Would you care to share your development costs?

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by Adrian Lopez, Oct 5, 2006.

  1. Adrian Lopez

    Original Member

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    People often ask how much money it costs to make indie games, but I don't usually see any concrete figures. If any of you would like to share your development costs for your games (good and bad), I'd love to find out.
     
  2. Sean Doherty

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    It will depend what they include in thier figures. I've seen a lot of GDC games that include their wages in the total cost. However, on GameProducer.net, they mainly just include concete costs.

    It really depends on the size of the game. That said, I't would be nice to find out the kinds of numbers people use for budgets?
     
  3. Alan_3DAGames

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    I find the biggest cost is the monthly burn rate. If there is a whole team on the game then just simply paying the usual bills and food etc... adds up to a lot of money for 1 year of development. (And I live in London at the moment, so not exactly the cheapest part of the world to live).

    Plus you need to allow for hardware & software costs.

    Plus you need blank CDs/DVDs, ink & printer paper etc.. etc.. etc..

    Plus you may need 3rd party work done. E.g. More graphics, Music, PR & Adverts etc..

    Obviously costs vary a lot, but as a ruff guide, I would allow for a minimum of £1500, say even £2000 per person, per month.

    Obviously its possible to split hairs over the details of the costs and its possible to save money here and there etc... but then there are times you need to pay bills you didn't expect, so it sort of balances out.

    By the way £1500-£2000 per month is survival money, its not living the high life (especially if you live in a big european city).
     
  4. PoV

    PoV
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    I've not really done the math in a while, but a company of 2 working for a year so far, I've put something like $10,000 in to the business (Server, computers, software). Our product's still not out yet, and there's living expenses that make that number bigger.
     
  5. Anthony Flack

    Indie Author

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    Nuthin'.

    I haven't bought any hardware or software related to development for years, and all my employees are slaves.
     
  6. Adrian Lopez

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    But it's so hard to find good slaves these days.
     
  7. jankoM

    Indie Author

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  8. Bad Sector

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    The Nikwi cost was around $50. This includes the high amount of coffee i drank while making it, the low amount of food i ate and three-or-four visits to a local netcafe for knowledge hunting.

    Yet it brought me nothing, so i think it's not the best example :)
     
  9. Yard Sale

    Yard Sale New Member

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    Depends on the kind of indie studio and how professional you're trying to be..

    Legal:
    First thing is trademark registration and LCC (limited liability is probably ANY indie studio's best bet), which is a total of 500 USD or something like that - in California. This will put a big dent in your budget but not to fret, the first year is usually the hardest, after that its smooth sailing unless you have staffing problems.

    Website:
    Then webhosting/domain, which the cheapest I believe you can get is 3.95/month for non corporate hosting, 8 something a year for domains.

    Exposure:
    Indie studio generally means you don't have a publisher - so you self-publish. This means you must market your games on your own dime. If you don't have connections with various gaming networks, you might have to pay them for advertisements. Sometimes you can work in deals though, exclusive play testing for an ad, exclusive interviews with developers. That sort of thing. Marketing a game varies in price almost always.

    Engine:
    Next is engine, license one, make your own, or use open source. This all depends on the title you're working on, sometimes you need to make your own, sometimes you can find an open source engine that fits your needs. Licensing one can be a pain if you're doing per user and well, most worthwhile engines come equipped with hefty fees.

    Outsourcing:
    You might have to hire freelance musicians, artists, programmers, visual communications, consultants, the list goes on. Sometimes you might have a great team and all, but guess what, no one has a licensed of Reason 3.0 nor knows how to use the damn thing! So, gota set up a contract with the musician and pay him for his goods. Sad story when you have to pay for content as an indie developer. ;(


    Theres more financial obligations in indie studios but that about covers some main aspects.

    EDIT: To summ it all up, the price varies. After the company is set up and you have a solid staff - you should pay little to none on each title depending on what genre, length, content, all that stuff.
     
  10. Arthur

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    I must be missing something, because we have all that infrastructure set up. Still, for some reason, all of my collaborators and contractors still demand to be paid on each game. ;)

    I always find it puzzling that people do not include the cost of their own time in their stated budgets and dev cost reports. That's like saying you could not get a job, you have no marketable skills, and you could not earn any money doing anything else with that time spent. Even if you do not take pay during the dev time, you have given up pay that you could have earned which should be accounted. Why try to fool yourself into thinking you spent less on your project than you actually did?
     
  11. Yard Sale

    Yard Sale New Member

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    Well, when I think "indepedent" I think non-funded. When getting staff for "indie games", the staff should know that chances of getting any kind of royalties is slim. Some companies use any income they get differently. For example, making a few grand on a small title won't be enough to pay off the team for their efforts. However, that money could be used for a greater good to make the next project more effiecient, thus making more money, thus funding employees. Or at the least, attracting publishers to get things like employee-funding.
     
  12. HairyTroll

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    I'm confused. If you have a company, and you have staff then you have to pay all kinds of insurance (workers comp etc.) to the government which can run to $70k per person per year. If you don't pay your 'employees', then you don't have a 'staff'; you just have a bunch of people who want to make a game. And these people are probably going to be working on the game part-time as they still need full-time jobs in order to stay fed, clothed and hydrated.
     
