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. In October alone, for example, Gilbert and crew will spend $22,775. Next June, as testing starts really ramping up, they’ll spend over $70,000. (You can make the image larger by clicking the magnifying glass on the top left.)
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 $20K-$30K 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 skeptical.
The next time you think about giving money to a video game Kickstarter, please do keep that in mind.