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DC_

How much it will cost to dev a game...

13 posts in this topic

So, I have a contact that was the lead for the first Medal of Honor with Steven Spielberg (Tom Kudirka of 2015.com), and I told him I was interested in deving a Quake Live knock-off (with much improvement), which is a competition FPS arena shooter.

 

Anyway, he remarks that he would love to go into dev with me on this project, as long as I had the several million it would cost for production, sighting that the AAA games cost $10s of millions to produce. 

 

Ok...

 

I have the market influence and penetration for audience support of this game, I have the business, marketing and management experience to run a dev company (have held top exec roles in dif companies, and am a CEO of a Charity today), and I have pro-gamers (and a little bother who is pro) as friends who would fully support our release..and I can raise money for funding...but I am not interested in funding or building the next AAA release. 

 

I just want to build a better Quake Live, as Bethesda (the company who acquired id software) is totally neglecting supporting the game and is losing its player base. I know we can do it better...

 

So here I am looking to build a team, and honestly looking at what kind of budget I would need to do it - and on a budget, as an indie dev start-up?

 

I'd like to dev on the unreal engine, and it's just gotten insanely cheap to licence btw. I'd want this to mimic QL in the sense that it would be a competition first person arena shooter, based on performance before eye-candy (but that's important too). I have some ideas that would really set this apart, but I also know what is needed to attract the hard-core crowd and keep them.

 

So yes, multiple points here, but with that...

 

Can anyone give me a ballpark idea of what kind of budget it would take to do something like this, from front to back?

 

Thank you,

 

DC

Edited by DC_
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From various sources, about 4 years in development (announced 2007, first released 2010), and I'm guessing about 100 main people although I cannot find the credits list. They possibly used less because they had the existing engine and they had the experts who wrote the engine.

 

4 years * 12 months/year * $10000 developer cost/month * 100 developer  = roughly $48M cost for development.

 

Plus likely another $40M in advertising, and another $30M in hardware and infrastructure. 

 

So to fund your initial launch: $120M.

 

After that, probably only $5M/year to maintain the infrastructure, and another $40M/year for all the continuous additions to keep the game fresh.

Edited by frob
Add units to the math so it makes more sense to beginners
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It ain't easy being cheesy...yeah, so I guess I am way off in my calculations. So everything I am hearing, reading and seeing in putting together a competitive online FPS is no small feat. As per my research, a lot of the AAA games were a lot less in way of cost to deploy and market (where marketing is a huge part of the cost) from what you state above frob. I do feel these cost estimates may be a bit exaggerated, and can be curbed quite a bit as per what Tom from 2015 is telling me. Is there really no way to do something like this on a smaller budget???

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Sure you can have a smaller budget. That means you make a smaller game.  Development costs are simple enough to estimate.

 

Time to develop * number of developers * cost per developer yields development cost.

 

The cost per developer in the US is about $10,000 per month.  That is not the person's salary, it is the approximate cost to the employer for the individual's needs, including salary, business insurance, taxes, support staff, and more.

 

The two variables you can play with are time to develop and number of developers.

 

Two months and a team of five? That's $100K for development.

Six months and a team of ten? That's $6M  $600K for development. (edit: never trust brain for quick math)

 

Be sure you include enough time for iteration, testing and debugging.

 

Once you have done that, you also need to advertise the game. Frequently the ad budget is similar to the total development budget. 

 

There are all the non-development costs. You want servers around the world? You want lots of bandwidth? You want people to reboot the servers when they go down? You want to handle support calls? You want to accept and process billing? You want to have an active user community? None of those are free, and all must be in place before launch. Those are usually similar in magnitude to the development cost.

 

So:

 

Development cost = time * number of developers * $10,000

Full cost to develop and launch = development cost * 3

 

Then you will want to continue to provide additional engaging content, and likely continued advertising. Those multiply similarly.

 

 

 

Custom software development is expensive.  The only reason commodity software is cheap to the consumer is that the costs are divided by the huge number of customers.

