It Will Blow Your Mind To See How Much It Costs To Add ONE New Character To A Fighting Game

It Will Blow Your Mind To See How Much It Costs To Add ONE New Character To A Fighting Game

Lab Zero Games, the guys behind 2D fighting game Skullgirls, want to add a new character to the game’s roster. To do this, they’re going to set up a Kickstarter on February 25. And ask for $150,000.

This has, understandably, led to some puzzled looks and unkind words being hurled their way. If all they’re doing is adding a new character to an existing game, surely it can’t be that expensive, right?

Well, according to them, it is. You see, in November 2012 the entire dev team were laid off from their jobs at Reverge Labs, meaning that despite having a reasonably successful title under their belts, they’re back to being an indie start-up.

Which means they can’t just stroll into the office and come up with a new character on the company’s dime. They’ve got to start from scratch, and then take scratch right through the process to the finish line. I spoke with Lab Zero’s Peter Bartholow earlier today, and was given the full breakdown of where all that money would be going.

$48,000: Staff Salaries – 8 people for 10 weeks

$30,000: Animation and Clean-up Contracting

$4,000: Voice recording

$2,000: Hit-box Contracting

$5,000: Audio Implementation Contracting

$20,000: QA Testing

$10,000: 1st Party Certification

$10,500: IndieGoGo and Payment Processing Fees

$20,500: Manufacturing and Shipping Physical Perks

As you can see from those last two, an insane amount of money needs to be recouped…just to ask for money in the first place. For reference, he says the total budget for Skullgirls was just under $US2 million.

Bartholow also says it’s not just a new character that’s being added, as they’re hoping to use the time to also introduce some “balance fixes and other tweaks” as well.

Oh, and perhaps most importantly, while they’re asking for funding to develop the character, if they meet their funding goal she’ll be released for a limited time as a free download for everyone, not just those those backing the campaign.

Interesting, no? It’s like finding out how a sausage is made. Only less gross.


  • This is a good reminder for people who complain incessantly about DLC prices – making stuff takes a lot of money these days. Not saying a hat is worth $20 but still….

  • They’d be better off throwing a bunch of new content together if they’re having to pull together than kind of infrastructure from nothing. Once they’ve got the initial cost sorted, it’s going to be considerably cheaper to add additional characters beyond that and given the environments don’t appear to be interactive or animated beyond a little parallax, they shouldn’t require much more than some additional artist hours and a little QA too.

    • I believe the plan is to do just that. The initial cost (if met) will cover adding Squigly, the first DLC character. Stretch goals beyond that cover (in order), a story mode component for Squigly plus a character stage (with new music), a 2nd (male) DLC character, a story mode component and stage for the 2nd DLC character (with new music), a 3rd DLC character voted on by fans, and finally a story mode component and stage for the 3rd DLC character (with new music).

  • More people (like myself) complain about DLC because its STUFF THATS ALREADY ON THE DISC THAT THEY WANT MORE MONEY FOR.

    • Its called DLC for a reason. Key letters being the DL which stands for DOWNLOADABLE, so no it doesn’t already come on the disk, its extra content that you don’t need for the game to work, but stuff you want to make the game that little bit more interesting.

      • But if they pretend it’s magically already on the disc (even though it was made AFTER the game was released) then they can whinge endlessly about how they deserve free stuff! o.0


      Except that a whole lot of the time this isn’t true and people still go on and on because how dare you add content to a game then ask for any sort of payment! :/

        • But these sort of games have BIG budgets, much bigger than they were years ago. They need to recoup their losses and make a ton of money as capital for their next project.

          That being said, the ME games are being ported, rereleased, having DLC made for them (and not included in collections) all over the shop, so it looks like EA and/or Bioware are a little (read a lot) greedier than necessary

          • That’s still no excuse to be able to resell you what you’ve already got.

            Bit like being sold a car and then buying a road directory a week later, where they just pull out a key and unlock your previously locked glovebox where it’s been sitting the whole time.

          • I like how everyone has forgotten that expansion packs existed long before the term “DLC” even existed. HOW DARE THEY CREATE NEW CONTENT FOR A GAME THEN ASK FOR MUNNEYZ! You are a moron if you think ALL DLCs are already on game discs.

          • The difference here is in quality. Expansion packs in previous times were almost fully fledged games unto themselves. Some literally were. Secret missions for Wing commander added multiple missions and a huge story arc that led into part 2 where you felt its effects. Red alert (original) had fantastic ones with full campaigns, cutscenes, units, buildings etc. EP’s sold at retail were different because the dev had to justify its existence with the content inside. This was pre broadband days. Even broodwar was fantastic. That was dialup days. Patches were JUST starting up then. Ugh. The bane of games. Devs started getting lazy. Now EPs are different. Tiny things an hour or so in length with barely any value and overpriced usually (hello dawnguard) and often buggy as shit (hi again dawnguard!!!) so yeah it may have existed but its difference was like night and day.

          • But those expansions were also usually about half the price of the original game, while DLC packs tend to be like a tenth of the price or less unless they’re huge. The difference in price and content seem pretty consistent from what I’ve seen, and anyway my point was more that most DLC isn’t actually originally on the disc already.

