Why does game development cost so much.

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Post: #1
why does game development (at least for consoles) cost so much. i keep reading about games that cost the company $20 million to make. Where does all the money go? Salaries? According to my calculations, it would still only cost $10 million even if it took 2 years to make and you had to pay 50 employees $100,000 a year. What do they do with all the money?
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Post: #2
at the average 'big' company, 50 employees would maybe get the intro done, and the average cost to the company per employee is easily £5000 per month (average of their wages + the cost to the company of their workspace and equipment etc. + admin people who look after them). That's just the people working directly on the project. You also have to take into account the cost of any teams working on R&D or tools related to the project, software or engines you need to license for it, packaging, PR, Advertising etc.

If it's a film license, you also have to take into account how much was paid for the license. That can be *a lot*.

Then you get games that easily take more than 2 years to make of course.
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Heh, I may not be making big console titles, but my current funding for game development amounts to about $0. I don't think I've ever spent a dime on making any game, ever...

My web site - Games, music, Python stuff
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diordna Wrote:Heh, I may not be making big console titles, but my current funding for game development amounts to about $0. I don't think I've ever spent a dime on making any game, ever...

Even if you have not spent any money directly there will still have been costs, such as:

* Cost of the computer
* Cost of electricity to power the computer
* Cost of internet connection for research and promoting of software

Now you might be lucky enough to have someone else pick up these costs but your game development has still cost.
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Post: #5
Andrew Sage Wrote:Even if you have not spent any money directly there will still have been costs, such as:

* Cost of the computer
* Cost of electricity to power the computer
* Cost of internet connection for research and promoting of software

Now you might be lucky enough to have someone else pick up these costs but your game development has still cost.

There's also the cost of your general upkeep (food, drink, rent, heating etc.) while you're working on the project. You'd be surprised just how much that can all mount up to. If you're a student and still living with your parents though you can rule out these costs while you're working, but should count their value in the value of the project as you'd need to pay for them if you weren't in the fortunate situation of free rent + food for the next project.
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Post: #6
It took 4-5 years with 50 people working to pump out Zelda:TOOT (well at least there were 50 people near the end). I think that games are starting to take more money to create as people expect greater and more complex things. I wonder if eventually it will grow to movie proportions...

Is anybody else surprised at how fast the industry has grown? I couldn't have imagined it would get this big when I was playing super mario world on snes. I thought it would get big, but not this big. At this rate my sushi making simulator is bound to be obsolete on release (6 different kinds of sushi, cmooon)
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zKing
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Post: #7
I'd also suspect that they sometimes throw in a lot of non-development costs in the "we spend $XX million making this game" figures. They _want_ to show a big number so that people feel like they are getting a top notch title.

If you start throwing in the marketing budget ... that number can jump fast!
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zKing Wrote:I'd also suspect that they sometimes throw in a lot of non-development costs in the "we spend $XX million making this game" figures. They _want_ to show a big number so that people feel like they are getting a top notch title.

If you start throwing in the marketing budget ... that number can jump fast!

From the point of view of knowing how much the project cost, the marketing budget *is* part of it. It's part of what it costs to get the game out there.
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Post: #9
I wouldn't count the cost of computer/electricity/personal upkeep to that of game development. The way I see it, I would be using all of these things anyway. If I weren't programming, I'd be browsing Slashdot or some other nonsense, using the same resources, just less productively.

My web site - Games, music, Python stuff
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diordna Wrote:I wouldn't count the cost of computer/electricity/personal upkeep to that of game development. The way I see it, I would be using all of these things anyway. If I weren't programming, I'd be browsing Slashdot or some other nonsense, using the same resources, just less productively.

yes, but if you needed to work out how much it would cost to add another programmer to a project, you'd need to include those amounts. There's no benefit in forgetting about costs in a project, it just gives you false information when trying to work out a budget.
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Post: #11
diordna Wrote:If I weren't programming, I'd be browsing Slashdot or some other nonsense, using the same resources, just less productively.

