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Visual Novels budget?

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Anyone knows what kind of budget VNs like Grisaia No Kajitsu and Little Busters! and If My Heart Had Wings have? What about development times? These kind of games are relativily simple to make, and seem very low budget compared to AAA games.

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Eroge industry veteran Yamato Tamaki had written a detailed eroge production cost breakdown on his site a while back. Yamato Tamaki had done a variety of jobs in the eroge industry for 10 years (mainly as a project planner and scenario writer), and this is info that he is giving based on his experience.

This list does not include costs from advertising or manufacturing, because he has never been involved in that area. Advertising refers stuff like handing out flyers, putting ads in magazines, providing articles to magazines, setting up the website, etc. Manufacturing costs refer to costs incurred in stuff such as producing the box, pressing the DVDs or CDs, copy protection, printing the game manual, etc.

People involved in the development staff

Director

Similar to a movie director, but in the eroge industry the director is usually also involved in one of the other jobs listed below.

Artist

Draws the original art

Scenario writer

Writes the story, many of them also double as a scripter

Programmer

Writes the program, many also double as a scripter

Scripter

Scripts the game according to how the program works, does the presentation too

CG Supervisor

Makes sure the art is consistent, does the finishing touches, works on the improving quality of the art, etc

CG colouring

Colours the CG art and makes small graphics such as buttons

Background artist

Makes the background art used for bust shots and sometimes also for event art

Composer

Makes the music

Sound Effects

Makes the sound effects, this part is usually done by the composer too

Seiyuu

Voice actors

Sound director

Directs how each seiyuu should be speaking like and explains the intonations needed etc

Animator

Guys that do the anime parts or filming etc

Enshutsu

Does the storyboards for the trailer movies or anime scenes

Debugger

Checks for bugs and QA etc

Production manager

Makes sure everything is going according to schedule, usually done by the director or producer

Production costs

There are two ways to calculate prices in the industry, one is where the price is calcuated on a per unit basis and another is by having the company stating the total amount required and calculating the total price from there.

It is believed in the industry that you get a cheaper price via the 2nd method. That is because even if there is a sudden need to increase the amount required, the price usually does not change. The 2nd method is usually paid on a per project basis, so a small increase in the amount needed will not change the price. There are also instances where it is in the contract that additional fees are required if the amount needed increases, but it’s usually very vague in this area.

Event line art

8,000 ~ 15,000 yen or 50,000 ~ 80,000 yen per image

Event art refers to art that takes up the entire screen and is used to represent a certain scene. The cost on the left is for a normal artist, and the cost on the right is the cost when a popular artist is used.

Event CG colouring

10,000 ~ 30,000 yen per image

The price changes according to if the background has to be coloured, and also according to the colouring style used (such as anime style colouring), and if the shadows are already designated in the line art.

Bust shot line art

3,000 ~ 10,000 yen each

These are the images used to represent the characters in the normal parts of the game. Variations in the character expressions doesn’t change the cost, but different clothes and poses will count as different images.

Bust shot CG colouring

approximately 1/2 ~ 1/3 of the cost of colouring the Event CG

The colouring style will be done in the same style as the Event CG, so the cost of colouring the Event CG will directly affect the cost of the Bust shot colouring.

Bust shot backgrounds

15,000 ~ 50,000 yen each

These are the backgrounds used to depict where the characters are.

All sorts of backgrounds from TV anime level to movie level of art.

Scenario

1,000 yen for every 1kb

The story. Basically 1 yen for every 1 byte of the scenario. Outline and background settings do not count.

Programming

150,000 ~ 2,500,000 yen

The computer program that’s needed to run everything on the PC.This is the cost for ADV games, the price can get higher if it’s stuff like Action games or Mahjong.

Scripting

150,000 ~ 300,000 yen per 1MB

Scripting refers to the scripting that’s done to present all the relevant materials (art, backgrounds, bgm, etc) in order as the scenario progresses. The 1MB refers to the size of the scenario.

BGM

10,000 ~ 50,000 yen each

Most of them have been 25,000 yen or below recently.

Song

100,000 ~ 1,000,000 yen each

Stuff like the theme song, insert song, ending song, image song etc. Using a famous singer can cost a ton.

