Crowfall’s Raph Koster goes into insane depth on the cost of creating video games

    
28

If you have an exceptional memory, you might recall that a couple of months ago, Crowfall and Star Wars Galaxies designer Raph Koster wrote up a blog post on the cost of making games. The MMO expert followed that up this week with a much, much more detailed presentation that attempts to show hard data to back up his claims.

Koster said that he used industry contacts and other research to assemble data from over 250 games made from 1985 to today that shows the development cost minus the money spent on marketing. He even goes so far as to break down the cost of dollars per developed byte of information, which is where he sees costs for game falling. He said that when you look at it this way, players are getting a “deal” for games these days.

“Lots of people have made the observation that in terms of raw purchasing power, players pay around half of what they used to in the ’80s,” he notes.

It’s interesting to pore over the graphs to see trends in costs while soaking in the fact that costs to make games are trending skyward. Koster said that people also need to keep in mind how marketing costs can vastly impact a game’s budget, with a AAA game’s advertising taking up 75 to 100% of its development cost.

Koster predicts that in about 10 years, the average player payment for a game will be free, AAA title costs will average out at $200M, and more system-driven games like e-sports, roguelikes, and simulation titles will emerge on the scene. More multiplayer focus is inevitable, he says, as players are content for each other, which means that developers will need to design games as service and “embrace procedurality.”

Source: Raph Koster

28
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
theblackmage75

I liked reading through the analysis and the suggestions offered at the end of the post. I appreciate Raph Koster putting the time in. One thing though: the player payment per mb info seems not to account for the spoils that publishers are getting from microtransactions. It’s one thing to look at initial cost and subscriptions but from what I can see the real money is being made on things like Eververse and cartel crates, which I’m not sure is being quantified.

So, a significant portion of a game’s income is possibly being made in ways that aren’t being tracked and, most importantly, are working to keep the actual cost per mb down as we would expect (hope) it to be. I dunno, maybe?

Cadaver
Reader
Loyal Patron
Cadaver

More multiplayer focus is inevitable…

Man, there was a time not long ago when I would have genuinely welcomed that. But not now. Like so many other things in life, glimpsing the future just leaves me hankering for the past.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

…said every generation ever ;)

Cadaver
Reader
Loyal Patron
Cadaver

..and they were all right, even back to our earliest simian ancestors. We all made a big mistake coming down from the trees :)

Reader
Ittybumpkin

I am okay with paying more upfront and would willingly do it. As it is I already purchase collectors editions to most games I really like. I am also okay with some micro-transactions. What I am not okay with is abusive mechanics to derive more money. Loot boxes fall into that category. Abusing matchmaking and odds based on player purchase behavior is another thing that I find unconscionable.

Reader
Emory Rounds

Really hoping Crowfall pays off, Raph. I bought in nearly 2 years ago, and things seem to be moving tentatively towards soft launch. I was enamored of early SWG, and just want to feel some degree of immersion again. Enough of the WoW knockoffs :P.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

Instead of prices increasing, we might see devs scaling down their efforts at visual fidelity in order to keep prices stable. After all, as the data shows, the development costs per megabyte are falling, so games that don’t strive to increase the visual fidelity are actually getting cheaper to develop.

Reader
Raph Koster

Indies are, of course, doing this already, because they have to. In fact most everything I suggested, indies are doing already :)

Reader
Sally Bowls

The big question is would consumers accept it? You might accept a lower quality car or suit or steak to save money. But is “a worse game/movie but cheaper” viable? Everyone says in the abstract they want the value. But when the HD mocap big bucks game goes up against the cheaper graphics, I just don’t think cheap can cut it. People moan about LotRO graphics, I just can’t see budget catching on with mainstream audiences.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Armsbend

I’m not sure that consumers really need a champion to defend the developers that are increasingly on ‘companies to hate’ scale.

Maybe I should make that graph. The spike right now would be off the chart.

Reader
Lethality

Or maybe, players should pay attention to what is being said there.

Reader
Raph Koster

I’m not really defending this, you know. I’m pointing out context.

PurpleCopper
Reader
PurpleCopper

Making videogames as a career seems pretty insane.

It’d be so much easier to make a boardgame or even a hybrid boardgame app instead. They’re much less expensive, quicker to produce, and much less riskier.

Imagine if all these videogame companies made boardgames/hybrid boardgame appd instead.