These are the very same kind of things that employed developers spend some of their time doing when they should be working Wink
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Post: #12
It really seems to me as though the business processes used by large software development companies are tremendously inefficient. A single talented developer working from their own home can turn out a game that is very close to the quality of games produced by larger companies, using fewer resources and much less money, in roughly the same amount of time. Granted, there are a few things that are particularly difficult to do when working alone (localization into multiple languages, for instance), but the vast majority of the work can still be done just as well alone and without spending money.

I understand that there's a reason for the things large companies do, but I'd much prefer working alone or for a smaller company. I'm working for a company that has gone from 40 employees or so when I started, to several hundred today, and there are days when I'm surprised it doesn't collapse under its own weight. The sheer amount of overhead involved in doing any real work is atrocious... But at the same time, I can't immediately see any way to do it differently.
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Post: #13
What is this idea about programming without spending money?
Do you eat? Sleep under shelter? Pay for internet access? I know this has been covered before, but you can't pay for those things unless there is some source of income. Somebody is paying. Plus, it takes a tremendous amount of time which, if spent on programming (without pay) can't be used to provide food, shelter, etc.

Sorry to nitpick. Your point about overhead is still valid, though. Smile Might I also add that "Too many cooks spoil the pot." In movies and games, often there are certain products spotlighted that are held tightly under the control of one person, usually the director. Anyway, no time to really complete this thought. Smile

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." - Wizard of Oz
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zKing
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Post: #14
ThemsAllTook Wrote:It really seems to me as though the business processes used by large software development companies are tremendously inefficient. A single talented developer working from their own home can turn out a game that is very close to the quality of games produced by larger companies, using fewer resources and much less money, in roughly the same amount of time. Granted, there are a few things that are particularly difficult to do when working alone (localization into multiple languages, for instance), but the vast majority of the work can still be done just as well alone and without spending money.

I agree that large companies are, in general, grossly inefficient, but I disagree that you can build the same games in a smaller company in roughly the same time frame with roughly the same quality. It's just too easy to layout your game design and discover you need 40,000 frames of cell animation. Or that your really-cool-high-production-value dynamic gauges are going to take a developer four months to put together. As indies we edit out high production value/high cost elements and it does show in our titles.

I have a couple of theories on why this "big == inefficient" thing always seems to be true... I've spent a good portion of my career consulting and seeing the inside of some pretty massive and pretty sucky dev shops.

1. Drive. If you are one of many faces in the crowd (i.e. little credit) and your pay check will show up pretty much with the same number on it if the game sells 10 or 10 million AND you get little say in the design... how hard are you going to try?

2. Either Design by Committee OR Dilution of the Vision. Everyone knows what happens when you design by committee, but even if you avoid that by having a single designer with a strong vision... it's VERY difficult and time cosuming for a lead designer to elaborate that vision across a large team, particularly as that vision changes over the life of the project. The larger the team, the more it becomes like driving a car by having a person in the back seat tell the driver how to push the pedals and how far to turn the wheel.

3. Throw money at it! When you have a big budget it easy to consider options that are quite wasteful rather than putting some brain power into figuring out how to do more with less. In addition you often get someone with pull demanding that their pet feature get the cadillac treatment... damn the costs!

4. Brightsizing. When you put someone in charge of hiring who's only skill is "managing people" you've just increased the risk reducing the quality of your team. Frankly even great developers often don't have good hiring skills. Mediocre/Bad team members are a plague on development teams. Not only do they take too long to do their work, they are defect factories ... and other team members must pick up the slack. They can cause your good team members to leave. Lord help you if the bad eggs then end up "helping" with the hiring process. Many big companies go to absurd lengths to avoid firing someone. And it's much easier for a bad egg to hide on a team of 40 than on a team of 4.

heheh... ok, so maybe you've hit a touchy subject for me? Sneaky
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Post: #15
the big developers should subdivide into a bunch of different teams, then mrege teams when they are sqeezing for a deadline or need help or some thing. the of course all the teams would think they are better then all the other teams and look for special treatment.
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