Edited by frob
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Hell of an answer frob. Not what I was looking for, but one hell of good an answer anyway :0)

 

With the cost of the unreal engine license coming way down, that's got to cut down on development time and costs dramatically, no?

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Hey frob, I got a fright looking at the 6 months and team of 10 figure and I realized that the calculation is wrong.

10 000/developer month x 10 developers x 6 months = 600 000 and not 6M.

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Sorry about that, good catch.

 

I was going through it quickly in my brain, not a reliable calculator. If I had thought about it at all I would have noticed, since I have gone though that size of team enough times. I'll revise.

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Frob's numbers are probably a bit on the large-scale side. If you're a smaller indie company who's cutting all the corners, it will be much lower. Even just "non-AAA" level console games are quite a bit less -- most that I've worked on have probably been in the $5-10M range (e.g. 25 employees rather than 100, an external publisher handling marketing/distribution, non-USA location, many non-senior employees, etc).

 

To do it really cheap, you need to find a bunch of extremely talented game-dev veterans who are financially independent enough (and crazy enough) to come on board and all co-found a new start-up studio... and work for free in exchange for shared ownership and a big bonus cheque when the game ships... Even then though, you'd probably still have way upwards of $100k in minor costs to cover.

 

I work in an office building that's chock full of indie developers - at least 10 studios and an indie publisher. Many of them have people working for free (in exchange for equity), but they still have huge costs to cover. Here, we've got two government agencies (one state and one federal) who will invest in film/game/screen/interactive projects with very good terms (e.g. large interest free loans, or small grants) -- they've been very vital in helping many smaller developers get off the ground. There's also others who have pursued funding from more traditional sources, such as from publishers or Sony's PubFund... and others going down the crowdfunding route.

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DC_ if you're interested, I can run some ballpark numbers for you if you have an rough idea of the size of audio asset list you're looking at.

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I really think that with focused development and a good team and a good engine license like Unreal, you could pull it off for 5M. But I'd suggest that you work out the numbers, timelines, salaries, headcounts, etc for yourself and make an estimate. It's not just about the final number. Doing that legwork and research will force you to actually understand a lot about the process, steps, overheads, and basic concerns required. It's going to be an important exercise if you really intend to lead this project.

 

Alongside that, I strong strongly suggest finding someone who has experience with the business/management side of development. Not a technical guy.

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Well...you can even do it for free like we are doing: http://www.indiedb.com/games/galactic-gladiators

 

We're also trying to get into the arena shooter market. I still think the best way is to get a prototype with volunteers first, and get that funded. Unless you are someone with way to much money.. :D

 

anyway, i hope it works out for you...not that i am particulary excited to see another up and coming arena shooter.

 

But yea...with a team working for free..its not easy,  you cant be acting like a triple A art director because people will just melt away if you have them redo the same model 100 times over again to reach that triple A quality.

 

If your serious about putting money on the table, perhaps finding an accountant to help you figure out the exact development costs...thats what we are doing right now.

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The reason Bethesda is neglecting Quake Live is because it has never made any money. 

If you really want to make an online FPS that can grab significant numbers of people and be profitable you need to consider different technologies and methodolgies to make things simpler.  Getting a bunch of industry vets and paying them to use Unreal engine will always be expensive and take a lot longer than you imagine.

 

The way I would approach this is to bootstrap  by getting a bunch of people working remotely (for free or cheaply) to produce a working version of your game using no plug in browser based technology (webGL, Turbulenze, Three.js) and pay-per-bandwidth cloud based networking solutions (Amazon, Azure).  You will then be able to have your game on a website and also in embeded in Facebook, Google+ and dozens of other web gaming portals and people will be able to play without having to install anything.

Once you have got maybe 80,000 to 100,000 players you can then approach VCs and Angel investors.  If you can get some funding from them you will then be able further improve your game incrementally to meet your vision.

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