In the past, videogames were often regarded as trivial ways to spend your time (and you were often criticized for enjoying them).
Today, with the addition of voice actors, storytelling with massive depth, and constant development in high-quality graphics, it’s easily argued that videogames have become works of art.
So, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of independent developers out there who’d like to try their hand at making their own game.
But, how much does it cost to make a game that’s AAA quality? Not everyone knows what to expect.
Let’s take a look at five things to keep in mind.
So… How Much Does it Cost to Make a Game?
The answer to this question is highly variable based on a handful of factors. Things like total man-hours spent, licensing, and the overall length of the project all contribute to the total price tag.
Put simply, though, it costs millions— often into the double digits.
Let’s dive into the elements that influence this number.
1. Labor ($3M – $5M)
This is the meat of the game budget. To make a game that’s AAA caliber, though, you’re going to need a team of some of the most talented developers out there.
Since people of this proficiency are hard to come by and constantly being tracked down by other companies, you’ll need to offer them a competitive salary. Depending on the size of your project, you’ll likely already be in the millions in terms of cost.
But, the reality is top-tier games require this level of investment.
2. Music ($500K-$1M)
Hiring session musicians (or even an orchestra, in some cases) can put a huge dent in your budget depending on how fleshed-out you want your games music to be.
In some cases, commissioned work can cost up to $2,500 per minute of composed music.
While stock music is typically an option for independent developers, the vast majority of AAA games all have original soundtracks that musicians were hired to compose, perform, and record.
Games that take place in fantasy or medieval settings tend to have higher budgets for original music than games in the Grand Theft Auto series.
3. Licensing ($1M-$5M)
Licensing can easily cost millions of dollars.
The developers of Grand Theft Auto V, for example, licensed nearly 250 songs for the game’s radio station that plays while you operate a vehicle. In some cases, licensing one song can cost thousands of dollars (depending on its popularity).
There are many other instances where licensing comes into play, too. This includes the use of trademark names, original characters (such as those from a film), and other forms of intellectual property.
4. Complexity ($3M-$5M)
The more complex your game is (fleshed-out online play, overall content, etc.) the more code that will need to be written.
As your game’s code becomes more extensive, though, it becomes exponentially more complicated to work on and maintain. This often means more requiring more hours from your team (or even having to hire extra programmers).
This is especially true if you’re developing an original game engine (and not tweaking one like the Call of Duty games do).
Grand Total: Approximately $10 Million
This number will vary depending on what you need for your game (especially when it comes to licensing requirements). But, $10 million is a fairly common number to see as the total budget of a AAA game.
Developing a AAA game costs millions, so it’s out of reach for the majority of gamers.
But, those with a true passion for the industry still have the opportunity to make their own games on a smaller scale. In these cases, the answer to ‘how much does it cost to make a game’ will be far more reasonable.
Want to learn how you can save money while you game? This page has plenty of useful info about how we can help.