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I asked this same question here, but was closed and told to ask it on this site instead.

How much would it cost to develop a video game. I mean like a major PS3/360 video game. I know there really is no set price; but there has to be a pall bark, 100 grand, 10 mil, etc.

I am asking how much the games cost to make, (studio cost, developer salaries, etc.)

Examples would be nice.

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8 Answers 8

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Somewhere between $20M and $100M would be reasonable depending on genre for a AAA game. XBLA/PSN downloadable games often cost much less, and people have made XBLIG games for a few hundred dollars in their spare time. As a recent example, APB was rumored to have cost $100M (MMOs are among the most expensive games to produce).

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These numbers are accurate, although $100M is rare and only for big MMO projects and the occasional massive title + engine in something like GTAIV. Note these numbers don't include the marketing cost which is often in the tens of millions. –  wkerslake Oct 15 '10 at 18:02
    
Agree, except that you can still produce titles below $20M but they are likely going to be downloadable titles (XBLA, PSN, Steam) respectively free to play. Reasonably most current gen console games produced these days cost between $10M to $30M, fewer $40-$50M and very, very few above that with recent examples being GTA 4, APB, Red Dead Redemption. –  LearnCocos2D Oct 15 '10 at 23:22
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Saying they were "made for a few hundred dollars in their spare time" assumes their time is worthless - When Jon Blow said Braid cost $200k to develop a bunch of indies were shocked, but $180k of that was accounted for as paying himself a (relatively low) $60k/year salary. –  user744 Oct 16 '10 at 14:42
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There is a difference between an indie game and a hobby project. –  coderanger Oct 16 '10 at 22:47
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I think Blow actually stated that "most" of the money was used to pay the artist, and then a lot of the rest was for him to live on (and presumably paying for the music, etc.). So for him, even if it were a hobby project, unless he also elected to do his own graphics (or got someone to do them also as a hobby), then it would still have cost a reasonable amount of money. –  JasonD Oct 19 '10 at 14:43

Depending on your location and how awesome an office and benefits you're looking at, (in the US) you can count on $8,000 to $15,000 per developer per month. This is the fully loaded cost and includes IT and HR costs as well as equipment and other infrastructure.

For $8000 per person-month, though, you're going to be in a pretty crappy warehouse on the wrong side of the tracks in the middle of nowhere. In Southern California the range is more like 11-15k per person-month, although some studios may go even higher than that.

Edit: It's worth reiterating even though it's probably obvious. The above costs do not reflect the salaries alone. While there are a few people in the US game industry making $150k+, it is rare. The above numbers are salary plus benefits plus taxes plus facilities and all that jazz. Health insurance is huge, social security is 7.5% of your salary out of the company's pocket (and another 7.5% comes out of your paycheck), etc., etc.

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It varies widely. Ballpark is 8 figures for a big-budget ("AAA") title these days... i.e. 10 to 100 Million (US $). But a lot depends on how you count, and there are tons of exceptions.

Here's a good way to guesstimate:

1) How many people on the team? A small team is around 20-30 people, large team would be several hundred. Look at the credits of a few games you own (either on the Credits screen from main menu if there is one, or in the back of the instruction book... or just check www.mobygames.com).

2) What was the length of development? Typical range for AAA development is 2-5 years.

3) Where was it developed? Games made in San Francisco are going to cost more in payroll than those made in Denver. Look up the IGDA Salary Survey, adjust for cost-of-living of the area, and cut it by a small amount because the Salary Survey is slightly inflated.

If you have a particular kind of game in mind, find some similar games (same genre, comparable production values) and you can probably research all three of the above things for a similar title.

Then, multiply: size of team (number of people) X length of development (years) X average annual developer salary ($/year). That gives you the baseline development cost in payroll.

Example for a small game: 20 people X 2 years X $40K/year = $1.6M Example for a large game: 200 people X 5 years X $60K/year = $60M

What about other "operations" costs (office space, computer hardware and software, electricity, payroll services, etc.)? Ballpark, estimate those as 25% of the total dev cost, with payroll being the other 75%. So multiply the above figure by an extra 4/3 to get the final dev cost estimate.

If you want to include publisher costs (manufacturing, distribution, advertising), ballpark that as equal to the dev cost, so multiply your figure by 2 to get the final total cost of a game.

Hint: next time you hear someone complain about how video games are so expensive because they cost $60, remind them that the little package in their hand cost a lot more than $60 to develop :)

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YOU MEAN 99 MILLION –  bobobobo Jul 23 '12 at 22:15

Game development costs are something developers tend to keep pretty close to the vest, so it can be difficult to find examples.

In 2009, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot is quoted as saying the cost for creating a major title for PS3 or Xbox 360 is typically between $20 million and $30 million.

Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime is quoted as saying costs can be $20 million up to a staggering $50 million with sales of 1.3 to 1.5 million units to make money.

Obviously, MMOs and games built in tandem with their engines, cost significantly more.

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There is a list of most expensive games and their costs here.

Some items from the list:

  • Grand Theft Auto IV - $100 million
  • Gran Turismo 5 - $80 million
  • Shenmue - $70 million
  • Final Fantasy VII - $45 million, plus $100 million marketing

Interestingly also on the list are some old games, like Dragon's Lair, costing $1.3 million in 1883.

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YOU MEAN 1983 ;) –  Nathan Reed Jul 23 '12 at 23:00

You would need some serious cash upfront to fund the development of a game, and the people who lend you the money would need some strong evidence that you have the potential to make the game and profit from it, otherwise they wouldn't invest.

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You could probably make a cheap AAA console title for $2 or $3 million, but that would be with quite a small team using existing technology. Anything content-rich would require more artists and/or designers and hence cost more. Most of the money goes on salaries, in any case.

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There was a cool video game (PC and XBOX360) released a year ago by a big polish gamedev team. It's called The Witcher 2. It took them 30 milion zloty. It's something around 7 milion euros (9 milion dollars). A team of 100 people created 40+ hours of gameplay in 11 language versions.

Source (in Polish) http://www.nowiny24.pl/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110222/GRY/744199752

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