just seems crazy to me.  I know people do live like that.  It just seems odd that anyone would use that as a figure for cost on a project.   

    That was their personal figure. The formula they give in the article is:

    minimum cost to make a game = cost of living × time needed × team size

    Cost of living is as much a project-dependent variable as the others.

    There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to play, if you want to use a screwdriver to put nails into wood, have at it, simply don't complain when the guy next to you with the hammer is doing it much better and easier. - Allein
    "Graphics are often supplied by Engines that (some) MMORPG's are built in" - Spuffyre

  • olepiolepi Posts: 1,247Member Uncommon
    I think Dustforce is a 2-D console platform game. Probably several orders of magnitude easier to make than any kind of 3-D MMO. So instead of 4 man-years and $100K, an MMO is probably more like 40 man years and several million dollars, at a minimum.

    ------------
    RIP City of Heroes. One of my favorite MMO's.


  • anemoanemo Posts: 976Member Uncommon

    Here's some more sale statistics: http://www.gameproducer.net/category/sales-statistics/

    Included in there is a text-web MMO, that is micro transaction.

    Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent.

    "At one point technology meant making tech that could get to the moon, now it means making tech that could get you a taxi."

  • worldalphaworldalpha Milton, ONPosts: 403Member
    In the midst of open beta.  Can only hope for these kind of results.

    Thanks,
    Mike
    Working on Social Strategy MMORTS (now Launched!) http://www.worldalpha.com

  • anemoanemo Posts: 976Member Uncommon

    Slightly related content from a now extinct web/javascript MMO.

    http://www.over00.com/?p=261

    http://www.over00.com/?p=1119

    First part talking about player turnover/retention.   Really low about 4-5%, part of it due to the game the next due to there not being enough players.

    Second part talking about what he'd do in 2.0(which he's not ever doing).  Most interesting rant is about PvPer and that too much of his time was dedicated to "their fixes" when they were the smallest spenders.  Other parts about using his experience to choose more viable IT designs.

    Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent.

    "At one point technology meant making tech that could get to the moon, now it means making tech that could get you a taxi."

  • DrakephireDrakephire Fontana, CAPosts: 451Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by MMOman101
    I get that.  Poverty is like 12k a year for one person in the US.  That is above poverty, but not a lot.  I think their development till the end figure is 2+ years in length.  Maybe 2 and half.  Unless they all picked up immediate jobs afterwards they would would still have costs while the game is selling for that entire year.  I don't know if I would consider 20k a year a resonable cost.  I understand you can do it.  People can do all kinds of things.  I understand that they were close to that.  That just seems crazy to me.  I know people do live like that.  It just seems odd that anyone would use that as a figure for cost on a project.   

    It's a matter of what someone is willing to sacrifice to make a dream come true.  The two member team making 20k each is more likely to succeed than the one member team making 40k. Same cost with each, but more productivity from the team willing to sacrifice more.

  • xaritscinxaritscin CaliPosts: 350Member Uncommon

    like a guy posted here:

    1. the size of the team

    2. the cost of the licenses in terms of 3d programs, engines, etcetera

    3. the costs of mantaining a living while developing

    4. the time needed for completion of the project

    5. the marketing costs

    6. publishing costs, in the case that you're gonna put it in sale via steam or something alike

     

  • AccountDeleted12341AccountDeleted12341 Houston, TXPosts: 351Member

    "The final figure for our income after exactly one year of sales is $489,404 USD (from a total of $668,490 in revenue)."

     

    Final costs: 36k

     

    Time to develop: Almost 2 years of development

     

    People in Company: 4

     

    489,000 - 36,000 = 453,000

    453,000 / 2 years = 226702 per year

    226702 per year / 4 employees

    Over $56675.5 per year, seeing how "almost 2 years" is less than 2 years, but this number is close enough.

     

    $56.6k per year is a good amount of money, especially when you are your own boss, have full control over your dream, and are doing what you love.

     

     

    That is... 56.6k per year AFTER they were finished with the game. They already were payed 20k per year while making the game.

     

    So their actual salary for the "almost 2 years" they made this game?

    20k + 56.6k per year.

     

     

    76.6k per year to follow your dreams, be your own boss, and make the game YOU want to make?

