video game development time

By juegoadmin | Game Development | July 12th, 2023

How Long Does It Take To Develop Video Games?

Sometimes a large team is involved in making a game whereas some games are developed by one or two developers. Nevertheless, every game is different and so is the time taken for game development.

You can build a game in a week or in ten years. The average game development time depends primarily on the size of the project and the size of the game development team. Duke Nukem Forever was released by Gearbox Software, nearly fifteen years after announcing the game whereas Superhot was made in just seven days. 

When you are planning to develop a game, one important factor that makes you scratch your head is the time taken to develop the game. And to calculate the average video game development time you need to consider the various processes in game development and plan accordingly.

Person working on a laptop

“A game takes as long as it takes to be made.” — Anonymous

Factors Affecting Game Development Time

We have listed below a few of the important factors that will influence game development time. 

1. Game Art

Game art is where the most time in game development is invested in. If you are creating art for an open-world MMORPG game, you would need to create more artwork than other games.

The Witcher

Source: Witcher 3 official website. Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt released in 2015 was much praised by the audience for its realistic and immersive artwork.

In AAA games, the game mechanics and the physics are difficult, making the artists make more character models depicting multiple actions. Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt contains plenty of characters and unique environment art that replicates the real world. The character artists handcrafted every character model to carve out the intricate details which is a lot of artwork to be drawn by hand.

2. Coding/ Programming

Next to game art, programming takes more time in the game development cycle. Steve Baker, a senior software engineer says that video game programming is one of the most difficult programming he had ever worked with.

GTA V

Source: Steam. GTA V has more than 100 million lines of coding and was developed within a year.

Yet again it depends on the particular game. The more complicated the game is the more lengthier the lines of coding. For example, Grand Theft Auto V is said to contain 100 million lines of code. And GTA V is written in C++ programming language.

On the contrary, no-code and low-code technologies are developing in recent times which allows developers to develop games with the minimum requirement for code. ‘Untitled Goose’ is a famous game that is used in Unity to create the game without using traditional coding. But if there is a need for advanced features then, coding is necessary.

3. Sound and Audio Effects

Making sound effects for a game might take a day or a few months to develop depending on the audio requirements.

Sound Effects

Sound effects give a realistic feel to the game by replicating real-life sounds. It might take nearly a month for a sound artist to create all of the sound elements in the game.

Sound artists sometimes go to the studio to record a unique soundtrack for the game and this process takes quite a long time. They record realistic sounds like footsteps, closing doors, explosions, weapon handling, and many such sounds to bring a realistic feel to the game. 

If you take, Open-world AAA games they have many detailed sound effects. For example, Grand Theft Auto Series uses a variety of sounds like environment sounds, character sounds, weapon sounds, and vehicle sounds.

Apart from that getting into legal issues for unauthorized use of sound effects might delay the game production. Call of Duty series was filed with a lawsuit for unauthorized usage of sound effects which delayed the game’s release.

How Long Does It Take to Develop Mobile Games?

Mobiles have small and thin screens and hence the game developed for mobile phones are mostly small casual and mid-level games. Mobile games usually use simple game mechanics, physics, and control features. Hence, it takes lesser time to build mobile games. 

Candy Crush

Candy Crush is a casual game developed by King. The game was developed in a year with nearly 25 game developers.

Mostly, mobile games take three to nine months to be made. For example, Candy Crush took nearly a year to develop. There were nearly 25 developers, artists, designers, and producers who worked together to build the game. The game was a commercial success when it was released on the mobile platform.

Every month we can see hundreds of games being released on mobile devices, which are mostly casual and hyper-casual games. Despite that, the high-end AAA games released on PC and console are optimized and released in mobile versions. Then again, these games will have their own game development timeline.

How Long Does It Take to Develop AAA Games?

When you take AAA games , they are big-budget games where the producers spend millions to build the game. In these games, the game mechanics, physics, artwork, and graphics will be complex when compared to other games. Hence, it takes more time to be made than other games.

Call of Duty

AAA Games typically take two to seven years to be developed, due to their big budget and level of complexity.

AAA games take approximately three to seven years of time. Sometimes it takes even longer depending on the complexity of the game. 

Surprisingly, there are few AAA games that were created within a year of time. When we say this, it is because there were hundreds of people working on these projects to complete them. 

Let us take Resident Evil 3 as an example. This game was created in a relatively short period (i.e., within a year). Some assets and technology of the Resident Evil 2 remake were used here. And the game design and structure of the original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999) were utilized where the developers only modernized the game which saved a lot of time in game development.

