In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to keep in mind to form an average cost to make a video game. We will breakdown the preliminary estimation of the game on the studio’s side.
First of all, let’s name the stages of work for any gaming project:
Long story short, to estimate the gaming project means to count the amount of time and money, required to complete the assigned tasks.
As a result of estimation, the partner and the company should get the answers to some basic questions:
- should we even start bringing this game to life?
- when can we get a result?
- how much would that cost to make a video game?
The estimating process in a project always means the elimination of any abstractions and inconvenience and having a clear understanding of project complexity and required time.
It’s hard to name an average cost to develop a video game because it depends on the size of the project and the kind of tasks. That’s why the developer needs to see the source project of the game.
Why do we need a source project for forming a game development cost?
The external developer needs to see a source project to understand the state and quality of the project from the inside. Analyzing the source code helps having a good understanding of porting abilities, adapting, testing, and any kind of support for the project, which will help to form a game development cost. The developer is interested in anything regarding the current state of the project we plan to work with: revision history, technical documentation, and source code.
Only access to the source project guarantees the accuracy of future plans and predictions, including video game development costs. And sometimes it tells both sides that the idea isn’t worth realizing. Which is good: it prevents wasting time and money on a project that won’t be successful.
How do we analyze?
After we have a source project, our first step discovering the technical side of the project — the biggest amount of work is always here. There is always a direct correlation — a rougher project means higher video game production cost:
- Content analysis. Here we measure the performance. We collect the info regarding the content: where, how, and for what. It’s important to understand the amount of unique and universal content for a possible scaling of the game.
- Code analysis. At the same time with the Content analysis, we estimate and document all the in-game systems: controls, UI. unique gameplay elements, online systems, feature implementation.
- Documentation analysis. In terms of technical documentation, we just read it and mark all the noteworthy places. We get back to the documentation if necessary, for example, while analyzing the code or the content. We send the instructions, art guides, and other common data pieces to the main specialist, and then decompose them.
The age of the project also influences the terms and price. An old or even dead game engine will require a complete or partial remake of the game. The new project in cooperation with another external team would require cooperative planning and a tone of additional communications.
It’s crucial to understand that the technical documentation and editing history makes the estimation process easier and faster. Usually, a company needs a whole project for analysis, because any small task may affect big pieces of the game.
How do we use the data we get to form a game budget?
Knowing all the details of the project helps a development team to mitigate the risk of unpredictable issues. Now we form an optimal team and name the average AAA game budget. For example:
- correctly made feature documentation allows manipulating the size of the team easily by cutting the time to clue the new developers
- source parameters, like productivity, serve as the starting point for tracking the progress
- depending on the initial content management of the game, we can allocate content producing or processing, which will help to control deadlines
- the quality and systematization of the code allow more people to work on the project simultaneously. Or vice versa.
How does the game budget change if we are developing from scratch?
Things are a little different in this case. If the project only exists at the documentation stage, it requires a more delicate approach. Usually, it starts with an individual common concept and MVP checklist. Planning and estimating the new development stages rely on the success of the previous ones completely. It also affects the cost to create a video game.
Full-cycle development requires more than just a list of features and delivery terms. The core team of the full-cycle project should have a clear understanding of the product’s purpose. The game can probably be a part of the marketing system, for example, promoting a particular franchise, or a game is made to earn quick money on the hype of an upcoming big project.
The purpose becomes the success criteria for every development stage and also serves as an answer to a million questions regarding developing a million features, that form an image of the game for the player.
Initially, correct communications between the partner and the developer are necessary for a deeper understanding of the purpose and scale of the project, costs, terms, and whole reasonability of bringing this particular game to life.
Conclusion: how much does it cost to make a game?
Let’s finally get from the common project analysis principles to common estimating principles. Game development cost estimation takes at least a full working week, and the eventual numbers include some elements of risk management.
- Epidemiological situation while planning and forming the team, Yes, now we have to include it. Even if your team is ready to go remote in a matter of days, it should be planned.
- Parts of the project we might not know about. Add some assurance percentage for completing the tasks we’re not 100% sure about.
- Time for internal and external communications. It’s better to spend extra time on communication and find out all the details than break the plan with incorrect realization.
- Time for diving into the project. It varies for various professionals. Some references and specifications may be enough for a modeler, but a developer would require some extra time.
- The uniqueness of the project. All the games are different and every similar feature may have a very different realization from the inside. The cost to make an AAA game may vary in the scale of millions depending on the necessary features.
But we still have things we DO NOT count while estimating:
- Requirements changes. Sometimes it happens and we always may come to an agreement. The earlier we get the requirements change the faster we provide a new estimation.
- We can’t count what we don’t have in the specification. The partner should understand that there are no “default services” and estimation will only count the requirements and costs to bring those requirements to life. Any changes to that affect the cost of game development.
What can a partner do to get an accurate estimation:
- Provide the source files and documentation of the project
- Construct detailed requests and add guides and checklists, if needed
- Define the estimation criteria for completing the requests or define them with the contractor
- Provide detailed answers to all the questions
- Inform about the requirements changes in time.
The mutual following of these points will result in a small document with the description of dates, required time, team composition, and the price.
Do you want to know how much does it cost to make a video game in terms of your project? Do you want us to estimate your game? Feel free to contact us and we’ll do our best to bring your game to life!