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The Almighty Buck Games

Average Budget For Major, Multi-Platform Games Is $18-28 Million 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the large-potatoes dept.
An anonymous reader passes along this excerpt from Develop: "The average development budget for a multiplatform next-gen game is $18-$28 million, according to new data. A study by entertainment analyst group M2 Research also puts development costs for single-platform projects at an average of $10 million. The figures themselves may not be too surprising, with high-profile games often breaking the $40 million barrier. Polyphony's Gran Turismo 5 budget is said to be hovering around the $60 million mark, while Modern Warfare 2's budget was said to be as high as $50 million."
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Average Budget For Major, Multi-Platform Games Is $18-28 Million

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  • by slim (1652) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:33AM (#30735292) Homepage

    I don't see why this is surprising. A game has as much visual design per frame as a Hollywood CGI movie, yet is typically much longer. Add to that the interactivity. The hours of dialogue. The playtesting.

    It's surprising that games are cheaper to make than movies.

    • by slim (1652)

      Correlation is not causation.

      I'd have thought the logic from the publishers would be, if we're going to spend $20M on a game, we'd better make it multi-platform in order to sell more copies.

    • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:40AM (#30735354)

      I wouldn't be surprised if half the budget on MW2 was marketing, if not more.

    • by IrquiM (471313)

      But you don't have to pay for Matt Damon!

      • by Xest (935314)

        No, but Call of Duty 5 (World at War) did use Kiefer Sutherland as a voice actor.

        MW2 did use professional actors also, although I can't remember who.

        Perhaps if games didn't spend money on Hollywood types like this they could cut costs a fair whack- most people wouldn't even know it's Kiefer Sutherland in CoD5, so why not just use someone else who can speak and would be MUCH cheaper.

        I wouldn't be suprised if between all the actors paid in MW2 to do voices there was a few million spent.

        • by Bodrius (191265)

          Perhaps if games didn't spend money on Hollywood types like this they could cut costs a fair whack- most people wouldn't even know it's Kiefer Sutherland in CoD5, so why not just use someone else who can speak and would be MUCH cheaper.

          Perhaps because there can be a thin line between "not spending on those hollywood types for voice-acting" and "hire uncle joe to do it".

          We had a few generations of cd-rom games to prove the latter doesn't work that well, even when the games embraced the B-movie-feel of cheap

          • by slim (1652)

            Professional voice acting is one of the things that have improved on gaming regardless hardware upgrades - and it does make a difference (if the game needs voice at all, of course).

            Absolutely. I've just finished Bayonetta -- hardly a budget effort. They've clearly used professional voice actors, but even so it would have improved matters greatly if the acting had a bit more spark. Long speeches performed slowly and only just well enough -- well, it's a blot on an otherwise superb product.

          • by Xest (935314)

            I don't disagree bad voice acting can ruin a game, I had the misfortune of buying Rogue Warrior recently to see that first hand.

            I'm just suprised you'd need to pay for acting talent when all you want is voice- I'd have thought you could get voice actors cheaper than you could get physical and voice actors. Similarly, although I agree you wouldn't want to just use any old joe for it, I'd have thought there are plenty of low end voice actors that are perfectly good enough for a game well below hollywood rates

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              I'm just suprised you'd need to pay for acting talent when all you want is voice- I'd have thought you could get voice actors cheaper than you could get physical and voice actors. Similarly, although I agree you wouldn't want to just use any old joe for it, I'd have thought there are plenty of low end voice actors that are perfectly good enough for a game well below hollywood rates.

              But all you want isn't just a voice, what you want is someone who can take someone else's movements and do a voice so well that

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by slim (1652)

                But all you want isn't just a voice, what you want is someone who can take someone else's movements and do a voice so well that even without a human body, you can still pick up on things like, emotions, fears, desires, interest, etc.

                Just a nitpick: typically the voices are recorded first, and the animator matches the actions to the voice.

                In movies, they're increasingly doing mo-cap and voice recording at the same time (e.g. Andy Serkis acting Gollum or Kong). Game cut scenes would be improved by using decent actors and adopting this technique.

                • by 7Prime (871679)

                  In movies, they're increasingly doing mo-cap and voice recording at the same time (e.g. Andy Serkis acting Gollum or Kong). Game cut scenes would be improved by using decent actors and adopting this technique.

