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If you're new to the wide world of video games, you may not have known that video game development budgets can vary but oftentimes big studio AAA releases carry budgets equivalent to the average Hollywood flick. Indie games, unsurprisingly, carry similar budgets to indie movies.
For people who didn't know that video games can be expensive to make, Tim Schafer breaks it down and gives out a few details on just how much some of your favorite titles cost to produce.
In a series of back-and-forth Tweets with fans after his production studio, Double Fine, hit their Kickstarter community-funded mark, he briefly let loose a few numerical facts and this quote-worthy tidbit of information, saying..."Surprised that game budgets are so high? Well, listen--people are expensive! And LIVING people? Forget about it."
Games like Grim Fandango cost a hefty $3 million back in 1998. Full Throttle cost just over $2 million to produce, and Psychonauts had a whopping $12 million dollar budget back in 2005, equivalent to the $12 million dollar budget of gPotato's 2010 AAA MMO, Allods Online. Yikes.
What's interesting is that not all games are made equal, this has been mentioned a few times on this website. For instance, the original Gears of War only had a budget of $10 million and while that seems like a lot take into consideration that it was the flagship game for the brand new Unreal Engine 3 back in 2006. New engine plus new game for only $10 million isn't bad at all...in fact, by comparison it does make you question where a lot of the budget went in a game like Psychonauts which wasn't really pushing anything new on the technology front.
Also, voice-acting can quickly raise a game's budget considerably especially when a bunch of celebrities are picked for the job. Although, I can't say that such a decision has ever made a game leave a lasting impression on me or made me feel the retail price was worth that much more because of (insert actor's name here).
There's also another factor of game budgets a lot of people don't talk about...see back in the 1990s and early 00s, video game budgets were mostly centered around artists, programmers, designers, QA and testers. Nowadays, a huge portion of a game's budget resides in marketing, in fact, for some games, 200% of the budget will go into marketing while the game itself will cost anywhere between $10 and $20 million to actually design and produce.
Another downside to development costs -- something that plagues more studios than many companies let on -- is project waste. Project waste is probably one of the biggest viruses spreading throughout the gaming industry right now. RealTime Worlds was a prime example of how to blow $100 million over the course of five years on a project like All Points Bulletin and the game wasn't even finished by the time the studio exhausted all their funds. What's worse is that the game wasn't even running on brand new tech...it was all mostly licensed ware from third-party sources. It's a bit of a far-cry from high-quality indie titles like Limbo, Q.U.B.E. and MineCraft which have proven to be both fun and popular, as well as keep the budget under $100,000.
With Double Fine Productions' upcoming adventure title, they now have a budget of over $1.5 million dollars thanks to the Kickstarter program. Schafer also says that there will be complete transparency on the development process so gamers know exactly where their dollars are going and there won't be any of that project waste that was mentioned above.
What's funny is that while no big publisher was willing to back them, even though they only needed $400k to get the game made, the game community was more than willing to chip in for the effort. Hopefully Schafer and crew uses the money wisely to produce a fun, iconic game for today's generation of gaming.
You can learn more about the upcoming point-and-click adventure title by paying a visit to the Official Double Fine Productions Website.
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