Why are videogames so difficult and expensive to make?

08.11.2018 816 0

Depending on how much you love videogames, you may be surprised to find out there’s a Bachelor of Science in Games Development in some universities. And no, that’s not just some random degree to fill a quota. It’s actually quite needed.

Creating video games is not as easy and enjoyable as it may seem. It involves thousands and thousands of hours of coding, level design, map design, UI, storyboarding and so much more. Of course, then there’s the actual graphics which have to be extremely detailed and realistic. And we also have to add to that the simulation of real-life physics, special effects, etc. To top all of that, it also has to be playable and it’s not simply a one and done movie rendering.

Development challenges

As gamers want more complex and realistic games, game studios have to oblige. It’s not uncommon to have a team of more than a thousand people work on a big game title. The more people, the faster you can complete the game. But it’s also more expensive and complex as you have to create a proper structure to keep everything moving in the right order.

For quite a few aspects of a game, the studio needs very experienced developers. They have to code the movement, the physics, controls, actions and so much more. Then often they have to redo a lot of work after bugs are found by testers. And, of course, you actually have to create a lot of completely new, innovative features and code in order to make your game stand out. This respectively requires even more work by even more experienced devs.

Making a game more realistic, but still playable (for example, surviving and actually winning a round after taking several bullets) is a tricky balance to achieve. Especially when it’s all in multiplayer and basically has to work in real-time for players from all over the globe. It requires a lot of back-end work, proper infrastructure and knowledge to make it all come together.

Expensive business

As a result, making games is quite the expensive business. The so-called “Triple A” (AAA) titles are the Hollywood equivalents of blockbuster movies. They come with big budgets and even bigger expectations. Grand Theft Auto V for example reportedly cost $265 million to make. That’s a lot of money. For comparison, the latest movie in the “Fast and Furious” franchise cost about $250 million.

But then there’s the big difference. Games have the potential to bring in a lot of revenue for a very long time. While “The Fate of the Furious” brought in about $1.2 billion in revenue, according to a report by MarketWatch, GTA V has so far brought $6 billion in revenue since its release in 2013. Yes, $6 billion from a video game. This makes GTA V the most financially successful entertainment product of any kind of all time.

One of the main reasons is that games such as GTA V, Fortnite: Battle Royale and so on, have the ability to become basically a pay-as-you-go service. These games continue to pump out new content on a regular basis and you can either have a subscription to get it or simply buy the DLC (Downloadable content) you want. And some even offer the main DLCs for free and rely on gamers to buy additional items and skins for the actual revenue. In the case of Fortnie, a study by lendEDU concludes that 68.8% of players have actually spent money on the otherwise free-to-play game. They have spent an average of $84.67 with some extreme cases reaching up to over $1000 on game skins and moves. Mind you, these purchases have no effect on the actual ability or chance to win, they are simply cosmetic and for fun.

So, while making videogames is quite expensive and difficult, it can sure pay off. Of course, it also depends on how successful the game itself will be. There are so many flops which end up costing millions. One of the big ones is Duke Nukem Forever. It came out in 2011 after 14 (fourteen) years and 44 days of development to a tremendous hype… Only to get mixed reviews, poor ratings and sales only half of what the expectations were. So, no matter how much effort and money you put in a game, actual success is always far from guaranteed.

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