How to budget your own indie game?

Today, we are inviting another blogger to share his experience in game development. Benoit Freslon will learn us how to budget an indie game.

How much cost the production of my video game? It is possible de develop a video game for free?

If you start to make your own games, you MUST ask you this important question: “How to estimate the budget to make my indie game?” even if you are a solo dev.

Hello, my name is Benoit Freslon, I’m French and I’m an indie game dev since 2006. I’m also teaching how to become an indie game developer on my blog (https://videogamecreation.fr – French content only).

Calculer le coût de production d'un jeu vidéo indépendant
Video Game Production Cost

If I had to answer that question right away, I would say that the production of an independent video game costs, roughly speaking, between $1,000 and $10,000,000, so between one month and six years of development. Obviously, the cost will depend on the size of the project and therefore the development time. So, if you have a lot of video game ideas but you don’t know how much they would cost, read on this article. I will try to help you to estimate the cost of your independent video game according to your ambitions.

Game ideas are free!

We all have video game ideas in our heads. Unfortunately, it takes time to develop them. Some ideas take a lot of time and money.

On the Internet, I see a lot of developers, some of them are amateurs, who think that you just need a game idea, some free 3D models found on the Internet and a few lines of code to release a video game and become rich and famous. Unfortunately, the truth is quite different.

An original video game idea is “free”, but not its production.

But if I make my own game, it’s free!

Wait a minute… did you estimate your price yet?

I’m just talking about the income you need to live on each month. Sometimes you feel like you’re paying “nothing” for the production of your project. But if you take a step back, all the material purchased and all the time spent developing should be refunded to be able to continue to live properly at the same time.

Time is money!

At the beginning of a video game project, before starting a business, you can start with a game idea, alone or with a friend. Usually, money is not part of the main topic of discussion. But like any citizen, we need it to live and pay our bills.

That’s why it is necessary to calculate, beforehand, the production time: this will then give us the development cost according to its own cost.



Estimate the amount of time

Here are a few tips to estimate the production time :

  1. Write a game concept document (game design document)
  2. Compare the time you passed on your previous projects
  3. Compare the time of the other developers
  4. Ask your dev team
  5. Search assets and resources on the Internet
  6. Pick up the release date and the milestones
  7. Ask an expert

Estimate your own price

Each person involved in a project should, beforehand, estimate its cost in order to have a clear view of the total production cost.

To do this, you need to list all monthly expenses by estimating the cost of each of them. Here, there is no need to evaluate their added value or to measure their talent and their contribution to the project. Go to your bank’s website and look at last year’s expenses.

Here is an example of the expenses for a single person in Europe, without children and tenant.

Fees Monthly costs
Rent$315
Internet$15
Mobile Phone$15
Insurance$15
Car$200
Transports$10
Taxes$56
Water$15
Electricity$30
Gas$0
Hardware$40
Software licences$30
Mutual$20
Loan$0
Food$200
Entertainment $100
Bar, Restaurant$30
Bank$12
Total$1.103

This means: one month of production costs €1,103.

If you calculate this cost, after the release of the game, you will verify if you managed to make the project cost-effective. Then, you can estimate the cost of profitability.

For example, if you plan to work for 10 months in a game and you estimate your cost at $1,103 per month. The project will cost you about $11,030.

Un jeu vidéo coûte de l'argent à développer

This stage is quite important. It is the one that symbolizes the #1 goal to reach. Like any company, this break even allows you to have enough breath and motivation to continue the journey in indie game dev with another project or to continue working on the same project (DLC, updates, UA, etc.). If this number is not exceeded, you will have to question each other and find the strength to continue and not give up.

Failure is not final, it’s formative.

  • Alex Cars

When you finally get past that stage, you can say, “I’m breaking even! ». This means that you have not lost anything; however, it also means that you have gained “nothing” either. This step gives you information about one of your goals, but it will also allow you to estimate the selling price of your independent video game.

IMO: $1,000 is the basis budget for developing a video game on a very small scale, alone, for one month of development, all expenses cumulated. Then, everything will obviously depend on your own objectives.

Every choice will impact the production cost

When you start creating video games, you can’t estimate the cost of production correctly. Without experience, knowledge or a network, everything is obscure.

But, whether you like it or not, the amount depends on YOUR choices. Here are the aspects that will weigh on the total production cost estimate.

  • Support  : Mobile < PC < Consoles
  • Type of game  : SOLO < Multiplayer
  • Game mechanics   The numbers of gameplay and features
  • Visual Art: Abstracts < Realistics
  • Sound Design  : Simples < Realistics
  • Game modes  : Few < A lot
  • Features: Few < A lot
  • Etc.

Every detail of your concept will add weeks or even months of development and therefore zeros to the final production cost. Then, it’s up to you to calculate what will pay off and compare it to what you want to invest.

Personally, I have chosen to work alone on my projects. So I decided to develop original concepts based on gameplay and interactivity. For EnigmBox, I deliberately put aside storytelling to focus on what I know how to do: game design and development. Which implies: no storytelling, clean graphics and sounds, minimalist, 2D, etc.

Conclusion

All video game developers wish they could make a living from their passion. And it’s entirely possible. But first you have to sit down and think about your future, the one that will or won’t allow you to continue developing your indie game.

TIP: Produce your game step by step and develop something inexpensive and less risky in the first instance. Later on, you can modify and add your ideas.

Work in iterations.

Making games and earn money is cool but it’s also a great way to gain experience. Learn from your failures, from your mistakes, work with the right people, and so on. It’s a kind of reward for each project.

Feel free to put a comment if you have any questions or if you want to add something,

I hope you appreciate this post. And if you are French, and if you are interested to create your own indie game visit my blog:

Have a good dev and see you soon!

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