                  Yes, but sometimes that doesn't turn out very well. I've heard many reports of the Japanese version of Final Fantasy X being pretty aweful, because they used the same people who did motion capture to do the voices. Sometimes it really requires the time and patience of a straightforward recording studio

    • by physburn (1095481)
      Half of why movies are so expensive is actors and scriptwriters unions and the hollywood monopoly, so far games have much more indepence. But i am suprised at the the cost of these Major games, i'm old enough to rembember when one teenager could write a game on his home computer with a budget of zero. But yes a modern computer game needs a room full of visual design artists and a enough room full of programmers, and lets not forget game play design and testing.

      ---

      3D Shooter Games [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pojut (1027544)

        Half of why movies are so expensive is actors and scriptwriters unions and the hollywood monopoly

        Feh. Seriously? Was that necessary to bring in to this conversation? You REALLY think unions are the reason why actors get paid so much?

        By the way, there are a TON of movies made on a shoestring budget that rival anything out of Hollywood. I Like Killing Flies is a move that is a perfect example of that. Directed, Produced, Edited, AND Filmed all by one guy.

        District 9 is another great example, although on a much larger scale. Do you know how much District 9's budget was? Go ahead, take a guess. $30 [latimes.com]

    • by Icarium (1109647)

      It's surprising that games are cheaper to make than movies.

      Not really. You don't have actors demanding to be kept in 5 star opulence for the duration of the shoot. You don't need to move film crews and casts from location to location. You don't actually go around blowing up tanks, or crashing $100k sportscars. Granted, I see no same reason why you would want to do any of those if you could get the same result by using CGI (which to be bluntly honest isn't always up to the task - especially when it comes to explosions) but until all CGI is photorealistic there will

  • by Lord Lode (1290856) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:34AM (#30735306)

    I didn't read the article, but, how can making a game multiplatform almost double the cost? I thought the art, levels, motion capturing, all the data, etc... was the most expensive. Writing the code probably also is expensive, but if you develop for multiplatform a lot of code (AI etc...) can be shared and only things like renderer and input need multiple implementations, which can't be THAT much more work??

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by unts (754160)

      Two words: Bug testing

    • by slim (1652)

      Ugh I responded in the wrong place. See "correlation is not causation" above.

    • by skreeech (221390)

      I think it might be something to do with multiplatform usually meaning PS3, 360, PC, while Single platform includes the Wii, portables, and download service games so small that they are unique to one service, the latter having much lower costs.

    • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:58AM (#30735834) Homepage Journal

      if you develop for multiplatform a lot of code (AI etc...) can be shared and only things like renderer and input need multiple implementations, which can't be THAT much more work??

      I know of no single language that compiles to every single bytecode. For example, say you want to publish a game on several platforms. One only runs ActionScript bytecode. Another only runs JVM bytecode. Another exclusively uses CLR bytecode (unless you're a large enough business to qualify for PowerPC instructions). Another uses ARM instructions. Another uses x86 instructions. So in what language should the developer write the physics and AI to target all platforms?

      • C++?

        • by tepples (727027)
          Sure, a subset of C++ [wikipedia.org] is known to compile to CLR bytecode. But does C++ compile cleanly to ActionScript and JVM bytecode?
      • by slim (1652)

        I'm pretty sure TOA is talking about PC+Xbox360+PS3 and maybe Wii. Nobody's blowing $20M on making a Flash game.

        Having said that, PopCap and their ilk make games in the space you're talking about. I'm certain Peggle didn't have a $20M budget.

        A decent strategy for that kind of game would be to write for a VM, and implement that VM on all the target platforms. That was the approach taken by Infocom for their text adventures, and by LucasArts for their point+click adventures.

        Somewhere there's an interview with

        • by tepples (727027)

          Nobody's blowing $20M on making a Flash game.

          Unless it's a handheld device that runs Flash and the game is a port of the $20 million Xbox 360/PC game to the handheld device. I thought I had made that clear (x86 is PC; CLR/PowerPC is Xbox 360).

          A decent strategy for that kind of game would be to write for a VM, and implement that VM on all the target platforms.

          Then you lose iPhone and iPod Touch due to Apple's developer program restrictions. In addition, on the ActionScript, JVM, and CLR platforms, you take a big performance hit of running a VM in a VM.

          • by slim (1652)

            Unless it's a handheld device that runs Flash and the game is a port of the $20 million Xbox 360/PC game to the handheld device.

            I don't know of any such titles. Do you have one in mind? Handheld "versions" of games (e.g. gameboy versions) tend not to actually be the same game.

            Then you lose iPhone and iPod Touch due to Apple's developer program restrictions.

