How much does it cost to make a game?

There is not one single answer to the question how much does it cost to make a game? And if we put it in a price range, it could start from thousands of dollars and go up to millions. The truth is that game development is a complex process that brings together tech and artistic disciplines.

And it is complexity, the main factor to be considered when coming up with a budget. Functionality, design, platform, and the team involved in making the video game are also an essential part of the cost.

Image of Minecraft video game

To be more precise, we could estimate, for example, that the cost of a mobile game like Angry Birds was $140,000, whereas Pokémon Go, which includes a large number of

geolocation features, was $600.000. As for big PC games like Grand Theft Auto, the expenses could pass the $250 million mark (Keveru Games, 2021).

Every game is entirely different from the moment the idea is conceived to the development and final stages. And to make it more challenging to estimate a price, very few developers or design companies disclose this kind of information.

The only sure thing is that the industry is continually growing. A 2020 survey showed that 75% of Americans have at least one video game at home. And even when the average age range is 34-44, “people over 65 (46% men and 63% women) reported they have been playing 10 years, which means older people are turning to video games” (ESA, 2020).

Infographic about the ages people play video games

So, how much does it cost to make a game, then?

In the attempt to get straight an answer, we will go through different expenditures items that add up to the final cost of a game. A big part of the rate is formed by the number of team members working on the project and how long it takes to make a video game.

Game designers

They come up with the idea, the concept, the rules, the characters, and the whole dynamic of the game. How many do you need? That will depend on how big or small is your project. Is it mobile? Is it 2D or 3D?

Artists and animators

There are many graphic types, being 2D and 3D the most common ones, but both have unique natures and features. The third dimension is more expensive because it takes more time to develop. In some cases, one person can do both jobs, and in others, the game needs an entire department.

Developers

They are the experts in programming languages, so they will tell you what engine and language will be better for the type of game you have in mind. Developing is about coding an interactive element, so they have to work closely with artists and animators.

Sound designers

Like any movie or series, sounds and music are essential to the plot of the game. You can get free sounds from different libraries, but you can also create your own music from scratch. A combination of both could help you stay within your budget and create an original piece of art.

Testers

We are talking about QA engineers, professionals that check the quality of the game. They test functionality, visual elements, performance, and user requirements and fix bugs and errors before the game deployment.

Once you know how many people your project requires, you can roughly calculate how much does it cost to make a game based on the salaries by applying the following equation:

(Rate per hour x 8 hours per day) x number of employees) x 20 business days) x number of Months of Work

On top of that, you also need to budget for software licenses, third-party services, storage or multiplayer services, among others. Intellectual property such as rights to a brand or a popular character also cost some money. Content and equipment need to be added to expenses.

Mobile game development cost

Mobile has taken more than half of the gaming industry market share, and the trend is on the rise. Smartphones and tablets are convenient to take your games whatever you go, hence their popularity. “There are now more than 2.5 billion mobile players in the world, and in 2021, their number will increase to 2.7 billion” (Kevuru Games, 2020).

Infographic with data about distribution of players by platforms

The expense difference from other types of video games is the platform the game is developed for. The rest of the process is pretty similar. Choosing between Android, iOS or cross-development type will directly affect the cost. “On average, developing a game for iOS costs 10-20% more than for Android” (Kevuru Games, 2020).

Type and functionality

In addition to the platform, there are four types of mobile games based on their functionality, graphics and number of players, as follow:

 

–     Elementary 2D games: They are simple games like Pacman where you only need to move elements.

–     Casual 2D game: They have different levels and require more involvement from the players.

–     Mid-level 3D games: They are three-dimensional products with characters and modern graphics.

–     High-end 3D games: multiplayer, 3D graphics, and strategy variations.

The cost of famous games

Grand Theft Auto 5

The high-end graphic of a complex world and the multiplayer mode has kept it one of the most played PC games on the planet. It has made $6 billion in revenue and has sold 110 million copies, a few less than Minecraft and Tetris.

It is also the most expensive video game ever created, with a cost of around $265 million. More than half was spent on the team of 250 people and the rest on marketing.

Call Of Duty

By the time of its release in 2009, it had the highest budget for a video game. But the surprising part was that out of the $250 million, $200 was spent on marketing.

It paid off since the game won the Guinness World Records for the most successful launch in the entertainment industry. During the first days in the market, hit the $400 million mark in revenue.

Conclusion

Getting an exact number of how much does it cost to make a game is a little tricky. There are so many factors that play an important role when creating a budget, that coming up with game development cost breakdown is challenging. A price range would not be any help either.

Complexity is the only guide you can follow: “The more complex the game is and the more content it contains (levels, missions, bosses, functional), the bigger team and the more resources and time you need” (VironIT, 2018).

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