What is cost of game production these days? We have titles that can go well into the Millions range scale and take up as much as 4 years, with the odd number reaching decades such as the ill-fabled Duke Nukem Forever. We have titles that can be made from shoe string money and yet earn the original creator thousands of hard cash. There is no single tooth pole to make our numbers from however when we enter such production endeavors we must take into consideration the monetary implications of running your own studio or even your home based operation running a fleet of freelancers over the internet.

Lets start with a marketplace I'm familiar with, the iPhone. According to Apple there are now over 10 Million iPhone units out there, that an hefty number for any developer to want to produce games or apps for it. What's the cost of producing an iPhone game? If you are doing it off your garage near zero of course, one thing Technology Industries have in favor over traditional ones is the total lack of current costs beyond the intellectual power deemed necessary to actually design and code fine products for the most amazing mobile device ever. Apple deserves all the merit to turn out quality at this high level, from user interface down to the tubes, bolts and wires of the fine APIs they expose to the developers. Its a fantastic world to get to it and explore the possibilities. But whats the cost?

The typical cost metric for software development has been the man-month, that although mythical it can be quite expressive if you have to pay you bills on time each and every month. So, the cost of development for a practical single person can be your life expenses budget per month multiplied by the number of months required to design, implement and ship the game PLUS all the non-personnel costs involved such as game assets in the form of textures or audio that you outsourced, tools acquired and above all else, the publishing and marketing costs.

So in essence the cost of a game production is equal to the formula

Cost of Game Production=
Cost of Living Beings Working On Project per Month * Number of Months to Ship
+ Assets/Tools Expenses
+ Marketing Budget
+ Cat Food and miscellaneous office pizzas

Theoretically, lets take into consideration a single developer with programming skills with say, a moderate expense of 1500 Euros per month which is an average salary/expense for a mid-level TI job in Europe. Lets say we are building a nice shooter for the iPhone and that we are sure we can do it ourselves if we spend 20 Weekends on it plus burning away 10 full vacations weekdays (yes, this is indie development for you, no I'm not doing that). In this case we have 20 days for weekends plus 10 full days, so 50 days in total. Lets also say we hire on getafreelancer.com a kid around the block that does some nice artwork well beyond your stick figures without much thinking and let's say the kid will do all your artwork for a cheap 300 Euros, also you think about it and you reach the conclusion that for you to be successful you have to make yourself noticed among the myriad of games our there so you need visibility in the form of Marketing, for this you make aside 500 Euros for that, you decide to spend it wisely on various marketing sites on the web, you are smart and you going to do that well, so we plug the number into the formula and arrive at:

Cost of Game Production=
1500 * (50/30) + 500 + 300 + 0 (allergic to cats) = 3300 Euros

So here we have it, 3300 Euros in our fictitious example, your mileage may vary and you may very well go over budget, in this case. If you still have a day job, you are still getting money out of other sources, so the over budget in no longer you running out of money, but you running out of time before your budgeted play money expires. So why make yourself doing all this work? After all if you still have a job as an indie developer and you are doing this on free time, why would you not simple say that this costs 800 Euros for money actually spent as in the example?

Because time is money. And because if you think of your time as money you might see yourself doing some extra work, and some extra push to get stuff done. Also when you have your own studio this will not be hypothetical and this will be an actually interesting exercise notion for you to have.

Theoretically of course.

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