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Game Budget: Development vs Marketing

01-28-2013, 12:21 PM
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Philadelphia, Pa
Posts: 124
Game Budget: Development vs Marketing

Let's assume we live in an ultra simple world where all game costs can fit nicely into two buckets; Development(cost to make) & Marketing(Cost to sell or market).

What percentage of your game budget goes towards development, and what percentage goes towards marketing?

Is there a direct relationship between cost of development and amount spent to market(the more spent on dev, the more that will be spent on marketing).


Is marketing typically fixed regardless of development costs(games get X amount for marketing regardless of dev costs)?

Would be interested in hearing thoughts and opinions on this.

Last edited by Black Ops; 01-28-2013 at 12:22 PM. Reason: punctuation
01-28-2013, 01:43 PM
Joined: Jan 2013
Posts: 1
I'm sure this isn't the exact response you're looking for, but it's similar to any business. You should plan ahead and do research to figure out what avenues you wish to take for marketing while estimating the development cost.

Too many developers leave the marketing until the end without looking at a gameplan from 30,000 ft. up and end up with a product they believe in and 0 ability to tell anyone about it.

01-29-2013, 02:18 AM
Joined: Jan 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 33
Marketing budget depends on the cost of advertisement & promotions. It can vary from as low as 1% of sales to over 30% based on the industry. These may include Web site development, public relations and any other special events.
01-29-2013, 05:10 AM
Joined: Apr 2012
Posts: 115
I'd say it depends on how much you're spending on the game, but generally 20 to 50% should go into marketing. Otherwise even if your product is great, no one will know about it.
01-29-2013, 09:02 AM
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Philadelphia, Pa
Posts: 124
Marketing is some percentage of Development costs

Let me start by saying until recently I always thought of marketing being some percentage of development costs. "Marketing should be some % of development costs" seems like an extremely wise and time honored statement, but is it? I ask because I am beginning to think with the overpublication issues on the games stores that the dev:marketing ratio is going to start tilting(or has tilted if you agree with what's below) towards marketing.

I believe that the minimum needed to market a game successfully is rising. It will continue to rise at a pace faster than the cost to develop does. While there is no theoretical minimum amount of money needed to be spent on marketing, in today's marketplace it would be extremely difficult to get noticed with less than $1000 worth of marketing between time and cost. I think a fair argument could be made that a more realistic bottom number may be closer to $5000 to have impactful, measurable, and profitable marketing. To be a real player, the number is probably in the $10k-$25k range. Naturally there are exceptions, and ways to shoestring, but I think the above numbers are realistic with claiming the sky is falling.

So what are development costs of a game. Again it will vary, but clearly there can be successful games made for $1000 or less(as well as a massive amount of really crappy games). A fairly simple board game with professional graphics, sound, coding, etc can be done for $2500-$5000. Getting into action, racing, rpg, things that could be expansive with levels, require HD high frame rate graphics, modelling, character development, etc...it is going to be extremely hard to develop these types of games for less than $10k-$25k+ with more leaning toward the $25k+. The big houses are spending 100k-$1mil+ on the huge licensed games. Naturally they also have massive marketing budgets, and few of us on this board have these "problems" so let's throw them out of this discussion.

I think its fair to guess that most games on the stores cost $25k or less. I have no data to back this up but here is a guess of what games on itunes cost to develop:
$0-$2500 50%
$2.5k -$10k 35%
$10k - $25k 14%
$25k+ 1%

Going back to the marketing paragraph I made the following assumptions:
Budget Impact
$0-$1000 Low
$1k - $10k Fair
$10k-$25k Good
$25k+ High

If the above assumption and estimations are anywhere close to correct, then to have a meaningful marketing impact, 85% of games made(Games that cost $10k or less) need to have a development-marketing split in which marketing is more than 50% of total costs. Even to have a fair or medium impact many of these games will need to have marketing be 50% or more of total budget.

Hence, I think the conclusion I am reaching is that the new maxim for indie or unfunded game development is this:

Development is some percentage of Marketing

You have a greater chance of success if you stick to smaller(Low dev costs) games that you market heavily(High marketing spend), than if you make larger (High dev cost) games with disproportionate (low) marketing budgets.

If you have a game that costs $5k to develop and you have $5k to market, you are only asking your $5k marketing to make back $10k($5k to make + $5k to market). If you make a $25k game and have $5k to market, you are asking that $5k to make back $30k.

Very simply, the more your Dev:Marketing ratio tilts towards Dev, the harder you are asking you marketing dollar to work. The more the ratio tilts towards marketing, the greater the chance the marketing dollar will be able to earn back enough to pay development+marketing costs.

SO if you have a $10k game budget, start by saying,

"$5k of this is marketing. What kind of game can I develop for $5k?"

as opposed to

"I have $10k to make a game, of which I have to save 10%-20% for marketing."

In option one the dev:marketing ratio is 50/50 and you are asking $5k marketing to make back $10k to break even. In option 2, the dev:marketing ration is 80/20 and you are asking the $2k marketing to earn back the same $10k. In option two your marketing dollars are having to work 2.5x as hard as in option one to break even.

Development is some percentage of Marketing

I think if you start to think about making games this way you will increase your chance for financial success in today's market. Would love to hear opinions on this and/or facts that can blow it up or substantiate it.
01-29-2013, 09:37 AM
That's a well made point Black Ops and I agree 100%. Having had some time to reflect on the launch of our first game I would say that when it comes to devising our next game we will most likely take this line of thought.

Marketing is surely the hardest, most expensive and clearly the most important aspect of indie game development. Gone are the days that you can sit back and wait for the downloads to flow in, no matter how good your game is.

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01-29-2013, 10:23 AM
Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 139
25k+ to be a real player? Real players spent 150k+, Supercell did marketing for 10m+.