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End of video games as we know it?

Game development costs are increasing

In this first graph from ArsTechnica, the left hand side represents the average amount of people working on a game. This figure has been increasing less than exponentially. This isn't really the frightening bit. The frightening bit is shown in the text in the x axis, you will realise that since the 16 bit era, cost of making a game has gone from an average of $0.05 million minimum, to an average of $17 million minimum, so its become at least 340 TIMES more expensive to make games since then !!

This second graph just shows game development costs (previous showed both gaming development costs and number of people working on them). Data is from ArsTechnica If this graph is even 50% accurate (i.e if 50% was the margin of error), then it would mean the average cost of making a next gen game in 2012 would be $25 million minimum, if its 100% accurate then the average cost of making a game in 2012 would be $50 million. Lets get straight to the point. This seems unsustainable. Lets make a new word up, call it "market entry figure". It represents an average developers view, on what the user base of a video game console should be before they start developing/making games on that console. This "market entry figure" has surely been increasing every generation. By Human nature, if something is risky, you are less likely to do it. Hence I speculate the following:

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ShaunCameron1976d ago

This is the price of wanting "next-gen" hardware out on the market. Rising development costs as a result of "next-gen" graphics engines and the manpower needed to run them just to make decent use of that "next-gen" hardware. The irony of it all is that today's video games cost less than they did 20 years ago.

vortis1976d ago

Not true.

This doesn't at all look at the middleware tool factors.

Did you know it's easier to create games now than it has been for the past 40 years?

It used to take years to develop games using machine code and they looked like crap. Remember that? And those crappy things could sometimes cost upward of $1 million.

Game development costs are rising yes, but not always in the areas you think.

Unreal Engine 4 is already scaled BEYOND whatever the Xbox 720 or PS4 will be, more than likely we won't get the full potential of the UE4 until the Xbox 1080 or PS5, same thing with the Luminous Engine. Many of the features that are already present in some game engines can't be utilized if the next-gen consoles don't come equipped with 8GB of RAM or more.

The other thing is optimization...people keep thinking "good graphics" is what makes games cost so much but it's actually downgrading graphics.

There are a ton of middleware tools out there that automate content generation. So environments, trees, physics, wind effects, all that stuff comes out at the highest fidelity possible just by clicking a few buttons, but these assets are way, way, way too big for consoles and can't be used in their automated format. Hence, artists usually have to "downgrade" or optimize the assets to run on hardware incapable of using the original assets.

Generating HD content isn't the issue, optimizing it for hardware is. Technically, there would be a lot of money saved if artist could use their first-iteration designs instead of having to use lower-scaled assets that can sometimes take anywhere between weeks to months to optimize for the hardware.

Sorry for the long-winded comment, but I just thought there should be some explanations as to why some budgets have ballooned so.

There's also marketing and third-party licensing which has also increased greatly (i.e., contracting Hollywood celebs, big music artists etc,.) which can bring a $10 million dollar game like Gears of War/Gears of War 2 and turn it into a $20 million dollar game like Gears of War 3.

annus1976d ago

'Easier' depends on what you find easy. I'm sure the people writing in machine code find it just as easy as today's programmer who actually create the engines, both of which are not easy at all. Your post also doesn't outline TIME and PEOPLE needed to create everything. Now days you have people who's purpose is to draw a design of a character, I highly doubt anybody was paid for the sole purpose of creating how pong looked. Then there are modellers who do characters and environments. People paid to do motion capture (lets not forget the actual COSTS to get motion capture). Then you have voice acters, lip syncing, people creating engines, animators, people who create textures, audio, lighting, and a heap of other jobs that all up take thousands of hours to complete a game (we are talking games that take years, with a huge team working full time).

I think it's pretty obvious that games aren't 'easier' to create, unless you think that every game is created in some crappy game engine where you simply change the skin of a character and then it magically works.

pixelsword1969d ago

It's the ennnnd of the gaaaames as we know it.

And I feel fine...

And I feel fine.

ZoyosJD1969d ago

Its rather difficult to compare different time frames. The costs, goals, profits, ease of use, and overall complexity have all increased.

"Hence, artists usually have to "downgrade" or optimize the assets to run on hardware incapable of using the original assets."

I would like to note that there is also middleware that automatically downgrades assets for use on hardware, both before the content is put on disk and in-game based on hardware limitations, LOD, draw distance, etc.

Scaling anything in a game will mostly be accomplished through middleware. Pretty much all expenses are from the cost of using middleware (which is far less expensive than creating your own) and creating the original content.

ex. all of the data from U3 dev process that was saved on their server was 20TB despite the fact that everything that went on disk was a mere 20GB.Can you imagine the time and people it would take to create 20TB of data?

darthv721969d ago

blame us, the consumers. We have dined on an hd experience that we now have high expectations for.

