What A Video Game Budget Looks Like

What A Video Game Budget Looks Like

Here, via veteran game designer Ron Gilbert, is a detailed look at the budget for the upcoming point-n-click adventure Thimbleweed Park.

It’s a rare, fascinating look at where all that video game money goes and why it can cost so much to make a game — even when you’re a tiny team making pixel art on a shoestring budget.

Gilbert shared this as part of a larger blog post on budgeting the money he and his team got from Kickstarter for Thimbleweed Park, which is a spiritual successor to the Gilbert-designed Maniac Mansion. You should really read it all. As Gilbert explains:

We are planning on some new stretch goals in the next few months, and those are also not in the budget because if we don’t make the goals, they won’t become expenses. If we do, then all the numbers will be adjusted to account for the new work.

It’s also possible that we’ll move resources around, spend less on an artist and add a programmer. Budgets are living documents.

One thing to note, and I’m sure it will raise some eyebrows, is the monthly burn rate. That’s a lot of money to spend each month. No one line item is very large, but they add up and can catch you by surprise. This is a pretty barebones project (but not scrappy) and it still costs $US20K-$US30K a month. It why when I look at other Kickstarters asking for very little money and they have a three page long team list, I get sceptical.

The next time you think about giving money to a video game Kickstarter, please do keep that in mind.


  • Interesting how thinks like stretch goals and pre order bonuses, DLC don’t actually have a presence in the sheet, they are just treated as an ongoing cost….

    • It’s an indie title with a simplified budget, as Gilbert says in the source article. There are no preorder bonuses, there is no DLC planned for the title at the moment and stretch goals are part of the main scope so they’re naturally included in the main budget.

      The closest you’ll get to a preorder bonus for a project like this are the Kickstarter backer rewards, which are effectively the same thing. You’ll note they’re budgeted separately on line 40, not included in ongoing costs. Just like preorder content in other games, budgeted separately.

        • Definitely. Games tend to be a lot more expensive than people imagine. Squeezing over 600 hours of work plus rent and other monthly expenses into $22K is actually pretty impressive.

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