            Is that strictly true? As long as you distribute the VM and the code to run within it as a single bundle, and don't provide a way to load arbitrary code into the VM, I'd guess that would be OK with Apple. The iPhone C64 emulator was approved by Apple when they removed the ability to type in BASIC commands. (Then it was pulled again when it turned out the featur

            • by tepples (727027)

              Handheld "versions" of games (e.g. gameboy versions) tend not to actually be the same game.

              A lot of handheld games are completely different games in the same series (compare Metal Gear Solid on PS1 to the PS1-era GBC games for instance), but plenty are more-or-less direct ports (compare Dr. Mario 64 to Dr. Mario + Puzzle League for GBA).

              As long as you distribute the VM and the code to run within it as a single bundle, and don't provide a way to load arbitrary code into the VM, I'd guess that would be OK with Apple.

              True, I could write the physics and AI in Lua as long as I take appropriate measures to lock down the script loader. But interpreters still have overhead. In commercial games that make heavy use of a scripting engine, how much time does the CPU spend in the interp

          • by mdwh2 (535323)

            Then you lose iPhone and iPod Touch due to Apple's developer program restrictions.

            Who cares - that's their fault. Won't run on an Amiga too. Perfectly good cross-platform strategies shouldn't be ignored just because they don't include a minority of the market. It worries me that Apple's policies will end up dictating how games are written, even when they have little share in these markets...

            • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:13AM (#30737374) Homepage Journal

              Who cares - that's their fault.

              It's Apple's fault, but it's developers' problem. This is true especially as the market share of smartphones grows at the expense of dumbphones, phoneless PDAs, and dedicated gaming devices.

              It worries me that Apple's policies will end up dictating how games are written

              The policies of Nintendo and Sony have long dictated how games are written: if a game is to allow multiple players to use one TV-sized monitor and multiple controllers, it needs to be for one or more consoles, not the PC (EA Sports being the exception), and therefore it needs to follow all the console rules including minimum size of business. Only recently have the majority of new TVs become able to handle the EDTV and HDTV signals that PCs produce on their VGA, DVI-D, and HDMI connectors.

    • by Pojut (1027544)

      Testing, development kits, more staff to work on each port...not to mention the porting itself. It isn't as simple as just clicking a button, it's actually a fairly intense process. It's safe to say that hiring people who know what they are doing when it comes to the porting process doesn't come cheap, either.

    • by jparker (105202)

      Cause and effect are getting confused here. It's not that going from single-platform to multi-platform takes your budget from 10M to 20M, it's that having a 20M budget means you have to be multi-platform, while a smaller, 10M game can make its money back on a single platform.

      Multiplatform dev does increase cost by a bit, but not a staggering amount. The main costs are usually in engineering (and QA, but the cost of QA guys is miniscule next to the cost of programmers). Several people have pointed out that h

    • I didn't read the article, but, how can making a game multiplatform almost double the cost? I thought the art, levels, motion capturing, all the data, etc... was the most expensive.

      I didn't RTFA either, but in recent memory a number of games have had graphical differences across platforms that required artist intervention. I don't know about it being 'double' the cost to do that, but man-hours can really add up when you have to scour all the assets for all the game locales to deal with a different limit. Given the differences between the architectures of the XBOX and PS3, it makes some sense.

  • by diskofish (1037768) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:38AM (#30735338)
    Games keep getting more and more complicated and more expensive but no more fun. I just completed Assassin's Creed over the weekend. I found the gameplay mechanic for Theif, which preceded it by over ten years, to me much more fun.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:44AM (#30735380)

      You are also 10 years older.

      It is very much like the idea that modern music sucks (the best music is always the stuff that played when we were in college), or the quote about sci-fi:

      The golden age of science fiction is twelve.

      • No. No it is nothing like that.

        There is to some degree that kind of thing going on, one could argue that Super Mario Bros 3 is better than the new Super Mario Bros Wii, while the latter one is merely a re-iteration of the former, it has quite a few of its own quirks. I could understand how the older see it as derivative and the younger would not understand how they think #3 is better.

        But that is specifically from the console perspective. PC Games - specifically ones from the Era that he is refering to, had

      • The fun thing to remember though is that when people discover old music, they usually discover the songs that aged well. Most of the songs back then were crap too.

        At the same time, when we open the radio, we listen to the good songs once in a while AND the crap most of the time. This is where the idea that old songs were much better is so popular. This is also true for movies.

    • by RogueyWon (735973) *

      Not a particularly fair comparison. Thief was acknowledged at the time as a classic; there are usually one or two games per year that achieve this status. The original Assassin's Creed had distinctly mixed reviews, with criticism particularly levelled at poor and unintuitive controls and mechanics (apparently the sequel is better, but I haven't played it).