          • Depends on what DLC you’re talking about. Things like FROM ASHES for ME3, a lot of it actually was on the DVD’s for ME3 already, granted the files were huge to download, but it was proven stuff was already on the game dvd’s to integrate it. There’s copious amounts of DLC that is day 1. Usually expansion packs for games in the day when games were priced 69 – 79 dollars brand new (I worked in a retail store back then selling games) were priced at 29.95 brand new, not an unreasonable price for the content you were getting. A whole campaign usually. Units, video, content, often enhanced multiplayer, or in some cases, multiplayer itself. These days, DLC is designed in itself to be released post release. It’s designed alongside the game to be released afterwards. I have no issue with this normally. Skyrim is doing it right, Bethesda normally does it correctly, as does Rockstar. Generally, Max Payne 3 being the exception. Companies like EA and Capcom however are tarnishing it with a huge disregard for customers. They’re the worst at it. Their DLC resides on disc, with nearly no exceptions. Deadspace 3 for instance, everything is on disc already, from day 1, the downloads are simply unlocks, that’s it. I get what you’re saying, I really do, but DLC these days is by and large a scam. Some companies are doing it right, but others, others are just bleeding peoples wallets dry. But then, the old addage is true, noones MAKING anyone buy it, are they?

      • If it’s on the disc it was made before the game went gold.
        If it was made before the game went gold, it was made using money from the initial development costs (aka the money used to develop the core game)
        If it was made using the money meant for creating a core game then your payment is that of payment for the core game when it is released in retail.

        If extra money and time was set aside BEFORE the game went gold specifically for making content to be released for additonal cost at launch, then I simply think that’s messed up business practice and greed.

        If your retort is ‘businesses exist to make money’ see fairly recent jimquistion video to save me having to explain what crap that is.

          • I don’t buy many special editions either, but that is beside the point: it is work done before the game goes gold, so does the previous poster believe he is entitled to that work if he buys the standard edition?

        • So things made AFTER THE GAME WAS RELEASED are now being futurelaserbeamed into your house and onto the game disc via magic?! You clearly have a strong grasp on reality o.0

  • So the engine is done and they are paying voice actors and animation… 100000 of this will go to someone’s pocket.

    • Microsoft’s, most likely. They charge $10-$40k per update, right?

      That said, $150k is chicken feed compared to how much it costs CAPCOM to make fighting game characters. Didn’t they pay around $500k per (made from scratch) character or something for SF4?

  • They should aim higher than that and do a proper DLC/expansion. There are some obvious economies of scale that could be picked up by releasing more content at the same time. Maybe start at the 150k level for the kickstarter and then add an additional character at 250k and yet another one at 325k and a final one at 400k. Four new fighters would almost double the amount of fighters available in the game and as a stand alone DLC for SG fans would represent significant value at the 5-10 dollar price point.

    • That’s their plan, based upon if stretch goals are met. The stretch goals are (in order): story mode for Squigly and new stage (with new music), 2nd (male) DLC character, story mode for 2nd DLC character and new stage (with new music), 3rd DLC character voted upon by fans, story mode for 3rd DLC character and new stage (with new music). I believe each DLC character is currently planned to be released separately though.

  • Come on!
    They might have illustrated a nice little pie-chart there, but this is freakin ridiculous. You have an indie team of 10 people, yet you need an additional $30,000 for animation contractors?
    What the hell is the make up of your core team? Surely you should have artists and animators in house. Surely those core ten should be covering the necessary roles.
    I’m a traditional 2D animator. I do this stuff solo, and $30,000 for one character, even in HD, is a seriously decent wage.

  • Should I feel sorry for them? do they want pity? wtf is this..
    If they need money they can go get some casual work on the side, just like everyone else with a dream. MAN UP.

  • When these guys were advertising animation work, they advertised they would pay $7 per frame used.
    They also said the frame count per character was about 1000 frames for all the moves etc.
    $7 x 1000 frames for a finished character = $7000

    Big gap in their pie graph.

  • Don’t get me wrong I bought and love the game just feels like ever since it came out it’s been excuses excuses, and now back to begging for more cash. Not very professional.

  • Yknow, I just noticed that this entire game doesn’t have a single male in it. It’s like the PS4 conference, but in reverse. #sexism #edrama

    • Well, it is called Skull Girls and not Skull People… Apparently they were going to (are going to?) add male characters to it at some stage. I don’t see a problem with it as is, ’cause those girls are cute! Mariel’s animation is also top notch 🙂

      • I know, all good, was just being sarcastic while waiting for some kind of sexism issue to blow up about this game also.

  • Bwahahaha.. what a load of crap. A team of 8 is needed to develop a single character for 10 weeks? I’m not even going to bother with the other associated costs they’ve listed. Ridiculously over inflated amounts.

    “Bartholow also says it’s not just a new character that’s being added” indeed.. for that amount of money you’d want to hope so. This is indie development, not the pro stuff where there are publisher overheads to consider.

    Absolute rubbish… and if they truly need that much, they themselves are absolute rubbish also.

    • Well, they’ve already got over $50K of the amount asked for, so their fans must think they’re doing something right…

    • Yeah, 8 people full time is a bit much. From my real-world experience working on a couple of fighting games you need 3: A programmer (if you’re adding new functionality or your tools really suck), a combat designer and an animator.

      This is a 2D game, though, so they probably need more than 1 animator. 2D is more time-consuming.

      You may well have 8 or more people who do a little bit of work, including concept artists, modellers, texture artists, game designers, audio engineers, UI artists, and VFX artists but these guys aren’t needed full-time for a single character. On a smaller team you’re also unlikely to have specialists in these fields.

  • I think we should do what others do with anyone who has a profession:

    “Dude, I’ll tell all my friends about your game if you add this feature for free. I know this guy who knows like, 1400 people. 1400 at $60 each is like, $84,000. Trust me, it’ll be worth the time!”

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