     

    Sounds like the whiny tone of the article is not justified. Sounds like they're living the dream, and making tons of money in doing so, unless their cost of living is among the highest in the world. If so, it would have been incredibly cheap to move to a cheaper state/area, seeing as how there's only 4 people to relocate for the digital business to prosper.

    Even better though, it's not 76.6k per year. It's 20k for quite awhile barely making it by, followed by a HUGE chunk of 56.6k change later on after the game is finished and work is not as intense.

     

    What isn't relevant, is that they will have to use their income to supplement living while developing another game unless they get an investor (like most people do).

    What is relevant, is that if they stopped now, making this video game gave them a salary of 76.6k per year, for 2 years. That's 153,200 of salary for only 2 years. That's amazing.

  • AccountDeleted12341AccountDeleted12341 Houston, TXPosts: 351Member
    Originally posted by Drakephire
    Originally posted by MMOman101
    I get that.  Poverty is like 12k a year for one person in the US.  That is above poverty, but not a lot.  I think their development till the end figure is 2+ years in length.  Maybe 2 and half.  Unless they all picked up immediate jobs afterwards they would would still have costs while the game is selling for that entire year.  I don't know if I would consider 20k a year a resonable cost.  I understand you can do it.  People can do all kinds of things.  I understand that they were close to that.  That just seems crazy to me.  I know people do live like that.  It just seems odd that anyone would use that as a figure for cost on a project.   

    It's a matter of what someone is willing to sacrifice to make a dream come true.  The two member team making 20k each is more likely to succeed than the one member team making 40k. Same cost with each, but more productivity from the team willing to sacrifice more.

    More likely to succeed than the one member making 40k? In what world do you live in?

    How do you know? Why? Why would the former 2 members making 20k be more likely to succeed than the 1 member making 40k?

     

    Because "the team willing to sacrifice more" are more productive?

     

    Honestly, it sounds like you're making things up here with nothing to back up your insane claims. In reality, the single man making 40k a  year is more likely to be successful, because he has enough money to live comfortable, have MUCH lower stress (something that is INCREDIBLY important for efficiency), not be held back by others, must be self-motivated, and is significantly less likely to abandon the project to pursue a better paying job.

     

    What you say sounds like some sort of naive idealism you imagined and are stating is somehow true. What real life probably shows, is closer to the opposite.

    If you gave 100 two-man teams 20k a year to make a game, they would probably have a higher failure rate than 100 one-man teams 40k a year to make a game. The former are extremely likely to fail just out of sheer "I'm not doing this for only 20k a year." reality.

  • AccountDeleted12341AccountDeleted12341 Houston, TXPosts: 351Member
    Originally posted by MMOman101
    I get that.  Poverty is like 12k a year for one person in the US.  That is above poverty, but not a lot.  I think their development till the end figure is 2+ years in length.  Maybe 2 and half.  Unless they all picked up immediate jobs afterwards they would would still have costs while the game is selling for that entire year.  I don't know if I would consider 20k a year a resonable cost.  I understand you can do it.  People can do all kinds of things.  I understand that they were close to that.  That just seems crazy to me.  I know people do live like that.  It just seems odd that anyone would use that as a figure for cost on a project.   

    You need to emphasize to others that they need to realize that written "Poverty" isn't the same as real poverty.

     

    Poverty in the US, by legal definition, is extremely low (as you said, often around 12k for various State definitions).

    However, real poverty is MUCH higher than that. I would definitely consider anyone with a salary of 20k living in the US, even in low cost of living areas, as being in poverty, unless they have free rent in non-section8 housing (live with parents, own home, live free somehow, etc.)

    [mod edit]

  • anemoanemo Posts: 976Member Uncommon

    This MMO has 30 people:  http://illarion.org/general/us_startpage.php

    There are currently nearly 30 people in the development team. That means 3 server developers (C++), 1 client developer (Java) (Thats me! Cheesy), 1 graphics artist, 10 game mechanics and content developers (Lua) and 1 web developer. The rest is working in translations and QA. In addition to that there are 8 people who handle the player management and the in-game events. In addition we got some arrangements with 2 sound artists who supply the original sound track to the game and 3 people who handle the society that maintains finances and the rights to the game.