      I've played plenty of recent games from the same genre that I'd rate more highly than Thief in objective terms; Batman: Arkham Asylum being probably the b

    • by mcvos (645701) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:56AM (#30735464)

      Modern game development focuses more on expensive, movie-like graphics than on clever, original, innovative gameplay. In fact, with budgets like this, innovation is dangerous. Better stick to what's been proven to sell. Just like in Hollywood. Innovation usually starts small, and the bigger the business becomes, the smaller innovation has to start.

      • In fact, with budgets like this, innovation is dangerous. Better stick to what's been proven to sell.

        Yes. Those evil big software companies never mix innovation with big budgets. Yet again, we rely on the indie developers to pour $18-28 million on average into innovative and original games.

        • by jimicus (737525)

          Which is why original gameplay tends to come from small games without masses of fancy (read: expensive) CGI.

          Or, to put it another way: How is this year's football/American football/driving/basketball game any different from last years apart from slightly updated graphics, minor tweaks to the engine and they renamed the players/teams/cars to account for changes in the last year?

          • Which is why original gameplay tends to come from small games without masses of fancy (read: expensive) CGI.

            I'm not sure if it explains anything. If a small group of people can make a small game in a relatively small amount of time, with a small marketing/distribution budget, then why can't a big company do the same thing with a tiny fraction of their budget/workforce/time?

            • by jimicus (737525)

              Good question. I'd imagine they're being ruled by finance guys, who want the lowest risk ROI they can think of.

              If SuperFootball 2007, 2008 and 2009 were huge sellers, it seems logical to put the effort towards 2010.

              • Sort of. Granted, an update of the SuperFootbal franchise is incredibly cheap, and makes for a relatively quick buck, but of course, the market for these games are not nearly strong enough to sustain a comapany; sooner or later they're going to have to branch out.

                And the sports games are by far the easiest franchises to update; everything else usually requires some radically new element, be it a new setting (with new cutscenes, new voice acting, new levels/environments, etc) or new gameplay. Essentially, a

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:05AM (#30735514)

      That fact makes me increasingly interested in just treating the history of games as something to mine for stuff to play. I used to have basically a 1- or 2-year game horizon: what I'm going to play this weekend was determined by choosing from the list of recent games. But now I have more like a 20-year horizon; I might play a recent game this weekend, or I might play a classic game I've heard a lot about that I haven't gotten around to experiencing myself, yet. It seems that as games get taken more seriously as a medium, instead of just throw-away entertainment, it ought to move in that direction. I mean, it's not like avid readers read only new-release best-sellers. Sometimes you do, but sometimes you read Victor Hugo or Isaac Asimov.

      Even for new games, there are fortunately still a lot of less-expensive games that come out that can be innovative, and some even manage to get some decent press; World of Goo and Braid are two of the more prominent recent success stories. This year's Indie Game Festival [igf.com] has a lot of interesting stuff, too. Indie games might be even more vibrant than indie film is, these days.

    • by Xest (935314)

      That's because AC was an awfully dull game even though it looked stunning and the fighting was impressive.

      Try Assassins Creed 2, far, far better and puts even classics like Thief to shame.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @09:00AM (#30736380) Homepage

      Welcome to getting older. I can't believe how easy I was to entertain when I was a teen, plus then I didn't really know the meaning of "work". It was all either fun or learning, even the grinding was just a little interlude. And every generation talks about something, like how say vinyl had more soul than CDs, or the people in costumes had more soul than CGI, and how real world makebelieve had more soul than virtual makebelieve and so on.

      Each one of these megagames probably used far more skill and time on a professional writer than the computer geek who part-time doubled as gfx artist, sfx artist, composer and sometimes writer on your garage setup obscure game. I can at least say that with most old games I can have kind memories but if I start playing then many of them I get fed up because it's so simple and boring to a mind that's had another ten years of experience at figuring stuff out.

      • by jgtg32a (1173373)

        No older games where just better, and no I don't have nostalgia goggles on either. I'm basing that opinion off of me playing old games that I didn't play when I was younger.

        • by grumbel (592662)

          "Better" is to blunt a qualifier to use. In a lot of aspects old games where quite awful. When it comes to issues like user-interfaces for example many old games are near unplayable by todays standards. And the amount or lack of frames-per-second wasn't pretty either.

          However there are also many areas where older games are just superior to most stuff out today. Humor for example is nearly extinct from todays games, yet games like the LucasArts adventures had ton of that and are still played to this day. Anot

        • by Draek (916851)

          No, you just suck at finding good games. Try the Total War series or Red Orchestra, then name me a game from the NES/SNES era that compares to them.

