Ask Producer: How Much It Costs to Produce a Console Video Game

Question:

I am doing a school project and I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me. Would it be possible to get statistics on how much it cost to produce a console video game, and how much the expected profit would be? Also, do you know the average length it takes to produce a console game? If you are unable to answer these questions I understand. Thank you for your time.

Answer:
First I’d like to point out couple of resources:

How to produce a Playstation 3 game?
Mike Acton recently gave couple of links for people interested in PS3 development:
Tapping the Power of Cell: Interview with Mike Acton on Cell development
Tapping the Power of Cell: Slides from the Austin Game Conference
CellPerformance: The unofficial stopping place for performance related articles and discussions on the Cell Broadband Engineâ„¢ (CBE) processor.

How to produce a Xbox 360 game?
XNA Game Studio Express is a new offering, targeted at students and hobbyists for game development. XNA Game Studio Express is based on Visual C# Express 2005 and lets developers target both Windows and Xbox 360. XNA Game Studio Express contains the following:

* The XNA Framework, a set of managed code development libraries that make it possible for game developers to be more productive when creating games for Windows and the Xbox 360.
* The XNA Framework Content Pipeline, which is a set of tools that allow developers to more easily incorporate 3D content into their games.
* XNA Game Studio Express also contains a full set of documentation, how-tos, and starter kits that demonstrate how best to use the content pipeline and XNA Framework.

The beta of XNA Game Studio Express has now been released, and can be found here. It currently supports Windows game development only.

The costs of a console game production
I haven’t produced or participated in production of a single console game, so I cannot tell what the reality is, but I would expect the costs of a console game production to be similar to those of PC game production. Basically you have a number of tasks that take X man hours. Your crew members have hourly salary of Y dollars. Estimating the game project duration and then calculating X*Y should give you a rough estimate on how many hours and how many dollars it would take.

I believe there are differences in console worlds (for example, these might be some differences when dealing with the console licenses), but generally speaking I believe the costs of a console game won’t differ much. Scott Miller said in the interview that the console version of their Prey game very little impact on the production.

4 thoughts on “Ask Producer: How Much It Costs to Produce a Console Video Game

  1. Ken Bowen

    Yes it does cost for the license to sell the game on a console. This is actually where the console market gets its money from, as you may know many consoles actually take a hit on each console sale but they are recompensed by the sale of software.

    So how much does it cost to do a console game? You have to factor in a few things, a) Where people are living, b) How much you are paying them, c) taxes, marketing, etc….

    I live in Troy NY, if you go to salary.com and check out their quality of living calculator, a person in Mountain View California (Not even the biggest metropolitan area) has to earn about 45k-50k compared to someone in Troy who needs to make only 35k for the same standard of living. See how your costs just skyrocketed by having to pay your employees an extra 10,000 dollars a year?

    Juuso is right about calculating the rest. Now that you know how much your paying a group of people (remember more senior members get more) then you have to look at how many people are working for you and how much you are paying them (health insurance costs a lot, etc…) take that price and add it up to how many years it’s going to take.

    How long does a project take?

    A GBA game takes 8 people 8 months (this varies with tools, support, skills, and legacy code etc…)

    A console game takes 15-30 people 1 to 3 years (Not including Daikatana).

    Scoping your project correctly will determine how many people you need. I won’t go into all of it but you have to look at how much an employee can produce per unit of time which will allow you to look at what kind of game you need to do. Mix in your marketing, taxes, rent, heating and electricity bills, legal fees, QA, and you’ve got yourself a formula for a console (or any) budget. Hope that helps.

    Reply
  2. Juuso Hietalahti Post author

    @Matt: Argh… I did the same typo again! Thanks for letting me know. Your guesstimations are good I think. I would add another aspect: making million dollar budget games in Western countries compared to making games in Eastern countries (such as Japan) will give another twist in the budget.

    Reply
  3. Matt Franklin

    I doubt most companies will give out the info on budgets or profits. Someone willing to do some digging into company financial reports might be able to dig out some info here and there, though.

    My guesstimations: games aiming for XBox 360 and PS3, top tier, will run at least $10 million (probably more like $12 million when all is said and done), and as high as $25 million for a core franchise (dev only, not including marketing). Companies are finding ways to make solid next-gen games for under $10 million– not AAA, but good. On average, I’d guess next-gen console games will run more expensive than most PC games, because no one’s going to sell enough PC games to cover that. Huge IPs are the exception.

    (Also, the game is called Prey, not Pray!)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Pro-Human Quiz: