How Much Does It Cost To Make a Game?

February 14, 2024
February 12, 2024

In the late 1960s, “Pong” inventor Nolan Bushnell grappled with the task of building hardware powerful enough to run a video game that was inexpensive enough to turn a profit. Today, the phones gamers carry in their pockets can run far more complex games than the best hardware available to Bushnell. Still, the challenge of balancing the cost of production and the profitability of games remains.

While not every game has a mind-boggling budget like the rumored $2 billion sixth installment of the “Grand Theft Auto” series, game development can still be expensive. How much does it cost to make a game?

Key Takeaways:

  • An average game costs between $50,000 and $200,000 to make. However, the cost varies considerably depending on several factors.
  • Some genres, such as RPGs and hardcore action games, tend to have higher costs than others, such as hypercasual games.
  • More complex games cost more to make because they require a larger investment in hardware, software, and talent. A simple game may cost as little as $15,000, while a AAA title could cost hundreds of millions.
  • The longer it takes to make your game, the more it will cost.
  • Geographic location, licensing, legal costs, marketing, platform choice, the game engine you use, and ongoing expenses can also affect your overall cost.

How Much Does It Cost To Make a Game?

An average video game costs between $50,000 and $200,000 to make. However, the cost varies widely depending on several factors.

Genre

Hypercasual games with simple mechanics and graphics cost less to make than games with complex stories, high-end graphics, and extensive economy systems, such as role-playing games. Action-oriented titles tend to incorporate realistic physics and graphics that require significantly more computing power and coding skills than simpler games.

Complexity

Single-player mini-games with no special effects are usually the least expensive types of games to make. As you add more features, such as multiplayer support, 3D graphics, realistic physics, complex stories, and voice acting, the costs go up.

While there can be a lot of variation even within game types, expect the cost to make a game to be about:

  • $15,000 to $100,000 for a mini-game
  • $100,000 to $400,000 for a small 2D game
  • $150,000 to $600,000 for a small 3D game
  • $300,000 to $1 million for a mid-level game
  • $750,000 to $4 million for a high-level game
  • $4 million to more than $250 million for a AAA game

More complicated titles carry higher price tags due to the need to pay for higher-end equipment, software, and talent. For example, an indie developer making a simple game may be able to write all the code and purchase stock graphics and sounds relatively inexpensively. A developer creating a complex title may need artists, musicians, writers, voice actors, motion capture equipment, engineers, and more.

Graph showing the cost of simple vs. complex games
https://vironit.com/how-much-does-it-cost-to-make-a-video-game/

Development Time

The average cost to make a game is $100 to $150 per hour in the United States and $50 to $80 per hour in Europe. Small games take about two to three months to complete, while larger, more complex games can take years. The longer it takes to finish a game, the more it costs to make.

Marketing

Expect to spend at least 30% of your development budget on marketing costs. However, some companies spend as much as 10 times as much marketing their game as they do on making it.

Licensing and Legal Costs

If you use anyone else’s intellectual property to make your game, licensing costs will affect how much your game costs to make. Using someone else’s IP, even unintentionally, without paying for it can lead to expensive litigation and damage your reputation.

Additionally, you will have legal expenses related to ensuring your game doesn’t violate the law anywhere you intend to sell it, and you will need to defend your copyrights and trademarks. You must also budget for expenses associated with protecting, storing, and using data about your users.

Location

The country or even geographic region within a country where you develop your game affects labor costs, taxes, overhead, and other expenses. If you are in an area with a higher cost of living, expect to spend more developing your game.

Platform

Expect to spend about 30% of your revenue from in-app purchases in iOS or Google Play store seller’s fees. You must pay for payment processing, which generally costs more on the iOS platform. Developing a game for multiple platforms also comes with additional costs for coding, tools, optimization, and expertise.

Game Engine

One of the costs to make a game that varies widely is the game engine you chose. The cost of game engines varies from free, open-source software to AAA engines that may cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. However, if using a more expensive game engine reduces the time it takes to make your game, you may save money versus using less expensive or free software.

Graphic showing several popular game engines
https://kevurugames.com/blog/best-game-engines-2022-pros-cons-and-top-picks-for-different-types-of-games/

Testing

The more complex your game is, the more you need to test it to ensure it is as bug-free as possible before release. If your game has multiplayer modes, you may need to pay for thousands of simultaneous users to try out the game to ensure it doesn’t crash or behave unexpectedly during peak usage. Some games require months of testing to iron out all the issues and find problems the developers didn’t think of.

Ongoing Expenses

The cost of developing a game doesn’t end when you sell your first download. After your game launches, there will be ongoing expenses for a soft launch, marketing, live ops, tech support, and new content creation.

How Can You Make a Game at a Lower Cost?

Outsourcing development tasks provides access to talent you don’t have on staff and saves money on hiring and training costs, reducing how much it costs to make a game. The team at Sonamine can help you get your new game up and running and help you recoup your production costs through effective monetization, engagement, and retention strategies. Contact us today to get started.

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