Sound effects

1,000 ~ 5,000 yen each

It’s pretty tough for the sound effects guys because when they sell a sound effect to a company it tends to get used across all their games.

Movie

100,000 ~ 10,000,000 yen

The more sophisticated the movie, the more it costs. It can cost a fortune if there’s anime or stuff like that.

Animation

1,000,000 yen and above

For comparison, a 30 minute TV anime costs about 8,000,000 ~ 15,000,000 yen

Cut-in

This refers to small graphics such as items and stuff. It’s usually done within the company itself, but if it’s outsourced, it’ll cost several thousand yen each.

Voices

It’s hard to give a range for this because the costs are completely different depending on the person that is used.

Interface

100,000 ~ 200,000 yen

Basically the graphics and design for the GUI. This is also usually done in-house, but this is the average cost to do it if they outsource.

Debugger

5,000 ~ 10,000 yen per day

It’s usually done in-house with everybody doing it together, but they get part-time staff when there isn’t enough manpower.

Other fees that may occur:

Direction fees 100,000 ~ 300,000 yen per month

CG managing fees 100,000 ~ 300,000 yen per month

Project fee 300,000 yen and below

Event CG variations

During the same scene a character’s expressions may change or the character’s hand may move slightly. These variations can have additional charges depending on how big the change is compared to the total area of the image.

Additional charges will not apply if the change is smaller than approximately 1/3 of the total area. If the change is bigger than that, there will be an additional charge (approximately 1000 ~ 5000 yen for event line art), and if there are many different variations of the same piece, the additional charges will keep increasing. Yamato Tamaki has personally seen a case where an image costed 15,000 yen for line art and 25,000 yen for colouring (total 40,000 yen), but because of the variations it became 250,000 yen in the end.

Royalties

There may be royalties given to the artist or scenario writer, usually between 0.5% to 3%. In many cases the royalties are only given on condition that the game manages to sell a certain number of copies.

Seiyuu also need to be paid when the voices recorded for the game are used in other applications such as when a game is ported to consoles, when a game and its sequel are packed together and sold in a set, or when there is a remake etc. The price is usually a percentage of the original cost for when the voices were originally recorded.

Art used for advertising

Art that is used in advertising materials such as posters, telephone cards, magazine spreads etc need to be done in a higher resolution than the game art so the prices are different.

Line art – 15,000 yen and above

Colouring – 25,000 ~ 80,000 yen

The prices can go crazy when using a popular artist for the line art. The highest that Yamato Tamaki has seen is where it cost 350,000 yen for a single piece. But popular artists on this level can make the game sell over 10,000 copies just with their name alone.

How many copies need to be sold to make a profit?

The distributors get approximately 40% ~ 60% of the selling price. How much the distributors get is usually determined by the power balance between the maker and the distributors, recently there have been distributors that provide funding to the maker for the game’s development, so in these cases, the distributors hold more power. Whereas the more stable game makers that constantly make games that sell consistently or when the maker has a famous artist, they can have more power than the distributors.

Also, when a game maker sells a game directly themselves, they do not have to go through the distributors so the distributors do not get a share of the money. A game maker that is able to get good sales from direct sales basically gets double the income as compared to going through a distributor.

For example, for a game that is 8800 yen, if the distributor takes 50%, that means 4400 yen goes to the game maker. The distributor will then sell the game to stores at 6500 yen a copy, so the distributor really makes 2100 yen per copy. Then when it comes to the stores, the amount they make will change depending on how much they sell the game for. If they sell it a the fixed price of 8800 yen, they make 2300 yen per copy, if they sell it at 7200 yen, they make 700 yen per copy.

On the game maker’s side, if they make 4,400 yen per copy, that means they get 44,000,000 yen when 10,000 copies are sold. If 3,000 copies are sold then they make 13,200,000 yen.

If the cost of production was 50,000,000 yen (including advertising and manufacturing), it means they will need to sell 11,400 copies before they can start seeing profits.

