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BioShock Infinite: $100m to develop, $100m to market

BioShock Infinite: $100m to develop, $100m to market

Fri 22 Mar 2013 8:23am GMT / 4:23am EDT / 1:23am PDT
BusinessPublishing

"It's getting harder to ask someone to spend $60 on something" - Levine

A report by the NY Times is suggesting that 2K Games' BioShock Infinite has cost $100 million to make with another $100 million on top for marketing expenses.

Citing an unnamed analyst, the report details the project's four-year development by a team of 200 staff ahead of its release next week.

The high costs in both development and marketing are to ensure success in the third title in the series. Because according to Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine, "it's getting harder to ask someone to spend $60 on something that's merely a good effort."

According to Sterne Agee, BioShock Infinite could ship as many as three million units this month.

14 Comments

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

558 607 1.1
At 200 million cost, the break-even point will be close to 4 to 5 million units. Bioshock 1 and 2 shipped around 4 million life-time each as far as i know.

To break into a new demographic and capture a larger audience (and thus actually generate a profit if these cost numbers are correct), the game really needs to be accessible and attractive to people who are not fans of the franchise. High review scores alone won't do that.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Stephan Schwabe
Multichannelmanagement

74 34 0.5
When i see this cover of Bioshok Infinite always remember the movie "Johnny got his gun". Sometimes i have the feeling games marketing is caught in the 90's wher Tarantino sayd: Put a gun on the tabel and you have a story.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,265 2,399 1.1
Staff of 200, 4 year development, $100 million budget...is the average salary at 2K Marin and Irrational $125,000?

At best, the budget is closer to $60 million.

Hang on, that $200 million ($100 development + $100 marketing) comes from an unnamed analysts. Never mind.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

558 607 1.1
It's not just staff though Jim. Outsourcing materials, animation and VO captures, expenses (travel, overtime food etc.). - over the course of 4 years that stuff adds up quite nicely for 200 people and a project like Infinite.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Krzysztof Nizielski
Junior QA Project Lead

34 34 1.0
Sometimes I wonder if our industry is heading in the right direction...

Posted:A year ago

#5

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

284 182 0.6
@Krzysztof
Maybe there is not only one direction, even less a "right one". As long as you wonder, you may have some sanity left though. ;)

Posted:A year ago

#6

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,265 2,399 1.1
Agreed, Andreas. But those expenses should never be a 3:2 ratio with your staff overhead. Unless the majority of your project is outsourced to begin with.

Looking at the original Bioshock, and many other large projects, the figures here just don't make much sense. Bioshock itself had a team of 100 and a 4 year development schedule. But a budget of only $15 million. Double the staff, account for inflation and wage increases, add in the extras and that should put it around $50-60 million.


I think this is a case of another analysts throwing numbers out.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

558 607 1.1
Quite possible true Jim, but still i would not be surprised at those numbers. I have seen a team of less than 75 burn through around 20 million GBP in 2 years. And the result was anything but AAA.

Posted:A year ago

#8

David Radd
Senior Editor

359 78 0.2
It's probably an exaggeration - still many millions but $100 million is the realm of a new GTA game where an entire open world city is created from the ground up. Even if the total is closer to $100 million for both marketing and development, that's still quite a mint.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

525 768 1.5
The cost to a company of an employee is a hell of a lot more than just their salary, Jim. Insurance, training, equipment, software licences, cost of running the building, recruitment fees...

Posted:A year ago

#10
Yes precisely. Salaries are only the absolute tippy tip of the iceberg.

You also have to take all of the overhead, admin staff, oop costs, CapEx, etc, etc ETC and come up with an overhead multiplier if you wanted to actually figure it out, and it's really not worth it if not your headache to begin with.

Posted:A year ago

#11

Andres Bordeu
Game Designer / Cofounder

4 8 2.0

Posted:A year ago

#12

Brett Caird
Production Director/Founder

10 13 1.3
$10k/head/month is a pretty good estimate of total economic cost of AAA development in North America taking into account all hidden costs and overheads. 200 people for 4 years would come out to $96m using that rule of thumb.

The reason I don't believe that much was actually spent on development is because I don't believe 200 people were devoted to the project for the entire 4 years. My vote goes with the other people here guessing closer to $50m in dev costs.

Posted:A year ago

#13

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

525 768 1.5
I was just about to say that Brett, games tend to ramp up the team size as they get nearer to the end and so the team may have been 200 by the end, but probably not for most of the development time.

Posted:A year ago

#14

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