We cant simply go back to tv dinner experience after having something quality made like uncharted.

We are putting pressure on developers to outdo themselves each time.

vortis1969d ago (Edited 1969d ago )


Actually, it's not hard to imagine 20TB worth of data. I think Master Chief is around 50MB from Halo 3, which is pretty big for a single character and that's compressed.

I think Drake, without LOD, was around 3 million or so polygons? With HD textures we're looking at content that exceeds several hundred megabyte, possibly even a few gigabytes.

RAGE is also said to be several terabytes big due to the megatextures.

What's interesting though is that Uncharted 3 actually had a rather modest budget of about $25 million if memory serves me correctly, so filling up 20TB worth of storage seems to fit the price tag correctly. Given the high quality of the assets (especially uncompressed).

And call me a newb, but I always thought that the artists had to manually design each iteration of an LOD prop/actor? They have middleware for that now? Wow.


Not every consumer craves HD gaming, though. And honestly, I don't really buy games based on graphics anymore. A lot of other gamers are in the same boat, which is why stuff like Slender, DayZ and MineCraft have become so popular. I think it's the big companies thinking that gamers only want big graphics when in reality most core gamers just want a good game.

Montrealien1968d ago

Vortis is speaking of the day when 4 people coded made music and wrote the story of a game in a few months? Just curious...

ZoyosJD1967d ago

I'm not so much talking about imagining the data, as an uncompressed game clearly takes up that kind of space, but the time and effort taken to create that 20TB of data.

"And call me a newb, but I always thought that the artists had to manually design each iteration of an LOD prop/actor? They have middleware for that now? Wow."

I was thinking "old-school". LOL. I know that there is middleware for that as I read an article on it being used in dark souls and a few other games.

+ Show (4) more repliesLast reply 1967d ago
vortis1975d ago


Easier as in: Animations, physics, models, textures, terrain can all be done from one source. And by this, I'm talking personal experience. UDK is waaaaaaaaaaay easier to use than stuff like Visual C++ and Lightwave, which was common tools back in the late 90s and early 00s.

All that stuff you talk about needing separate people and time for is how things were done during the PSX and PS2 era. With stuff like Unity and UDK and CryEngine SDK all that stuff is condensed into one source. So the only real expense is in designing the middleware.

Also, stuff like lip-synching is automated in a lot of animation toolsets. This has been a standard since 2006 when Mystic was licensing out stuff like the EmotionFX that handled a wide assortment of animation needs, including automated lip-synching. Just like Valve's SFM, so no there is no need to have someone working on lip-synching to do that unless they just like wasting money on old tools that force them to do more work.

And dude, when I mean "easier to create games" you can create 16-bit style games in less than half an hour...stuff that used to take several years and a lot of painstaking code to do. Just google up tools like Construct 2 or Arcade County and you'll see just how easy it is. Then google up how hard it was for devs to make the original Sonic on the Megadrive.

Also, with tools like ZBrush and Poser I'm sorry but again, it's not only easier to sculpt characters but to texture them as well. Back in the day you had to manually apply each texture to each polygon surface or per-triangle. THAT WAS HARD. I'm speaking from experience here man.

I can earnestly say based on the tools available now compared to the tools and design engines back in the day, it's 1000% times easier.

As for mo-cap? Just google up iPi Soft and see how cost-effective and easy motion-capture is. If a company is paying millions for motion-capture they're doing it wrong.

LightofDarkness1975d ago

Where are the costs really coming from? From what I can see, it's hiring well-known actors and celebrities for VA and motion capture/facial animation, throwing millions at marketing campaigns and hiring large volumes of artists and developers so that they can commit to a 2 year development cycle. The artists hired are generally plucked straight from grad school too, and obviously won't be able to work with the same efficiency as a veteran. That, and the average programmer earns around $90,000 PA, as do producers, while business and legal employees are somehow the HIGHEST paid (any question as to who's driving this industry any more?) with OVER $100,000 PA (closer to 110k). Much of the creative staff (artists, designers and audio pros) are the lowest paid of all (~$70000), despite putting in some of the longest hours.

And you're right: the tools available today should be driving the cost of development WAY down, but somewhere along the line, too much money is being allocated elsewhere.

Straightupbeastly1976d ago (Edited 1976d ago )

I'd like to see the numbers of incoming revenue from games during these eras. It's obvious the price of game development will rise as the industry goes and from inflation, but the number u need to examine is the money coming in now comparitive to older eras. That will better tell you if gaming is in trouble or not.

Ranma11976d ago (Edited 1976d ago )

Video games sales graph from BBC

and its worrying...unfortunately

konnerbllb1973d ago

Is that image from 2007? Everything past 2007 looks to be forcast. I'd love to look at an updated chart if you know of one. Thanks

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Ashriel1974d ago

Let's count on the indies then :')

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