This means that in the case where they use a famous artist that is able to sell 10,000 copies of the game just by his name alone, it is possible to break even, even if it costs 40,000,000 yen to use his art. (Though it’s not a really good deal at that price)

So basically the big titles that manage to sell over 100,000 copies made 440,000,000 yen, but the game makers that can make sales on that level will probably be able to demand a bigger cut of the sales from the distributors so the amount that they actually get is probably higher. (there are only 3 companies that have games that sold more than 100,000 copies in recent times)

(Just in case anybody is getting the wrong impression about sales numbers, getting 5000 copies sold in the eroge industry can be surprisingly hard for many companies, so many try to keep the break-even point lower than that)

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warnig giant wall of text v

Eroge industry veteran Yamato Tamaki had written a detailed eroge production cost breakdown on his site a while back. Yamato Tamaki had done a variety of jobs in the eroge industry for 10 years (mainly as a project planner and scenario writer), and this is info that he is giving based on his experience.

This list does not include costs from advertising or manufacturing, because he has never been involved in that area. Advertising refers stuff like handing out flyers, putting ads in magazines, providing articles to magazines, setting up the website, etc. Manufacturing costs refer to costs incurred in stuff such as producing the box, pressing the DVDs or CDs, copy protection, printing the game manual, etc.

People involved in the development staff

Director

Similar to a movie director, but in the eroge industry the director is usually also involved in one of the other jobs listed below.

Artist

Draws the original art

Scenario writer

Writes the story, many of them also double as a scripter

Programmer

Writes the program, many also double as a scripter

Scripter

Scripts the game according to how the program works, does the presentation too

CG Supervisor

Makes sure the art is consistent, does the finishing touches, works on the improving quality of the art, etc

CG colouring

Colours the CG art and makes small graphics such as buttons

Background artist

Makes the background art used for bust shots and sometimes also for event art

Composer

Makes the music

Sound Effects

Makes the sound effects, this part is usually done by the composer too

Seiyuu

Voice actors

Sound director

Directs how each seiyuu should be speaking like and explains the intonations needed etc

Animator

Guys that do the anime parts or filming etc

Enshutsu

Does the storyboards for the trailer movies or anime scenes

Debugger

Checks for bugs and QA etc

Production manager

Makes sure everything is going according to schedule, usually done by the director or producer

Production costs

There are two ways to calculate prices in the industry, one is where the price is calcuated on a per unit basis and another is by having the company stating the total amount required and calculating the total price from there.

It is believed in the industry that you get a cheaper price via the 2nd method. That is because even if there is a sudden need to increase the amount required, the price usually does not change. The 2nd method is usually paid on a per project basis, so a small increase in the amount needed will not change the price. There are also instances where it is in the contract that additional fees are required if the amount needed increases, but it’s usually very vague in this area.

Event line art

8,000 ~ 15,000 yen or 50,000 ~ 80,000 yen per image

Event art refers to art that takes up the entire screen and is used to represent a certain scene. The cost on the left is for a normal artist, and the cost on the right is the cost when a popular artist is used.

Event CG colouring

10,000 ~ 30,000 yen per image

The price changes according to if the background has to be coloured, and also according to the colouring style used (such as anime style colouring), and if the shadows are already designated in the line art.

Bust shot line art

3,000 ~ 10,000 yen each

These are the images used to represent the characters in the normal parts of the game. Variations in the character expressions doesn’t change the cost, but different clothes and poses will count as different images.

Bust shot CG colouring

approximately 1/2 ~ 1/3 of the cost of colouring the Event CG

The colouring style will be done in the same style as the Event CG, so the cost of colouring the Event CG will directly affect the cost of the Bust shot colouring.

Bust shot backgrounds

15,000 ~ 50,000 yen each

These are the backgrounds used to depict where the characters are.

All sorts of backgrounds from TV anime level to movie level of art.

Scenario

1,000 yen for every 1kb

The story. Basically 1 yen for every 1 byte of the scenario. Outline and background settings do not count.

Programming

150,000 ~ 2,500,000 yen

The computer program that’s needed to run everything on the PC.This is the cost for ADV games, the price can get higher if it’s stuff like Action games or Mahjong.

Scripting

150,000 ~ 300,000 yen per 1MB

Scripting refers to the scripting that’s done to present all the relevant materials (art, backgrounds, bgm, etc) in order as the scenario progresses. The 1MB refers to the size of the scenario.