  • by Zeussy (868062) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:12AM (#30735542) Homepage
    If you took at any recent AAA title game, marketing and distribution costs are huge. Apparently the marketing budget for COD:MW2 was $200 million (although that probably includes distribution costs) with development $40-50 million. According to http://www.thatvideogameblog.com/2009/11/19/modern-warfare-2s-development-budget-40-50-million/ [thatvideogameblog.com]
    Halo 3's was $40 million+ of marketing, similar to dev cost. GTAIV would of had similar if not more, being a multi platform title. Although wiki says the development of GTAIV was estimated to cost near $100.
    A friend of mine from THQ complained that De Blob sold really well, then they blew the equivalent of profits on the marketing campaign for japan, and the game flopped there.
  • Sounds like more fodder for game developers and publishers to whine about lost revenues due to used game sales and piracy, as well as justifying their pricing models and DLC systems. Kind of pointless having a huge game development budget when it's the same, uninnovative, linear experience time and time again. Thankfully, the increasing success of so-called "indie" games may have them rethink their huge dev costs.
  • Did I miss the 360/Wii/PC/Linux release of Gran Turismo 5? Now that I know that it's a major multiplatform release, I'll be on the lookout for a copy to play on one of my non-PS3 systems.

    • by slim (1652)

      Could it be that the facts given about GT5 are an interesting associated fact, to the related information about multiplatform games.

    • by Aranykai (1053846)

      I know your being sarcastic but the only reason I ever purchased a ps2 or ps3 was for the GT series. They will never bring that game to any other console.

      • by AbRASiON (589899) *

        and yet Forza is now the superior series yet so many GT fans sit with their eyes closed refusing to see it.
        (disclaimer: PS3 fanboy here, dislike the 360 and dislike the way Microsoft handle live, nickel and dime customers and STILL got a 360 just for Forza 3 - worth every penny)

        GT is finished, they have diluted the game so much with nascar, indycar, WRC, F1, regular cars - they don't know WHAT they are doing.
        The driving physics are getting worse, not better and in the most recent release (GT Academy) the F

        • Its too bad that Forza can only be experienced with the shitty MS steering wheel. I know there are some 3rd party wheels for 360 but they are stuff like MadCatz, not logitech. A shame really. Ill take GT5 and a good logitech wheel over Forza and the MS wheel anyday.
  • Funny how not one of the big-team $20 million + games can compete when it comes to fun/playability/originality with the 2-man team's World of Goo.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by flickwipe (954150)
      objection! opinion
    • World of Goo wasn't that good. Sure I enjoyed it, a lot, but I enjoy many games as well.

      For example, I just finished New Super Mario Bros Wii the other day, and I had a blast pretty much all the way through, especially during the multiplayer.

      I also enjoyed GTA Vice City (I haven't tried 4 yet). A lot. That was pretty fun.

      Let's see... Hm... There was EA's Boom Blox for Wii. I really enjoyed that, and the gameplay felt pretty fresh, as much so as world of goo.

      Also for Wii, I'm currently enjoying Konami's Pro

  • Is that for game development only, or are we including those highly expensive spots during super bowl to show call of duty 23
    I like computer games as much as the next guy, but a lot of budgets are also grossly exaggerated so that the next year you keep that same budget, as in the military, wasting money so you don't lose your budget the next year....if a new company comes out and puts out a game as good as some of these with big budgets, and obviously with 1/10 the budget being new and all, does that not me

  • 10 years ago I worked on a major title for the Dreamcast, "Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future" and our budget of somewhere around 2.5M was considered excessive.
  • ... which spent that much just on strippers. But hey, it was really important to get that part right!
  • I've often wondered how large the licensing fees are. Every big-budget movie needs a big-budget game with a synchronized release date. But the game developer is taking a big risk that the movie doesn't bomb and no one will buy the game (no matter how good it is). Even if the movie is a success, the game is really part of the movie's marketing, so maybe the movie studio's licensing fees are fairly small to encourage game developers to take the risk of creating the game? Even things like automobiles in ra
  • Think about it. 10-20 hours of gameplay content, a few square miles' worth of environmental models and effects, dozens of characters and animations, matching voiceover and audio content, and the engine, AI and gameplay code to drive it all. Add to that between 20 minutes and an hour's worth of CG movies. Now consider that we're doing this with teams 1/5th the size of what they are for 2-hour movies, at 1/8th of the budget in half the time (exceptions notwithstanding). $50M for the most expensive games doesn

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