Game Development Costs

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  • #209958
    theshockwave
    Participant

    Hey guys, long time no post!

    Inspired by the Tomb Raider breaking even story on the front page I wondered why game development costs were so high.

    Clearly, they take a long time to make and get right, requiring lots of highly skilled staff and testers. There’s also an expensive engine to produce (buy/rent?), and a lot of planning and audience testing to do. Then there’s advertising and publicity, which I imagine would be a significant proportion of the costs.

    But what else is there? Some games cost many millions to make and it’s hard to see where all that budget goes!

    #209959
    freezebug2
    Participant

    I’m amazed sometimes at the rollcall of names in the credits screen which I occasionally read through. The salary budget must be astronomical, especially when a game is a few years in development. Easily comparable with Hollywood Blockbuster production methods and costs.

    #209960
    Avenger
    Participant

    I feel that one thing heavily underestimated is the workmanship and software. Games are becoming increasingly time-consuming to make with much more work to do to create more detail, more impressive AI, and overall better game-play design (that works, and how do you know what works?). Add this to the game engine which if proprietary, takes even longer to code. All of this requires more workmanship and software.

    Also with something like Tomb Raider, there are actors, motion capture, a sound score, and a script that has to work (and is therefore subject to many alterations). The developers may just need creative time as well. They have clearly thought about the game and its characters to make Tomb Raider different in a meaningful way.

    Also on top of that I know for a fact competitive multiplayer is bastard to code for. It’s honestly a bit of a waste to code anything competitive unless it’ll have an edge and plenty of online support. I get what CD were trying to do, but I think it should have been swapped for something else like a strategic and dynamic whorde mode that forces players to craft stuff, set traps, and dynamically change settings. It would’ve been easier to do something like that than code a multiplayer framework that wouldn’t gain anything special for the game.

    #209962
    Tony Cawley
    Participant

    There’s quite an interesting forum thread on this here with an infographic on it.

    http://mwomercs.com/forums/topic/109179-infographic-video-game-budget-breakdown/

    Don’t know how reliable the source of the information is, but it seems believable enough.

    #209973
    theshockwave
    Participant

    Yeah, that link looks pretty convincing. Doesn’t suggest that the programming actually costs that much though, which is a surprise.

    I’d love to know production costs for a decent indie game and then for AAA games and see how their profits (per pound input) compare. Big companies have lots to spend but they also then need lots of sales to recoup that money back. Games like CoD and Fifa probably have no problem with that at all, but spending mega bucks on big games that might flop must be pretty risky.

    #209978
    gazzagb
    Moderator

    I think it’s also worth taking into account it’s a new game, rather than a sequel, so they have to spend a lot more time making/modifying the engine and creating assets. For companies like Infinity Ward, or Naughty Dog, most of the tech required is already there, they can re-model animations, re-texture assets etc. With Tomb Raider, they were totally from scratch in building development tools etc, which would of increased the cost I’m sure. When (if) they make a sequel, their development costs won’t be as high as they can re-use certain things (e.g Lara, generic bad guys) to make it cheaper.

    #210127
    Stefan L
    Keymaster

    The problem with Tomb Raider is that Squeenix looked at the game and the franchise and then estimated that they would reach something like 4 million sales.

    From that figure, they then reverse engineered the budget and let CD loose with X-ty X millions of dollars, planning for a tidy profit after a few months on the market. When the game got pushed back from late 2012 to early 2013, that heaped extra costs on top, and pushed up the required sales for the game to turn a profit let alone be considered a financial success.

    In the end, the game didn’t reach SE’s expectations, but was close enough to them and a critical darling, so they’ve greenlit a sequel and invested further cash in this Definitive Edition. Though the DE will have to hit certain targets because of the redevelopment of parts of the game.

    But the problems can all be traced back to that initial sales estimate being too high. Had they figured on 3/4 the sales, scaled back the development costs and time through having a shorter campaign or something like that and had a somewhat more frugal marketing strategy, it could have been a different story heading into the sequel and DE releases.

    Same goes for Hitman, which also didn’t hit the target sales figures, leading to what was a very bad fiscal year for SE as a whole.

    #210221
    beeje13
    Participant

    I don’t know if development tools (help, automation, etc…) has kept up with the demands for increasingly complex game. I know that Witcher 3 uses SpeedTree(used in Avatar film(s)), which auto generates foliage, but is there similar things for the huge amount of other game assets?

    I think I remember Guerrilla designing some tool animation thing for Shadow Fall that enabled them to use on characters with different sizes and roles etc..

    But why did Guerrilla have to make these tools? are they not offered publicly, or are they, but do they cost a significant amount.

    I’d also assume creating online multiplayer requires alot of development effort.

    #210244
    Severn2j
    Participant

    Hmm, that infographic looks a little dubious to me. The quotes particularly are a bit suspect, like Bethesda apparently saying “We don’t need to test internally, our players will do that for us and we can patch in fixes later”? There’s no way any exec would admit to something like that, it would be commercial suicide..

    Also, I noticed the vast majority of the money goes to Art and Marketing. Not very descriptive. 80% of the budget and its like, “Oh, its just Art and Marketing”, like it doesn’t require further breakdown.

    Personally, I don’t think there’s going to be any real figures available on what AAA video game budgets are spent on, because I suspect there’s quite a bit of Hollywood Accounting going on.

    I also suspect there’s going to be a lot more reports about how games aren’t making any money at the moment, as its a new console generation and they want to justify raising the price, although, you’ll notice that they haven’t done that in the US, where its stil $60 (or £36ish)

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 8 months ago by Severn2j.
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