BGM

10,000 ~ 50,000 yen each

Most of them have been 25,000 yen or below recently.

Song

100,000 ~ 1,000,000 yen each

Stuff like the theme song, insert song, ending song, image song etc. Using a famous singer can cost a ton.

Sound effects

1,000 ~ 5,000 yen each

It’s pretty tough for the sound effects guys because when they sell a sound effect to a company it tends to get used across all their games.

Movie

100,000 ~ 10,000,000 yen

The more sophisticated the movie, the more it costs. It can cost a fortune if there’s anime or stuff like that.

Animation

1,000,000 yen and above

For comparison, a 30 minute TV anime costs about 8,000,000 ~ 15,000,000 yen

Cut-in

This refers to small graphics such as items and stuff. It’s usually done within the company itself, but if it’s outsourced, it’ll cost several thousand yen each.

Voices

It’s hard to give a range for this because the costs are completely different depending on the person that is used.

Interface

100,000 ~ 200,000 yen

Basically the graphics and design for the GUI. This is also usually done in-house, but this is the average cost to do it if they outsource.

Debugger

5,000 ~ 10,000 yen per day

It’s usually done in-house with everybody doing it together, but they get part-time staff when there isn’t enough manpower.

Other fees that may occur:

Direction fees 100,000 ~ 300,000 yen per month

CG managing fees 100,000 ~ 300,000 yen per month

Project fee 300,000 yen and below

Event CG variations

During the same scene a character’s expressions may change or the character’s hand may move slightly. These variations can have additional charges depending on how big the change is compared to the total area of the image.

Additional charges will not apply if the change is smaller than approximately 1/3 of the total area. If the change is bigger than that, there will be an additional charge (approximately 1000 ~ 5000 yen for event line art), and if there are many different variations of the same piece, the additional charges will keep increasing. Yamato Tamaki has personally seen a case where an image costed 15,000 yen for line art and 25,000 yen for colouring (total 40,000 yen), but because of the variations it became 250,000 yen in the end.

Royalties

There may be royalties given to the artist or scenario writer, usually between 0.5% to 3%. In many cases the royalties are only given on condition that the game manages to sell a certain number of copies.

Seiyuu also need to be paid when the voices recorded for the game are used in other applications such as when a game is ported to consoles, when a game and its sequel are packed together and sold in a set, or when there is a remake etc. The price is usually a percentage of the original cost for when the voices were originally recorded.

Art used for advertising

Art that is used in advertising materials such as posters, telephone cards, magazine spreads etc need to be done in a higher resolution than the game art so the prices are different.

Line art – 15,000 yen and above

Colouring – 25,000 ~ 80,000 yen

The prices can go crazy when using a popular artist for the line art. The highest that Yamato Tamaki has seen is where it cost 350,000 yen for a single piece. But popular artists on this level can make the game sell over 10,000 copies just with their name alone.

How many copies need to be sold to make a profit?

The distributors get approximately 40% ~ 60% of the selling price. How much the distributors get is usually determined by the power balance between the maker and the distributors, recently there have been distributors that provide funding to the maker for the game’s development, so in these cases, the distributors hold more power. Whereas the more stable game makers that constantly make games that sell consistently or when the maker has a famous artist, they can have more power than the distributors.

Also, when a game maker sells a game directly themselves, they do not have to go through the distributors so the distributors do not get a share of the money. A game maker that is able to get good sales from direct sales basically gets double the income as compared to going through a distributor.

For example, for a game that is 8800 yen, if the distributor takes 50%, that means 4400 yen goes to the game maker. The distributor will then sell the game to stores at 6500 yen a copy, so the distributor really makes 2100 yen per copy. Then when it comes to the stores, the amount they make will change depending on how much they sell the game for. If they sell it a the fixed price of 8800 yen, they make 2300 yen per copy, if they sell it at 7200 yen, they make 700 yen per copy.

On the game maker’s side, if they make 4,400 yen per copy, that means they get 44,000,000 yen when 10,000 copies are sold. If 3,000 copies are sold then they make 13,200,000 yen.

