06 April 2011 by Published in: business, iphone No comments yet

This guy says you need $100k to make a game:

Some of my clients are surprised when I tell them that the development of Angry Birds cost $140k, and probably at least double that since, because they physically cannot see where the money has gone. To the untrained eye, Angry Birds appears the same as Camelot Smashalot, and the cost discrepancy confuses them. They can’t see the dead ends, the prototypes and the endless revisions that got Angry Birds to the point that it became brilliant. They lack perspective.

Now this is absolutely true.  I have a lot of people who come to me to build an Angry Birds clone on a wing and a prayer and no budget, and I give them the exact same speech.  No argument here.  Making a 2D platformer or a physics sim or whatever is expensive.

And, you know, my whole business is convincing clients that iOS development is really hard.   Lots of “simple” apps are in the 20k-30k range.  I probably spend at least 10% of my waking hours explaining that point to somebody.  Again, no arguments there.  Good developers like us cost serious money.

But.  Yesterday we had a “let’s come up with a product we can ship in the next couple of weeks” meeting, and the idea we came up with was a game.  Not an Angry Birds clone or something that you play staring at your iPhone, but a different kind of game–after a little research it doesn’t look like anybody’s tried it before.  Since we do iOS development for a living, we’re actually “in the business” of estimating project costs like this and I predict it will be below $10k of our “actual cost” (no margin, for some definition of our one-page description being a “spec”).  Unless I’m off by an order of magnitude, that’s not $100k.  Not even close.  We could actually build a prototype in a couple of long weekends, if we had long weekends lying around.

Now of course it could tank.  That’s why it’s important to talk to customers.  I did some late-night reconnaissance after our meeting last night and talked to four random people to get their thoughts on “how stupid of an idea this was” (my go-to opener to get honest feedback).  Usually this is disappointing, because customers will say “yeah that seems like a good idea but… I wouldn’t use it.”  This time, 4 out of 4 would play it and 3 out of 4 said it was “awesome”.  Yes, there are problems.  Yes, it’s early.  But this is hands down the best reaction to a pitch I’ve ever gotten, and so we’re definitely building a prototype so we can take it back to customers and tweak it.  I can’t count the number  of people who are “excited” about their “app idea” which is just a clone of another app, but in two years of iOS development this is the only time I’ve seen real customers light up like this for a project that we can ship so cheaply and quickly, and so suddenly I am really, really excited.

So.  Can you build a game for under $100k?  I’ll let you know in a couple of months…

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