The Cost Of Producing A Video Game

rpmcmurphyrpmcmurphy DublinMember EpicPosts: 2,569
An interesting article about the cost of producing video games. There's always a lot of debate about how much Star Citizen will cost, how much money they have remaining / how much they need to keep going / how long until they run out of money.

While reporting for my recently released book about how games are made, I asked a ton of developers how they calculate their budgets. A few of the bigger companies wouldn’t get into specific numbers—like I said, notoriously secretive—but all of the studios that did answer offered the same magical number: $10,000. Specifically, $10,000 per person per month.
“That’s a good ballpark number,” said Obsidian’s Adam Brennecke, executive producer of Pillars of Eternity and its upcoming sequel. “Based on the average salary for a developer plus overhead, it costs about $10,000 per person at the studio. Some are more expensive. And that’s how you usually do budgets with publishers too.”

I dont know if this next bit was aimed at CIG but it sure seems like it:
Say you’re a massive publisher that’s trying to compete with the Red Dead Redemptions and Destinys of the world. You’re making a military shooter, of course. In order to hit the graphical fidelity that your fans expect, you need a staff of at least 400, and you need to give them three years (36 months). 400 * 36 * 10,000 = $144,000,000. And that’s before the inevitable delay, not to mention the marketing. Those CGI commercials aren’t gonna pay for themselves.

https://kotaku.com/why-video-games-cost-so-much-to-make-1818508211




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Comments

  • ShaighShaigh Member RarePosts: 1,526
    What makes costs balloon up to the stratosphere is having to remake large aspects of the game or critical bugs that prevents lots of people to work on the game.

    Swtor suffered a lot due to critical bugs on hero engine and until some of those bugs were fixed they couldn't build content. Two weeks delay and 200 people unable to work on something and that's $1M out the window on people doing nothing.

    Given CR's habits on remaking stuff I'm not surprised that they keep asking for money.
    The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  • SpottyGekkoSpottyGekko JohannesburgMember EpicPosts: 6,554
    "In order to hit the graphical fidelity that your fans expect, you need a staff of at least 400, and you need to give them three years (36 months). 400 * 36 * 10,000 = $144,000,000."

    <s>
    Pfffft !

    Any 10-man indie team will tell you they can do it with just the $1M they will raise from their KS and continued "perks" sales via their own cash shop.

    These "industry professionals are clueless...

    </s>
    Azaron_NightbladeKyleranMadFrenchieKresharthRhimeJamesGoblin
  • kikoodutroa8kikoodutroa8 grenobleMember UncommonPosts: 333
    Star Citizen is crowdfunded by presales and Chris Robberts said 1$ is worth the equivalent of 4 if he was working with a publisher.
    So they basically have a 600+ millions budget and it shows!
    KyleranFrodoFraginsShaighExcession
  • MadFrenchieMadFrenchie Nashville, TNMember EpicPosts: 2,974
    edited September 19
    Star Citizen is crowdfunded by presales and Chris Robberts said 1$ is worth the equivalent of 4 if he was working with a publisher.
    So they basically have a 600+ millions budget and it shows!
    If these posts are sarcasm, your sarcastic wit is on some next level shit.
    Post edited by MadFrenchie on
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  • Turrican187Turrican187 WernigerodeMember UncommonPosts: 655
    KyleranShaighExcessionJakobmiller

    When you have cake, it is not the cake that creates the most magnificent of experiences, but it is the emotions attached to it.
    The cake is a lie.

  • MadFrenchieMadFrenchie Nashville, TNMember EpicPosts: 2,974
    Does that factor in the savings associated with the traditional model reference publishers reigning in scope creep to avoid increased development time? ;)
    JamesGoblin

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  • Turrican187Turrican187 WernigerodeMember UncommonPosts: 655
    Well CIG/RSI published this infochart so what does your heart tell you?
    MadFrenchieJamesGoblin

    When you have cake, it is not the cake that creates the most magnificent of experiences, but it is the emotions attached to it.
    The cake is a lie.

  • GeezerGamerGeezerGamer ChairMember EpicPosts: 7,956

    Yep, that proves it.
    1.jpg 120.1K
    JamesGoblin
  • MaxBaconMaxBacon Figueira da FozMember EpicPosts: 4,512
    edited September 20
    Yep, that proves it.
    ik right, the Backers pay for the toilet paper they use in the offices. I'm outraged, why don't they use their hands :p
    Post edited by MaxBacon on
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  • WizardryWizardry Ontario, CanadaMember EpicPosts: 13,180
    MaxBacon said:
    Yep, that proves it.
    ik right, the Backers pay for the toilet paper they use in the offices. I'm outraged, why don't they use their hands :p
    Well when you make claims that the backers money is to do so and so you can't start spending it elsewhere and pretend it is ok.

