Games are not mere entertainment but also a monetary investment. So, if you decide to create a game of your own, you must carefully look at how much it costs to develop a video game.
If you look at examples of top games, then you can find that these lean into both extremes. On one hand, there are games like CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 and Rockstar’s GTA V, both of which cost hundreds of millions ($316 million and $266 million, respectively). On the other extreme lies Undertale, an acclaimed game that is estimated to have had a budget of $50,000.
Other games, of which the estimated cost we know, include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 at $250 million, Final Fantasy VII at $45 million, and Genshin Impact at $100 million.
The biggest takeaway from this is that the cost of game development varies from project to project. It is based on the individual factors of each project.
One of the key factors is the country you develop the game in. Suppose you outsource the project to India, the cost would be on the lower side, at an estimated $30 per hour for a single developer. On the other extreme lies The United States, with a rough hourly rate of $100 per individual developer.
Countries known for game development outsourcing, such as Ukraine, Poland, and the Philippines, also have their own rates. in Ukraine and Poland, the rate comes at around the same ($60 and $65, respectively), while in the Philippines, it is a bit at the lower end at $40.
Bear in mind that these are not concrete figures. The figures can vary according to the skill level of the developers as well. The overall cost would, likewise, be based on the overall time period as well.
Bear in mind that these are not concrete figures that help you determine exactly how much it costs to develop a game. The figures can vary according to a few set of metrics:
In general, the more skilled a developer is, the more the cost would be. Inexperienced and/or low-skilled developers would be cheaper in comparison.
Whether you opt for a skilled or a low-skilled game developer depends upon the needs of your project. For certain aspects that do not require a lot of complicated execution, an inexperienced developer would be apt, as long as they have the proper guidance and oversight. This can result in a significant reduction in how much it costs to develop your game.
But if the project requires the expertise of someone with specialized knowledge in a particular domain, then you must consider opting for someone who has a lot of skills. Especially if something requires hyper-specialization, such as in-depth knowledge of a particular feature in a game engine.
Even within countries, the price would vary depending on the city. For instance, a game development studio in New York might charge higher than a company in Ohio.
There are a myriad of factors that affect the video game development cost ranges based on the city. So if the game development outsourcing company you are aiming to hire belongs to a certain city where charges are on the hire side, you have to weigh in if the higher cost is worth it.
It also depends on the sub-domain the expert you are looking to hire hails from. For instance, a programmer might cost a higher charge per hour compared to an animator of a similar experience.
$20 – $40
$50 – $150
$60 – $120
$35 – $65
$30 – $55
$120 – $180
$35 – $60
$30 – $60
$30 – $65
So, below, we are giving you a math equation to figure out the ballpark of how much your game’s development would cost.
So, below, we are giving you a math equation to figure out the ballpark of how much your game’s development would cost.
Time x Personnel Cost
Time = The duration of your project’s development process.
Personnel Cost = The combination of the average cost of developers multiplied by the number of resources required.
For instance, if you are looking at a 3-month project with two developers each at $40 an hour, the overall cost would be:
90 x 80 = $7200
There are numerous factors that determine the overall game development cost of a particular project. Below are 8 of them:
The bigger your game, the higher your budget will be. Because the bigger the game, the more time and effort required for it.
For instance, if your game is a multiplayer game with a huge open world and an elaborate storyline, then it requires the designers to first design the entire experience in detail, the developers to code the numerous modules of the game, the artists and animators to create and animate a huge number of assets, and finally, the testers to test the game’s numerous aspects including the network latency
Game development teams, be it a small indie company or a large mobile game development services provider, usually have experts from different domains of game development because video game development is an endeavor that requires the expertise of people from multiple domains such as programming, design, art, testing, and project management.
So, in most cases, you require a lot of resources. And the more resources you require to execute your game project, the higher the video game development cost will be, as you must take care of multiple costs, including the remuneration of each individual and different overhead costs.
The more the number of people, the more this adds up and takes up a significant portion of the game development cost
To make a great game, you need great resources. You need people who have both skills and experience.
But the higher your team’s experience, the higher the cost of video game development will be. Because expertise comes at a cost, and most often, to get quality work from experienced game developers, you must pay a premium cost.
The upside of this is that the quality you can expect will also be on the higher side. In addition, it is also less risky than hiring an inexperienced team of game developers.
It is important to market your game. Because if you do not let the world know about your game and its features to the target audience, you most likely won’t make any returns from it.
So, you have to market through the right channels and methods, such as influencer marketing, paid digital and physical ads, and community building.
Whatever method you choose, the overall budget required will have to be a good portion of your game. Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption, for instance, had a reported budget of $200 million. Similarly, 45% of Cyberpunk 2077’s overall budget was towards marketing the game.
Just as important as marketing and promotion is distribution. You must make your game available at the right time and place to the right players.
There are two methods you can employ to distribute games these days.
First is physical distribution, where you distribute physical copies of your game through brick-and-mortar stores. Usually, this means you manufacture your game’s physical copies and sell them to a distributor, who in turn sells them to retailers, who then finally sells them to the players themselves.
Second is digital distribution, where you publish the digital copy of your game on one or multiple digital stores such as Steam, Google Play Store, Apple App Store, Epic Store, PlayStation Store, etc. Every time a player buys a copy of your game, the store takes a percentage cut of that sale.
Both methods have their own costs involved and can be a huge part of your overall game development cost.
You need a set of dedicated software and hardware to create games. And both can have a significant effect on the overall game development budget you require.
For instance, game engines, the key driving force behind game development, often have licensing fees. Unreal Engine, from Epic (the engine behind games such as Fortnite and Pathless), takes a 5% cut from your overall generated revenue if the said figure exceeds $1 million. Meanwhile, Unity has different plans you can select from that range from free to $2040 per year.