  13. tolworthy

    tolworthy New Member

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    I'm a classic one-man-band working in my spare time, so these should be about the rock bottom minimum costs. I.e. there are no staff costs, nothing for food, etc.

    Direct costs for me have been UK£336, and will probably hit £400 by the time the game is released. This is nearly all for licensing music and images. £50 is for the game engine

    Indirect costs are much higher: a new computer, regular computer magazines, and several blind alleys that seemed important at the time and were probably helpful. Like a programming course and buying various books as reference material. I estimate this comes to about £620 altogether, spread over several years.

    It comes as quite a surprise to me that I have spent around £1000 ($1900) spread over several years. Anything that takes a great deal of time (like making a game) will cost you money, even if you think you are doing it for nothing.
     
  14. tolworthy

    tolworthy New Member

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    A very good point. An excellent point indeed. This leads me to make four radically different estimates for my costs.

    1. About £1000 - see my previous post.

    2. About £15,000 - the amount I could have earned if I had worked the same hours at my poxy part time job.

    3. About £150,000 - the amount I would have earned if I had chosen a respectable career after leaving school, instead of daydreaming my life and chasing rainbows. This is measured over 15 years of having second rate jobs in order to study, think, write books, websites, daydream and research. I have a post graduate degree but never cared for my career in the normal sense of the world

    4. Zero. I actually enjoy doing this and think it has long term value. If I did not spend the money on this I would squander it on wasteful frivolities like food and housing. So the net cost is zero, or even less.
     
  15. MrQ

    MrQ New Member

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    I have been browsing these forums for a while, but this is my first post :)
    Myself and my partners all have fulltime day jobs at the moment. I'm currently working in the core games industry for a large retail developer and working on our first casual title in our spare time. We have been working on our unanounced title for about 9 months now. The costs for us are about $700 USD which is basically covering some software licenses, domain and website registration and business costs. Theres probably a few thousand more to come in costs.
    It's definatley not easy and I would really love to be able to work on our own titles fulltime but without any income, thats not going to happen. The downside to doing it partime is definatley a longer development time and you end up working about 12 hour days accumulative.
    If we were to go fulltime I think we would look at setting up a small outsourcing bussines to help cover fulltime costs.
     
  16. Arthur

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    But, again, your cost is much more than $700.00 so far. You could _already_ be running a small outsourcing business in the off hours that you are instead working on your casual game. The money you are giving up is one possible valuation of your time, and should be attributed (in some form!) in your budget, at least if these budgets are being used to compare possible life choices, or to define success.

    I work in my own indie studio full time. As an engineer, in the Bay Area I could certainly find a job for $70,000/year. I apply this figure to the time I invest in the games I work on when I am calculating the budget. If you want to apply conservative accounting principals, you should actually be using the largest valuation of your time that you can justify. Again, why try to convince yourself that your indie project cost less than it did? When you are talking about money, opportunity costs, and life choices, anything less than total honesty is just rationalizing. You can be honest about how much it is costing you to make that casual game, and still say "but I don't care if it cost me $xx,xxx because I like this life and it is worth it.".
     
  17. MrQ

    MrQ New Member

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    We all have good jobs in the industry (working for the man) and I don't see these costs as being anything significant at the moment. I looked at starting an outsourcing company to get things started but I think my main problem is the risk of leaving a solid paying job. I would rather work on our own title spare time because of the satisifaction we get, outsourcing work would be purely for income which we don't really need with the day job behind us. I would much rather try and release our first title and look at our options such as outsourcing after.
    It can be really hard to find motivation to even work on my own projects let alone coming home after a big day to work on someone elses.
    Your right about valuating our time, I don't think we have even done a proper budget yet. Because we aren't spending much money on this right now we havn't really thought about working out an entire budget.
     
  18. Adrian Lopez

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    If you decided to accept a job you love with an employer who pays you $40,000 a year instead of $70,000, would it be fair to say that you're spending $30,000 a year to work in a job you love? If you knew you could become a big Hollywood star but chose to work on your games instead, does that mean you're spending millions of dollars on your game development business? It doesn't seem right.

    Indie developers should definitely include living costs in their budgets (after subtracting other sources of income), but including what you might have earned if you were doing something else doesn't strike me as "total honesty". When working for yourself, there's no such thing as minimum wage.

    They say there's no such thing as free lunch, but that doesn't mean the cost is always monetary. Even if you work 40 hours a week you can still choose between going to the movies or working on your games. In that case the cost is social rather than monetary.
     
  19. KNau

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    Calculating a value on your time has more to do with running a viable business. If you focus just on business expenditures, it's too easy to say "this game only cost me $500 to make" even if you spent 2 years working on it.

    Your time cost should factor into the decision as to which projects to work on. If you require $2,000 a month to survive (in North America, that's the poverty line folks!) and you take 6 months to develop a game - that game had better earn at least $6,000 or your business is a going to eventually bust.

    You can only keep the "youthful enthusiasm" going for so long before the burn rate starts to overshadow the dream. You don't want to be like aspiring actors and musicians who end up having to make the choice to live out of their car. Especially when it's an unnecessary and avoidable decision if they would just embrace the reality of business: Time = Money. If you're working then you should expect to be compensated for it.
     
  20. Sean Doherty

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    Your $2000 a month number is not correct for certain parts of Canada and the US:

    http://www.ccsd.ca/factsheets/fs_lico05_bt.htm
     

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