    This is NOT Robert's money,technically it is since gamer's gave it to him but in TRUST,they trust he is spending it where he promised.Besides it doesn't end with toilet paper,there is running water,ALL of the typical bills,hydro,food,who do you think pays for their daily meals?

    This same subject came up when asked if the game was funding his wife's career,he said he has his own money.Someone out in left field could say "oh my he is looking after his spouse ,how bad of him".

    This would be like i give you 50 bucks to get me something and i said i would give you 10 bucks for doing me the favor,In the meantime you took my 50 bucks and used 10 bucks in gas so actually took 20 bucks of the 50 instead of the 10 we agreed upon.Then one could say "oh he needed gas for the car,how else would his car move if no gas?"

    Point being,we could always make smart ass comments to state the OBVIOUS ,such as needing toilet paper or needing drinking water,or lights to actually see our work,chairs to sit in,air conditioners for the hot days,order pizza's when working late,hire baby sitters to look after the kids with the game's money,it is ENDLESS when talking about normal everyday life needs.

    Never forget 3 mile Island and never trust a government official or company spokesman.

  • KefoKefo London, ONMember EpicPosts: 3,104
    Wizardry said:
    MaxBacon said:
    Yep, that proves it.
    ik right, the Backers pay for the toilet paper they use in the offices. I'm outraged, why don't they use their hands :p
    Well when you make claims that the backers money is to do so and so you can't start spending it elsewhere and pretend it is ok.

    This is NOT Robert's money,technically it is since gamer's gave it to him but in TRUST,they trust he is spending it where he promised.Besides it doesn't end with toilet paper,there is running water,ALL of the typical bills,hydro,food,who do you think pays for their daily meals?

    This same subject came up when asked if the game was funding his wife's career,he said he has his own money.Someone out in left field could say "oh my he is looking after his spouse ,how bad of him".

    This would be like i give you 50 bucks to get me something and i said i would give you 10 bucks for doing me the favor,In the meantime you took my 50 bucks and used 10 bucks in gas so actually took 20 bucks of the 50 instead of the 10 we agreed upon.Then one could say "oh he needed gas for the car,how else would his car move if no gas?"

    Point being,we could always make smart ass comments to state the OBVIOUS ,such as needing toilet paper or needing drinking water,or lights to actually see our work,chairs to sit in,air conditioners for the hot days,order pizza's when working late,hire baby sitters to look after the kids with the game's money,it is ENDLESS when talking about normal everyday life needs.
    All they can make is smartass remarks when that is brought up cause they can't defend it without sounding silly or going against what Christ Roberts, blessed be his name, has said
    MaxBaconExcessionJamesGoblinforcelima
  • MaxBaconMaxBacon Figueira da FozMember EpicPosts: 4,512
    edited September 20
    Kefo said:
    All they can make is smartass remarks when that is brought up cause they can't defend it without sounding silly or going against what Christ Roberts, blessed be his name, has said
    I responded a joke with a joke. You being you turn it into that comment... 
    Post edited by MaxBacon on
    KefoTalonsinExcessionJamesGoblin
  • MadFrenchieMadFrenchie Nashville, TNMember EpicPosts: 2,974
    MaxBacon said:
    Yep, that proves it.
    ik right, the Backers pay for the toilet paper they use in the offices. I'm outraged, why don't they use their hands :p
    I heard they spent a cool mil on the 3 seashells system, but then had to buy toilet paper anyway, because nobody could figure out how to use it. #wastedmoneyz
    MaxBaconExcessionRidelynnOctagon7711JamesGoblin

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  • KefoKefo London, ONMember EpicPosts: 3,104
    MaxBacon said:
    Kefo said:
    All they can make is smartass remarks when that is brought up cause they can't defend it without sounding silly or going against what Christ Roberts, blessed be his name, has said
    I responded a joke with a joke. You being you turn it into an attack against me... 

