Here’s the situation: you have a few indie games under your belt, they’ve done fairly well, and now you want to develop your first, truly ‘big’ indie game. You have had an idea for an indie game that is truly epic in scope, and you know that thanks to the experiences you’ve earned from your past indie games, you are ready to push the envelope, crank your next game up to 11, and develop an indie game that is going to be unlike anything you have ever developed. It’s going to be a monumental jump, and you want to be ready for whatever comes your way.
First of all – congratulations! If you know that you are truly ready, then don’t hold back: make your first big indie game and start the next chapter in your career. However, there is a magic word you need to keep in mind before you start developing the indie game:
Your indie game is probably going to have a larger budget than your past indie games: in fact, it could exceed the cost of your first indie games combined (taking into account the scope of your current/previous indie games, of course). Create a gameplan before starting so you won’t go over budget, and most importantly? So your indie game will see the light of day. Here is a checklist you should go through to estimate the budget for your first big indie game.
Identify up-front, unavoidable costs
In other words: how much do you actually need to spend? For example, if you are developing the indie game in-house, are you going to need to purchase new hardware? New areas for your employees to work? How much do you absolutely need to spend in order to get your indie game off the ground and being developed?
You need to also consider the amount you will need to spend on add-on costs. From marketing to outsourcing playtesting sessions to even renewing your web domains (yes, they must also be configured into the equation), you need to sit down and outline exactly what your possible costs are going to be.
From there? Detail the maximum amount you may be faced with spending on your next indie game. Inflate the amount you may have to spend. By doing so, you will be able to approach the development of your indie game with enough cash in the bank (and hopefully a little extra on the side).
Tentative timeline of project
Time is money: that’s just the nature of things. The longer it takes you to develop your indie game, check for quality assurance, playtest it, market it, and get it released to the public, the more money you could possibly lose. Especially with a big indie game, you are taking up a lot of time that you could be spending on another indie game (and depending on the size of your studio, your team could be developing multiple indie games simultaneously).
Thus, you need to create a timeline for the project. Again, sit down with your team and decide how long it may take to finish the game. Then, double the amount of time it will take (because believe us, it isn’t going to be finished when you think it will be). Create a timeline, stick with it, and finish your indie game on time.
How much are you willing to pay per role?
In other words, how much are you willing to spend on your outsourced workers? You will be able to get a solid idea for this whenever you set a budget. Keep your role for each outsourced worker at your budget or under (preferably under budget), and by doing so? Your indie game is going to stay out of the ‘red’ and at a budget your indie studio can handle.
Do you have any comments or tips for estimating a budget for your first big indie game? Let us know in the comments below!