    The project is active since '99, so we got beyond the point of the initial idea. Wink

    Source: http://www.java-gaming.org/topics/searching-for-a-group/30022/view.html , they're also recruiting a bit.

    Rather interesting numbers, and defines the "hobby MMO" project(read the vision statement).

     

     

    Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent.

    "At one point technology meant making tech that could get to the moon, now it means making tech that could get you a taxi."

  • WereLlamaWereLlama Lubbock, TXPosts: 244Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by anemo
    This MMO has 30 people:  http://illarion.org/general/us_startpage.php There are currently nearly 30 people in the development team. That means 3 server developers (C++), 1 client developer (Java) (Thats me! Cheesy), 1 graphics artist, 10 game mechanics and content developers (Lua) and 1 web developer. The rest is working in translations and QA. In addition to that there are 8 people who handle the player management and the in-game events. In addition we got some arrangements with 2 sound artists who supply the original sound track to the game and 3 people who handle the society that maintains finances and the rights to the game.

    The project is active since '99, so we got beyond the point of the initial idea. Wink
    Source: http://www.java-gaming.org/topics/searching-for-a-group/30022/view.html , they're also recruiting a bit. Rather interesting numbers, and defines the "hobby MMO" project(read the vision statement).

    I think this project shows the result of building an online game with volunteers(lost cost) and ties directly into the general rule of project management: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management_triangle

    They wanted it Cheap and Good, so they compromised on Time.

    If you want a quality game(Good) with modern graphics(Time), you need to spend a lot of money (Cost).

    -WL

     

     

  • CaldrinCaldrin CwmbranPosts: 4,505Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by WereLlama
    Originally posted by anemo
    This MMO has 30 people:  http://illarion.org/general/us_startpage.php There are currently nearly 30 people in the development team. That means 3 server developers (C++), 1 client developer (Java) (Thats me! Cheesy), 1 graphics artist, 10 game mechanics and content developers (Lua) and 1 web developer. The rest is working in translations and QA. In addition to that there are 8 people who handle the player management and the in-game events. In addition we got some arrangements with 2 sound artists who supply the original sound track to the game and 3 people who handle the society that maintains finances and the rights to the game.

    The project is active since '99, so we got beyond the point of the initial idea. Wink
    Source: http://www.java-gaming.org/topics/searching-for-a-group/30022/view.html , they're also recruiting a bit. Rather interesting numbers, and defines the "hobby MMO" project(read the vision statement).

    I think this project shows the result of building an online game with volunteers(lost cost) and ties directly into the general rule of project management: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management_triangle

    They wanted it Cheap and Good, so they compromised on Time.

    If you want a quality game(Good) with modern graphics(Time), you need to spend a lot of money (Cost).

    -WL

     

     

    Well with the different game engines that are available these days that are constantly updated.. you can still make a good game on the cheap with modern graphics while taking your time about it..

    You could have a team of you working on the game part time and yes it might take twice as long depending how much of your spare time you put into it. That would of course allow them to support themselves with a proper job and so on.

    Of course having investment up front so you can put 100% of your time into a game is a better way of doing things but it is no longer the only way to do things and you no longer need to spend a lot of money if you dont want to.

    anyway thanks for the link OP that was a great article.

  • RusqueRusque Las Vegas, NVPosts: 2,633Member Rare
    Originally posted by Disatisfied9
    "The final figure for our income after exactly one year of sales is $489,404 USD (from a total of $668,490 in revenue)."   Final costs: 36k   Time to develop: Almost 2 years of development   People in Company: 4   489,000 - 36,000 = 453,000 453,000 / 2 years = 226702 per year 226702 per year / 4 employees Over $56675.5 per year, seeing how "almost 2 years" is less than 2 years, but this number is close enough.   $56.6k per year is a good amount of money, especially when you are your own boss, have full control over your dream, and are doing what you love.     That is... 56.6k per year AFTER they were finished with the game. They already were payed 20k per year while making the game.   So their actual salary for the "almost 2 years" they made this game? 20k + 56.6k per year.     76.6k per year to follow your dreams, be your own boss, and make the game YOU want to make?   Sounds like the whiny tone of the article is not justified. Sounds like they're living the dream, and making tons of money in doing so, unless their cost of living is among the highest in the world. If so, it would have been incredibly cheap to move to a cheaper state/area, seeing as how there's only 4 people to relocate for the digital business to prosper. Even better though, it's not 76.6k per year. It's 20k for quite awhile barely making it by, followed by a HUGE chunk of 56.6k change later on after the game is finished and work is not as intense.   What isn't relevant, is that they will have to use their income to supplement living while developing another game unless they get an investor (like most people do). What is relevant, is that if they stopped now, making this video game gave them a salary of 76.6k per year, for 2 years. That's 153,200 of salary for only 2 years. That's amazing.