    Toxic.
    Who said it was directed at you? Little defensive are you? 
    Excession
  • MaxBaconMaxBacon Figueira da FozMember EpicPosts: 4,512
    Kefo said:
    Who said it was directed at you? Little defensive are you? 
    You quote a post quoting me, was implied to me, perhaps if you don't want to send that message a little refrain on how you contextualize those remarks. O_o

    I heard they spent a cool mil on the 3 seashells system, but then had to buy toilet paper anyway, because nobody could figure out how to use it. #wastedmoneyz
    The photo of the toilet paper circulating the social media that day, my first thought was "I wonder if someone already wrote a blog post about it!". But yeah I heard the toilet paper got refactored to ensure usability :P 
    Excession
  • gervaise1gervaise1 .Member EpicPosts: 4,443
    As in the recent Gamasutra article this assumes all everyone around the world is paid this as a minimum. And forgets about incentives from e.g. governments.

    When it comes to "small start-ups" vs. "big established studios" small start-ups - broadly speaking - have an in-built cost advantage; they won't have established "support" teams that need to be budgeted for (which they will do by adding an overhead to the basic rate).

    Conversely "big studios" will have an in-built time-advantage - again broadly speaking. Basically the cocoon of support teams - IT, HR, Purchasing, (established) Project Management and QA techniques etc.- which should make things more efficient and more timely.

    As the adage goes .... time is money.

    No easy answer to know which is best. Sweeping generalization: small will probably be cheaper but will usually take longer; big will usually be more able to overcome adversity. The latter is especially true for the likes of EA and UbiSoft which have adopted a common game engine making it easier to bring extra resources to bear if necessary.

     



    JamesGoblin
  • TalonsinTalonsin Member EpicPosts: 3,496
    Does that factor in the savings associated with the traditional model reference publishers reigning in scope creep to avoid increased development time? ;)
    Does it also factor in opening studios in several countries and flying around between them?  What about space doors and 10k coffee machines?  What about not communicating with sub contractors and dropping several million on illphonic and finding out the work they did does not fit your game?  What about the cost of hiring your wife as a VP?  What about the cost of switching engines from Cryengine to lumberyard mid development? 

    MaxBaconExcessionKresharthJamesGoblin
    "Sean (Murray) saying MP will be in the game is not remotely close to evidence that at the point of purchase people thought there was MP in the game."  - SEANMCAD

  • KefoKefo London, ONMember EpicPosts: 3,104
    MaxBacon said:
    Kefo said:
    Who said it was directed at you? Little defensive are you? 
    You quote a post quoting me, was implied to me, perhaps if you don't want to send that message a little refrain on how you contextualize those remarks. O_o

    I heard they spent a cool mil on the 3 seashells system, but then had to buy toilet paper anyway, because nobody could figure out how to use it. #wastedmoneyz
    The photo of the toilet paper circulating the social media that day, my first thought was "I wonder if someone already wrote a blog post about it!". But yeah I heard the toilet paper got refactored to ensure usability :P 
    I was quoting @Wizardry and am on my phone so can't be assed to delete everything so that someone on the internet doesn't get offended when a remark hits a little too close to home apparently.
    MaxBaconExcessionKresharthJamesGoblin
  • KefoKefo London, ONMember EpicPosts: 3,104
    Oops hope @MadFrenchie doesn't get offended since I left him in that quote. Might think that comment was directed at him lol
    MaxBaconExcessionJamesGoblin
  • MaxBaconMaxBacon Figueira da FozMember EpicPosts: 4,512
    edited September 20
    Kefo said:
    I was quoting Wizardry and am on my phone so can't be assed to delete everything so that someone on the internet doesn't get offended when a remark hits a little too close to home apparently.
    I'm sure if I ever did the same remark in the same situation I would be "crucified" for it pretty fast, bet anything you want on that. Don't jump in so quickly to vilify :p  I do think my perception of your post was reasonable

    Post edited by MaxBacon on
    ExcessionJamesGoblin
  • KefoKefo London, ONMember EpicPosts: 3,104
    MaxBacon said:
    Kefo said:
    I was quoting Wizardry and am on my phone so can't be assed to delete everything so that someone on the internet doesn't get offended when a remark hits a little too close to home apparently.
    I'm sure if I ever did the same remark in the same situation I would be "crucified" for it pretty fast, bet anything you want on that. Don't jump in so quickly to vilify :p  I do think my perception of your post was reasonable

    And I've told you it wasn't directed at you. The fact you keep arguing is telling me it might have hit a little too close to home and so you are super defensive right now
    Excession
  • gervaise1gervaise1 .Member EpicPosts: 4,443
    Talonsin said:
    Does that factor in the savings associated with the traditional model reference publishers reigning in scope creep to avoid increased development time? ;)
    Does it also factor in opening studios in several countries and flying around between them?  What about space doors and 10k coffee machines?  What about not communicating with sub contractors and dropping several million on illphonic and finding out the work they did does not fit your game?  What about the cost of hiring your wife as a VP?  What about the cost of switching engines from Cryengine to lumberyard mid development? 