In contrast, Red Dead Redemption 2 is an open-world action-adventure game that took nearly eight years to develop. But when it is released it was worth the wait. The game was highly praised for its detailed storyline, attention to detail, character development, and mesmerizing open-world experience.

In a recent interview, Xbox Studios head Matt Booty says that big-budget games can no longer be made in two or three years. It will take five to seven years to develop a high-end, AAA game. He further says the reason for it is due to an increase in modern game complexity and the need to make 4K compatible graphics and advanced game lighting.

Moreover, nowadays AAA games are not only made for a single gaming platform — they are created for multiple platforms like consoles, PCs, tablets, and mobiles.

How Long Does It Takes to Develop Indie Games?

Celeste

Source: Celeste official.  Celeste is an indie game built in a game jam event in just four days.

When you take indie games, it is nearly impossible to predict the average game development time. As indie games are mostly passion projects which are developed part-time or made by a single independent developer. 

Despite that, it also depends on the experience of the developer and the size of the game. Indie games work on a tight budget and it takes more time if a single developer is making the game without hiring any help.

Simple indie games are created within a few months if everything goes right and in other cases it might take nearly three to four years to develop indie games. Some indie game projects are dropped halfway before reaching the launch date due to various reasons. So, as far as you manage to complete game production, it does not matter how long you take to develop the game.

Apart from that, many games developed in a very short time in game jam events have become highly successful in the gaming market. Celeste is one such famous indie game, which is developed in a four-day game jam event.

What is Game Jam?

Nordic Game Jam

Images from Nordic Game Jam 2023. Source: Nordic Game Jam 2023.

Game Jam is an event where game developers come together and create games from scratch. In the course of this event, the game developers create games within a day or several days. Ludum Dare, Global game jam, and Nordic game jam are some of the famous game jam events conducted across the world. Don’t Starve, Inscription and Towerfall were some of the products of game jam events.

Game jam events have a set time limit. As there is limited time, the developers push their boundaries to make creative games. Many successful indie games were made in game jam events. 

What is Development Hell?

Development hell is when the game gets stuck in the pre-production or production phase for a long time without progression toward the game release. At times games enter development hell and they take forever to be developed.

There are multiple reasons that cause the game to enter into development hell. Some of them were listed below.

  • Poor project planning
  • Financial challenges
  • Unforeseen technical issues
  • Licensing and legal issues
  • Change in management
  • Technology changes
  • Unrealistic deadlines and overly ambitious project
  • Internal conflict

Some games enter into development hell and get stuck there for years. They eventually get dropped by the game producers and do not see the light of day. This is called Vaporware.

How to Reduce Game Development Time?

Being able to reduce the game development time is great. But you be careful that the time reduction does not compromise the game quality. There are some factors that can help reduce the game development time. Those are listed below.

  • Planning the game development process clearly
  • Effective project management
  • Reusing existing tools and assets to save more time
  • Proper quality assurance testing to detect bugs at the earliest
  • Offshore outsourcing can be done to reduce the game development time
  • Effective communication and collaboration between the team members.

The Bottom Line

A game takes as long as it takes to be developed. Even for an experienced game developer, it is difficult to predict the game development time.  The time taken to make games basically depends on two important factors: the type of game and the size of the team.

If you need to calculate the average game development time, you need to sum up the time taken by game design, game art, programming, and testing processes. Or simply you can reach out to a game development company and make an inquiry. 

Are you Planning to Develop a Game?

If you are, reach out to us to know the estimated time and cost for developing the game.

We provide various services including mobile game development services, PC and console game development services, AAA game development services, and many more. Our team delivers quality games and serves our clients based on their needs.

Juego Studios is one of the leading game development studio providing end-to-end game development services for more than ten years to our clients.

FAQ

1.How long will it take to develop a AAA game?

Typically, it takes from two to seven years to build a AAA big-budget game. The time might also vary depending on the complexity of the game.

2.What is development hell?

Development hell is when the game gets stuck in the pre-production or production phase for a long time without progression toward the game release.

3.What are Indie games?

Indie games are those created by a single person or a small team of independent developers. This game development runs on a low budget and takes more time to complete as they have a small team of independent developers.

4.How long does game development take?

Games can be developed within a day or a year or ten years. It depends on the type of game. To generally assume, mobile games can be made in 3 months to 1 year whereas AAA games can be made in two to seven years. Indie games are made in their own time, maybe in a few months or a few years.

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