    You're missing some key details.

    The $20k per person was split from the $100k prize they won. Their game didn't earn them anything at that point. That's not a figure you can add into calculations as if it's always going to be there. Are they planning on winning another $100k again for their next game? How about after that? Doubtful.

    And it wasn't 20k per year.  It was 20k for each of them. 100k prize, after taxes, split four ways is roughly $20k. So it's more like 10k a year, and I'm assuming they had some other income to help support themselves during this time.

    They mention that after taxes they had $295k in profit to split. This gave them $73,750. Now, if this had been a single year, that would actually be pretty good money. But without another prize they have to work on their next game for X amount of time with that one lump sum for all expenses. So their real income is now $73750 / 4 (2 years for Dustforce and 2 years for the yet to be finished Spire - might takes more/less time just guessing). So you're actually looking at $18,437 per year until the next release.

    It is nice to be your own boss, but that's pretty rough living imo. Mostly because it's inconsistent, you don't know what hurdles you might face in your next game and any amount of time delay reduces your average income. That's pretty scary. Not only that, but there's no guarantee your next game will be as popular. You're hoping that it will exceed the previous game, but it would be quite nerve racking.

     

  • ArChWindArChWind Some Place, WIPosts: 1,220Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Rusque
    Originally posted by Disatisfied9
    "The final figure for our income after exactly one year of sales is $489,404 USD (from a total of $668,490 in revenue)."   Final costs: 36k   Time to develop: Almost 2 years of development   People in Company: 4   489,000 - 36,000 = 453,000 453,000 / 2 years = 226702 per year 226702 per year / 4 employees Over $56675.5 per year, seeing how "almost 2 years" is less than 2 years, but this number is close enough.   $56.6k per year is a good amount of money, especially when you are your own boss, have full control over your dream, and are doing what you love.     That is... 56.6k per year AFTER they were finished with the game. They already were payed 20k per year while making the game.   So their actual salary for the "almost 2 years" they made this game? 20k + 56.6k per year.     76.6k per year to follow your dreams, be your own boss, and make the game YOU want to make?   Sounds like the whiny tone of the article is not justified. Sounds like they're living the dream, and making tons of money in doing so, unless their cost of living is among the highest in the world. If so, it would have been incredibly cheap to move to a cheaper state/area, seeing as how there's only 4 people to relocate for the digital business to prosper. Even better though, it's not 76.6k per year. It's 20k for quite awhile barely making it by, followed by a HUGE chunk of 56.6k change later on after the game is finished and work is not as intense.   What isn't relevant, is that they will have to use their income to supplement living while developing another game unless they get an investor (like most people do). What is relevant, is that if they stopped now, making this video game gave them a salary of 76.6k per year, for 2 years. That's 153,200 of salary for only 2 years. That's amazing.

    You're missing some key details.

    The $20k per person was split from the $100k prize they won. Their game didn't earn them anything at that point. That's not a figure you can add into calculations as if it's always going to be there. Are they planning on winning another $100k again for their next game? How about after that? Doubtful.

    And it wasn't 20k per year.  It was 20k for each of them. 100k prize, after taxes, split four ways is roughly $20k. So it's more like 10k a year, and I'm assuming they had some other income to help support themselves during this time.

    They mention that after taxes they had $295k in profit to split. This gave them $73,750. Now, if this had been a single year, that would actually be pretty good money. But without another prize they have to work on their next game for X amount of time with that one lump sum for all expenses. So their real income is now $73750 / 4 (2 years for Dustforce and 2 years for the yet to be finished Spire - might takes more/less time just guessing). So you're actually looking at $18,437 per year until the next release.

    It is nice to be your own boss, but that's pretty rough living imo. Mostly because it's inconsistent, you don't know what hurdles you might face in your next game and any amount of time delay reduces your average income. That's pretty scary. Not only that, but there's no guarantee your next game will be as popular. You're hoping that it will exceed the previous game, but it would be quite nerve racking.

     

    That pretty much sums it up right now with the genre as a whole for indie developers. It is expensive and very risky and most will return a very low profit unless the game is very unique. In the past that was not a problem but the expectations of the player base has went through a drastic change over the last 5 years.
     
    The time frame to make a competitive MMORPG in todays market is 20,000 to 30,000 man hours. Then you have the cost of buying or leasing servers which is not cheep if you intend to maintain a decent population. A cluster of 40 servers can run about 5,000 CCU (concurrent connected users) unless you sacrifice server performance but subscription models are becoming a thing of the past so you’re rolling the dice on if the investment is worth the time and effort.
  • FusionFusion VaasaPosts: 1,367Member Uncommon
    The 'insane' costs of game-developement from AAA-companies are because of the CEO's and other corporate parasites, their salaries are more than likely over 75% of the entire developement cost and the remaining 25% goes into actually making the game, licenses, team salaries, advertisement etc.
  • anemoanemo Posts: 976Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Caldrin
    Originally posted by WereLlama
    Originally posted by anemo
    This MMO has 30 people:  http://illarion.org/general/us_startpage.php There are currently nearly 30 people in the development team. That means 3 server developers (C++), 1 client developer (Java) (Thats me! Cheesy), 1 graphics artist, 10 game mechanics and content developers (Lua) and 1 web developer. The rest is working in translations and QA. In addition to that there are 8 people who handle the player management and the in-game events. In addition we got some arrangements with 2 sound artists who supply the original sound track to the game and 3 people who handle the society that maintains finances and the rights to the game.

    The project is active since '99, so we got beyond the point of the initial idea. Wink
    Source: http://www.java-gaming.org/topics/searching-for-a-group/30022/view.html , they're also recruiting a bit. Rather interesting numbers, and defines the "hobby MMO" project(read the vision statement).

    I think this project shows the result of building an online game with volunteers(lost cost) and ties directly into the general rule of project management: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management_triangle

    They wanted it Cheap and Good, so they compromised on Time.

    If you want a quality game(Good) with modern graphics(Time), you need to spend a lot of money (Cost).

    -WL

     

     

    Well with the different game engines that are available these days that are constantly updated.. you can still make a good game on the cheap with modern graphics while taking your time about it..

    You could have a team of you working on the game part time and yes it might take twice as long depending how much of your spare time you put into it. That would of course allow them to support themselves with a proper job and so on.

    Of course having investment up front so you can put 100% of your time into a game is a better way of doing things but it is no longer the only way to do things and you no longer need to spend a lot of money if you dont want to.

    anyway thanks for the link OP that was a great article.

    I'd have to disagree that using a modern engine would make things simple enough.    For every dimension(level of difficulty) you add to a project the number of of eligible people goes down by a factor of 10(lazy math).  When a project starts it is even harder to recruit than before, essentially you represent a higher time requirement and require more skill than before.

    Going 3D represents several dimensions.   So having 30 to 100 times fewer able to join your project is pretty depressing.

    Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent.

    "At one point technology meant making tech that could get to the moon, now it means making tech that could get you a taxi."

  • DMKanoDMKano Gamercentral, AKPosts: 13,186Member Legendary
    Originally posted by Fusion
    The 'insane' costs of game-developement from AAA-companies are because of the CEO's and other corporate parasites, their salaries are more than likely over 75% of the entire developement cost and the remaining 25% goes into actually making the game, licenses, team salaries, advertisement etc.

    Simply not true, the insane cost is due to the size of team and 4-5 year Dev cycle. Also paying for AAA veteran game devs is not cheap (six figure salaries across the board)

    Biggest cost in AAA games is the time spent polishing the game - it adds up to more than a year of extra work usually.

     

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