Forward Game Studios senior product manager Mike Crassweller has shared a few thoughts on the development costs of indie games. While some people think that budgets are “bloated,” he disagrees and explains why it often might cost millions of dollars for a small team to make one project.

Please, Don’t Touch Anything 3D

Crassweller opened about the matter in a Twitter thread, saying that he wants to “scream” every time he sees a hot take on “greedy” developers. “A 10 person team working for 3 years, and an averaged salary of $60,000 USD is going to cost $1.6m at a minimum before you even get into marketing,” he wrote.

Mike later corrected the initial post and said that a team like this will burn $1.6 million in two years, not three. The thing is that he always multiplies salary by x1.35 to estimate the “total cost” of one employee.

However, this brief calculation doesn’t take into account a lot of factors. According to Crassweller, it is hard to hire an experienced employee for $60k a year as a good engineer can easily get over $100k almost anywhere.

“These $4m+ budgets for indie games mean people can afford to eat, pay rent, not live paycheck-to-paycheck, have a family etc,” he said. “Expecting people to live off of ramen, live at home, be supported by a partner etc. basically means only privileged people get to make indie games.”

Crassweller also noted that the total cost of a game should also include things like trade shows, marketing, software licenses, taxes, accounting, and lawyers. So making a video game these days, even if you are a small indie developer, is really expensive.

As the Forward Game Studios senior PM concluded, he doesn’t want employees to “have to roll the dice on their life saving and ability to feed themselves” just to be able to make a game.

Answering users’ questions, Crassweller noted that adoption of remote work across the globe might give indie studios new opportunities: “Teams that are able to secure USD funding, and non-USD talent are going to do some very interesting things!”

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