Grimalkin
Reader
Grimalkin

I thought we’ve already concluded back in 2014 that “games as service” needs to stay dead

Reader
Raph Koster

You’re on an MMO site… every game talked about here is a service. :)

More seriously… I think the service trend is here to stay not just for the reasons in the article but also because it’s a worldwide trend on everything. You likely consume music as a service, for example. TV and movies are increasingly on service models. And of course, juicers. :P

It’s not that I am a fan of everything being a service — I’m not — but it’s a reasonable business response and strategy to the overall picture.

deekay_plus
Reader
Patreon Donor
deekay_plus

the vast majority of AAA games cost far less than $200 million including marketting. getting about the hudnred million mark is really the exception that you can count on one hand in teh past decade.

beyond that he says alot of what’s excessively obvious and what anyone paying attention to the industry evolution would say. which reminds me of before carmack exited the games industry and press would report on random tweets where he said extremely mundane things then everyone would laugh about how he once chokeholded some random fan or reporter or something and that time he had a ferrari or lambo or w/e and how he’s stil(at the time) a leader in technology in games.

meanwhile as soon as he left id the first project from id that he didn’t work on in teh studio’s history was it’s first solid and fun game since the 90s. so yeah, i know people like ot defend carmack by saying he’s just a tech guy after the fact, but every id game before doom he was front adn center with the press to take credit for hte next big thing to revolutionize gaming from the creator of teh fps genre that ended up being terrible and half assed in various odd and painfully visible ways.

koster is alot like that, riding off the coat tails of nostalgia much like his peers gariot and chris roberts with a resume that speaks to a lack of creativity or inspiration since the game(s) we all nostalgia them for. and yet being reported on for saying the excessively obvious or pandering to his current and potential customers that still nostalgia over 15-20+ year old game we all loved or w/e that none of them have shown a coherent sense of the reality of those old games in theri current “i’m a list veteran name here, buy my new kickstarter” marketting.

and while f2p to will certainly grow – i don’t see the death of the $60+ plus MTX/DLC model for the typical adn most common AAA games for a very long time to come. there is room for both and f2p is certainly no path to victory (as the majority of f2p games are even unknown in their native regions where the model is most popular and well recieved).

Alyn
Reader
Alyn

Nice points, deekay_plus!
With the costs of creating a triple-A mmo, it seems to me the companies should try and attach a subscription model onto the final product. However, much debate, as we all know tends to lead away from pay to fps.
Maybe we, as consumers, have a say? Not sure, what does everyone else think?

deekay_plus
Reader
Patreon Donor
deekay_plus

i think teh sub model has proven to be anathemic to most audiences, if not for reasons i personally have. while certainly it has appeal to enough to sustain a dwindling number of mmo games, utlimately i see enough word of mouth that it’s that very same sub model that keeps other players away from those games.

keepign in mind both the soon to be remaining sub model games have a cash shop of some sort, even if far more limited in scope and nature than other mmo models.

i am curious to see how amazon tackles the revenue model question when their current projects mature into something closer to release. i think they could definitely innovate on how we spend on games especially in the mmo genre.

however i suspect we’ll see more games including mmo’s enter into valve’s steam hat economy market place.

Reader
Sally Bowls

The $200M was for a decade from now. If you draw a line from MMO costs of a decade ago to AAA MMO today and extrapolate out a decade, $200M seems credible to me.

deekay_plus
Reader
Patreon Donor
deekay_plus

vast majority of mmo’s even right now come no where near 100mil mark.

again the number of games that hit that figure or more in any genre you can count on one hand.

and AAA publishers aren’t making AAA mmo’s now, why do we assume they will dump an average of 200 million into making them a decade from now?

Reader
Wilhelm Arcturus

Do we really need to clarify who Raph Koster is at this point by assigning him to Crowfall? I mean, he is listed as a consultant there, but I am not sure that necessarily makes him “Crowfall’s Raph Koster.”

I do wonder how he got through the editorial process not billed as “SWG Legend Raph Koster.”

Alyn
Reader
Alyn

I have to agree here. Mr. Koster really hasn’t been involved in the actual creation of mmo’s in many years. However, his info on the expense of creating modern mmo’s may well be fairly close. At any rate Mr. Koster is NOT building Crowfall nor is he really directly involved in it’s outcome.

Reader
David Blair

“Hey look! It’s TV’s Raph Koster.”

camren_rooke
Reader
camren_rooke

No wait! It’s Tv’s SON of Tv’s Ralph Koster!

Reader
Armsman

yeah, considering under Mr. Koster SWG as launched was a HOT MESS – and a lot of what was promised and shown (IE Player built and run towns, and AT AT walkers, etc.) NEVER made it into the launched product.

He also posted on the SWG Beta Boards that it was his belief SWG would never see a nerf because of all the testing that was being done…” (And I was a SWG Beta Tester and remember Dev teams rwesponse to a lot of issues we brought up were “You’re not playing the game right…”

Also, it’s worth noting that 24 hours prior to the actual retail launch of SWG – they had as yet not been able to keep the test server up for a full 24 hours straight (and yeah they were in fact trying to do that; but all we Testers heard was “It’ll be great, don’t worry…”)

So, yeah, color me not impressed with the actual delivered work of Mr. Ralph Koster. (Who may have ‘consulted’ on some games since but not really been involved in the nuts and bolts development of late. It’s easy to talk; hard to ‘do’.