If the cost of production was 50,000,000 yen (including advertising and manufacturing), it means they will need to sell 11,400 copies before they can start seeing profits.

This means that in the case where they use a famous artist that is able to sell 10,000 copies of the game just by his name alone, it is possible to break even, even if it costs 40,000,000 yen to use his art. (Though it’s not a really good deal at that price)

So basically the big titles that manage to sell over 100,000 copies made 440,000,000 yen, but the game makers that can make sales on that level will probably be able to demand a bigger cut of the sales from the distributors so the amount that they actually get is probably higher. (there are only 3 companies that have games that sold more than 100,000 copies in recent times)

(Just in case anybody is getting the wrong impression about sales numbers, getting 5000 copies sold in the eroge industry can be surprisingly hard for many companies, so many try to keep the break-even point lower than that)

 

not as cheap as it seems.

depending on artists an so on aswell. as "The highest that Yamato Tamaki has seen is where it cost 350,000 yen for a single piece.".

but no it dont go up to gta 5 levels or something like that.

 

development times im not sure.

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4K? can you elaborate?

As in the resolution. The back of the box at least claims that, I don't really have the hardware to test it on. The VN did come on 3 DVDs though, so I wouldn't really doubt it.  :o

 

The main reason why I'm curious about its budget, though, is the amount of animations in there. I've only read the prologue, but that already had more animations in it than any other VN I've played. Not just short ones, there even are animated backgrounds...

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I agree. its interesting.

But thats also excluding advertisements and so on that can become very expensive.

just as a hint. getting 1 fullpage ad in metro( daily newspaper.) for 3 days . cost about 98000$. (thats when you get a good deal. for some its even more. and that price is based on sweden. other parts of the world might be more expensive or cheaper.)

Rockstar's budget for GTA 5's ad campaigns was £170million.

im certain alot of money is spent for most of these big VN's aswell

 

manufacturing is probably the cheap part here.

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He seemed to use 50 million yen as the basic example for a game's cost. I know jack shit about VN production, but knowing about other game types, that seems about right for a decently produced mid-sized VN. That's around $500,000 USD. Keep in mind that common non-blockbuster console titles, like say the new Wolfenstein game that came out this year, probably cost around $40 or $50 million USD. Something like Destiny costs well above $100 million, even before marketing. Final Fantasy games are probably above $50 million. Whereas I can imagine something like Sekai de Ichiban Dame na Koi costing less than a million dollars and Light's games costing at least several million to produce. Their games sell very well, are highly regarded, and have very high production values and unusual art styles. That's just my guess.

 

No matter what, you will never see the a VN produced with the amount of staff and money that a traditional game is made with, simply because even in Japan they are niche products that don't earn loads of money. But thankfully they're also comparatively very inexpensive to produce due to their nature.

 

As for development times, you can kind of get an idea just by looking at a company's release list on VNDB. Seems like 6 months for smaller games and 9 months to a year for bigger ones are not uncommon, and the really major ones having even longer production cycles. You have to keep in mind some factors like multiple dev teams and overlapping schedules but what I said seems about right.

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He seemed to use 50 million yen as the basic example for a game's cost. I know jack shit about VN production, but knowing about other game types, that seems about right for a decently produced mid-sized VN. That's around $500,000 USD. 

 

So the Megatokyo VN is being made with a budget similar to Japanese titles. I'm very interested to see what the results will be.

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So the Megatokyo VN is being made with a budget similar to Japanese titles. I'm very interested to see what the results will be.

True, but the Japanese titles are created by experienced developers which may inflate costs due to the expertise you're getting. That being said, I am very excited for Megatokyo too!

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I heard estimates of between three to five hundred thousand dollars for Key's VNs...  but that is because they have the top names in all fields and pay them top dollar.  Grisaia... think this way.  The company that made it used all the profits from its previous VNs to fund the design of Grisaia, to the point where they would have gone bankrupt if it had failed.

 

What does that tell you?

 

A lot of VN companies reduce initial costs by offering royalties and the like to the writers and artists, but the big name companies tend to prefer to pay the initial cost in exchange for a larger portion of the profits on top of those initial costs going into the corporate pockets.

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