    There are historic numbers that have been given by companies for specific games that bear out the 20% number yes. Some made a little more, 23% say, and there were some variations per country - distributing a game in Russia for example was more expensive but - broadly speaking 20% was about what a company could expect. Variations obviously e.g. a sure fire hit sequel could command more.

    Key word: historic.

    The biggest change in recent years has been in how games are distributed. Electronic downloads vs. boxed copies is the obvious change. Beyond that however is that more and more games are now distributed directly by the developer - with large companies setting up their own portals. There have been other changes but this is the big one.

    As a result the percentage "royalty" - i.e. profit that a developer can now expect is far higher (analysts hope for 70% gross profit although EA has suggested that may be to high.)

    As for the specifics: setting up studios in different countries. Technically a cost but this would have worked its way through to the 20% royalty number. Historically, set up studios in different countries. So yes. And as RSI did not grow staff quickly in the early days costs will have been constrained. There will probably have been a time penalty however.

    Flying around. Sort of but not in the way you imply! Notwithstanding the fact that travel costs impact The trips to Germany by LA management, for example, are less frequent (every 6 months has been mentioned) than they would have been historically. So more travelling and travel costs would have been higher. Video conferencing is now cheaper and as a result more common. One of the minor cost savings that leads into a higher profit number.

    Space door - very cheap marketing and I am sure this was a part of the reason for it. The door has more than paid for itself!

    Coffee machines - staff deserve to be rewarded and cared for. And they perform better as a result. Historically companies have budgets for this and so this sort of thing factors into the 20%.

    Not communicating with sub-contractors. On yes! Obviously RSI did communicate with their sub-contractor - otherwise nothing will have been done! However what they will not have had - certainly on day 1 - was professional purchasing / sub-contract management. The type of "management" that big companies tend to have by default but which comes at a cost. RSI saved the cost but payed the consequences. So in that sense CR didn't get the "saving" expected by not having all the trappings of a big company. There have always been issues when working with other companies however. Communication is very hard. So yes the 20% included it. 

    Cost of hiring wife as a VP. If not his wife it would have been someone else. Same deal with Erin who you didn't mention. Without a personal "link" would anyone else have taken the job though? 

    As for the cost of switching to Lumberyard well a lot of historic games were made on engines built from scratch. Which is why UbiSoft and EA etc. have moved to their own engines (both companies have talked about the savings). So again another small part of increasing the 20%. However I am sure you remember though that Lumberyard = Cry Engine + Amazon bespoke. No doubt why going from "Cry Engine + RSI bespoke" to "Cry Engine + RSI bespoke Cry + Amazon bespoke Cry" took a couple of people a couple of days was it. Plus one minor issue.


    At the end of the day CR's "assertion" was correct; simplistic - as it had to be - but correct. (Trying to explain factors like changes in distribution in a few words not possible). 
    GdemamiExcessionJamesGoblin
  • ScoliozScolioz Member UncommonPosts: 60
    edited September 23
    Dark Age of Camelot cost 2.5 million...  and was one of the most successful MMORPG's ever made.. sorry but it doesn't cost anywhere even remotely near 144 million dollars and 400 people to build a video game...  anyone who believes that is a f'ing idiot.

    Just like it doesn't cost millions of dollars to build a website but if you know the right person in the government you might get a contract to design a government website for a million bucks

    Post edited by Scolioz on
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  • VrikaVrika FinlandMember RarePosts: 4,249
    Scolioz said:
    Dark Age of Camelot cost 2.5 million...  and was one of the most successful MMORPG's ever made.. sorry but it doesn't cost anywhere even remotely near 144 million dollars and 400 people to build a video game...  anyone who believes that is a f'ing idiot.
    2.5 million was the cost back in 2001. Only an idiot believes that a game made to 2001's standards could compete today.
    MadFrenchieShodanasSpottyGekkoJakobmiller
     
  • ScoliozScolioz Member UncommonPosts: 60
    edited September 24
    there's no difference [mod edit].. it's all still made exactly the same way...  if anything it should be even cheaper to make these days with all the advances in technology and time saving third party software
    Post edited by Vaross on
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