Furthermore, hardware is just as important as game engines. And game development requires you to have powerful hardware that is capable of supporting tasks such as the creation and rendering of high-quality visuals and complex coding. You can choose to either rent the hardware from outside vendors or purchase the hardware yourself. Both approaches can vary in terms of cost (renting is usually cost-efficient while purchasing all the hardware would be expensive) and also in terms of benefits.
If you decide to use the intellectual property owned by another party, like a company or an individual, then you have to obtain the licenses of these IPs. Most of the time, this means you have to pay for the rights for a certain period of time.
For example, Electronic Arts (EA) acquired the rights to use the Star Wars IP from Disney back in 2013 for an undisclosed fee that is reportedly in the millions. Likewise, CD Projekt RED acquired the rights for the adaption of the Witcher series of books for a small sum of $9500 (which was later re-negotiated after a legal dispute between the author and the famed game development studio.)
Furthermore, IPs can also mean in-game music created by other artists. For instance, publishers like EA and Rockstar obtain the rights to use music from artists and record labels for a certain period of time, often for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Today, games do not cease being developed upon release. In fact, for a few games, the real effort just starts after the release, with the initial public release acting as a mere beginning.
These games rely on LiveOps for the most part. LiveOps involves the introduction of new features and content with the intent to prolong the lifespan and monetization period of the game. Performing LiveOps can be a huge factor in the overall game development cost as it prolongs the development duration of the game.
But even if you decide not to do LiveOps, you still must support your game for a period post its release. This can include listening to the feedback your players give and then rectifying the bugs and issues they point out through the release of patches.
Since there are numerous factors involved in game development, you have to calculate the total game development cost before you even commence development.
There are three main reasons for this:
There are chances that the budget you have at your disposal is insufficient for the game you have. You can understand this only if you calculate the cost of game development before you start production.
Suppose you have an idea for a multiplayer cross-platform shooter game. Such a game usually requires a massive budget. If you cannot afford to commence development, it is better to understand that before you write a single line of code or create a single asset, rather than sinking a lot of money and effort into it and finding it out later on.
If the game is within your budget, then the next logical step is to understand where your budget will go towards. Through proper budgeting, you can understand the areas where a huge chunk of your investment will be going towards.
Thus, you will get a clearer picture of the overall development cost and find methods to iterate the strategy based on insights you get from the analysis.
You must, at all costs, avoid going either over budget or under budget. Both are scenarios that can derail your game’s progress in development or, worse, even lead to the cancellation of the project altogether.
To avoid this scenario, you must allocate sufficient funds for all the different expenses within the development process – be it hiring new resources or outsourcing work to a different video game development company. Find avenues where you can cut down the cost and divert these savings towards endeavors where an increase in the budget can directly increase the overall quality of your final game product
Many would still be wondering how much it costs to develop a video game.
The cost of projects would depend on the specific features that need to be implemented and the complexity of the project. So even between two games that look similar from the outside, there might be a lot of variance in terms of the budget. For instance, one of them might have multi-player features which drive the up the cost even further.
But even so, there are rough estimates as to how much different game development projects would cost. Below we can give you a brief overview:
Hyper-casual games are a type of game that is characterized by their simplicity in terms of mechanics and in terms of design.
These games aim to target the widest set of audiences. These are monetized using different formats of ads and usually do not have much in the way of in-app purchases.
Some games in this genre include Helix Jump, Stack, Dune!, and Tomb of the Mask.
The budget for a hyper-casual game would fall between $5,000 to $50,000.
Casual games are a bit more complex in terms of the gameplay. These offer a bit more depth and are often meant to be played for longer periods of time compared to hyper-casual games.
Casual games can appeal to occasional gamers because of the simple mechanics and also to regular gamers because of the complexity. The monetization also often includes both ads and in-app purchases.
Famous casual games include Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, and Fruit Ninja.
The price range of casual games would be between $10,000 to $500,000+.
Mid-core games are a little more complex than casual games, often having meta elements such as leveling up and progression systems. These are tailored towards longer gameplay sessions than casual games.
It appeals to both regular gamers and hardcore gamers alike. The monetization is completed through ads, IAPs, and premium models.
A few mid-core games include Stardew Valley, Terraria, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and Kingdom Rush.
The game development cost for a mid-core game would be between $100,000 and $1 million.
These are the types of games that appeal to people who consider gaming as a serious hobby. These have complex mechanics and meta elements such as progression systems.
Hardcore games are normally monetized using upfront payment models, where a player has to purchase the game for an upfront fee. Additional content such as DLCs can also be purchased using the same method.
Some of these games include Bloodborne, Dark Souls, Cuphead, Celeste, Doom, and Hades.
Because of their complexity hardcore game development cost would span between $1 million and $10 million.
AAA games are characterized by a single thing: production quality. If games are compared to movies, AAA games are the blockbusters among them.
These appeal to a wide range of audiences. AAA games also feature high-fidelity graphics, sprawling game worlds, and complex narratives.
A few AAA games include Cyberpunk 2077, Last of Us Part II, Horizon Zero Dawn, GTA V, and Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim.
Hence, the development cost of games in the AAA category is on the highest side. These usually range from $10 million to $300 million.
Before you commence development, you must consider each factor listed in the article. Because games are products that require extra care in terms of budget analysis and investment.
The best alternative that you have is to hire a top game development studio like us and outsource your project. We can assess all the different factors and provide you with a detailed estimate that covers all aspects mentioned here and also those specific to your project. The team can also then be relied upon to develop your project from scratch to finish.