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How Long Does it Take to Make a Video Game?

How Long Does it Take to Make a Video Game?

Invogames

Game Development

|

February 1, 2024

|

3 min read

We are still not over that GTA VI is finally announced after a decade-long wait. At the same time, other studios launch sequels much quicker. 

 

Rockstar is still refining their next megahit. Still, you can make pixel games in 2 to 3 weeks.  

 

Game Jams are a work of a mere 48 to 72 hours, and mini-games are made from scratch over a weekend. 

 

How Long Does it Take to Make a Video Game from Scratch?

 

On average, a uni-platform game takes up to 4 to 5 years to get launched. On the other hand, a mobile mini-game can be created in 8 to 12 months. However, the accurate timeline depends on several factors.

 

Factors Affecting Game Development Timeline

 

Several factors affect the time it takes to make a video game from scratch. Here are a few of them: 

 

  • Game Lifecycle

  • Size of your Team

  • Quality Development

  • Choice of Game Engine

  • Monetization Strategy

  • Sound and Music

 

Out of the above-listed factors, the most time-consuming factor is the game lifecycle. Let’s take a look at this in detail. 

 

The Video Game Development Stages

 

The Video Game Development Stages

 

The game development steps include making a video from conception to launch. 

 

Breaking your video game development into stages will help you manage the timelines and resources. Also, it will help you overcome bottlenecks and reduce inefficiencies at once.  

 

The stages can vary depending on the studio and depth of the project. Still, the whole process is pretty much the same whether you are working on a AAA game, mobile, or indie.  

 

So, the making of video games is commonly broken down into three stages; planning, production, and post-production. 

 

Stage 1: Planning

 

The pre-production stage of video game-making focuses on the core concept and initial design documents. This stage lays the groundwork for the future of your game. 

 

The creation of the game starts way before the production stage. This pre-production stage affects the overall gameplay, team spirit, and the success of the project. 

 

This pre-stage generally consumes the planning part. Say, a two-year production of a game can take anywhere between 1-2 months of pre-production. 

 

The initial stage of production comes with a few sub-stages. Each of them holds its importance; some may be necessary for all games, while a few can be skipped. 

 

Core concept

 

When in concept creation, think about:

 

  • Target audience 

  • Key foundation

  • Key gameplay mechanics

 

Your core gameplay mechanic is what you are betting everything on. 

 

Prove that the Game is Sellable

 

No publisher wants to sign a game without a running market. Prove your publisher that the game has: 

 

  • Early monetization

  • Advertising potential

  • Strong engagement Metrics

 

Throw some ads up within a particular app and see how your audience responds to those banners. There are many ways to analyze your market. Go for the most appropriate one, or use a combination. 

 

A Game Design Document (GDD) 

 

A Game Design Document (GDD)

 

Take the game design document as your game’s north star. It is a document that helps your team to understand, get on board, and follow it like a bible for a greater vision. In your GDD, you can put things like:

 

  • Timeline

  • Game Mechanics

  • World Design

  • Characters and Story

  • Gameplay and Levels

  • Art Design

 

Many people, particularly smaller developers, go for agile development strategies that focus less on process and documentation and more on simply making things. 

 

However, larger game development studios use a different strategy.

 

Game Design

 

Think about placeholder assets, and save yourself time and money. Low-asset things like weapons and props are designed during this stage. If they get approved, they, later on, go for a high-quality version. 

 

Placeholder assets can be purchased or you can find them for free online within game development software. 

 

You can allow the player to either purchase placeholder assets, hunt them, or release them at later levels. 

 

Take them as basic shapes, but can also be a little in detail. 

 

Stage 2: Production

 

The production stage is the longest pipeline stage; it’s all hands on deck. 

 

Being the core part of game making, with time-pulling 3D modelling and years of coding an average game takes 2 to 3 years of production. This is where your game becomes a playable product. 

 

A story of laid down props, music, environments, and creatures takes the form. Ground rules are made for levels and worlds and begin to be written down in code.

 

You can break the production stage into three stages:

 

Graphics

 

Your 2D/3D artists take part in the creation of visual effects, interface elements, and environments. For example, deciding what a player should experience when on the toughest level. Quality graphic games ignite emotions in players.

 

Graphics

 

Coding

 

This is where you need the core resources of your project. Programe is a player product, the backbone of interaction with the gamer. You can use existing gaming engines or get your game fully custom-developed from scratch. 

 

Sound

 

Give your game a voice. Work on sound effects, character voices, and background music. All of this should change dynamically within a game, based on what is happening or the player's action.

  

Game Production Milestones

 

When going through these stages, you set a few milestones for when your game should be ready to launch. 

 

Pre-Alpha

 

You create templates, modules, functions, features, images, audio data, and video data, in the pre-alpha stage. You make big decisions, like what should be kept and what things should be cut down, or you need to add a few new elements for gameplay improvement. 

 

Alpha Stage

 

By the end of the alpha stage, you have a feature-complete game. Here, your game should be playable, from start to end. Put simply, your functionalities and all content should be aligned. Don’t bother with quality here, forget bugs, and leave the changes to playtest. 

 

Beta

 

Move your game towards completeness. Lock all of its content and the only changes should be related to bug fixes, small tweaks, and enhancements. At this stage, you conduct the public beta test, based on closed, invite-only, or played by anyone. 

 

Gold Status

 

Once you address all major issues, the publisher can accept a release candidate, putting the game on track for publication! The gold status itself dates back to the previous practice of establishing a GM (Gold Master)—a version of the game signed off and used for mass copying of the finished product.

 

Release

 

It is time to strike! Your game outperformed the odds! Making games is difficult and expensive, and the great majority never see the light of day.

 

Stage 3: Post Production

 

Unlike planning and production, the post-production timeline is entirely based on your decision-making. Here’s why:

 

Quality assurance testing

 

Does the game give all the features you wanted for the players? Is it fun to play? Does it have any hiccups on the desired hardware? 

 

You can use up as much time as you want on these and like questions to increase the overall quality of your game.

 

Finalization and submission

 

If you are satisfied with the game and it is as you’d like it to be, it’s time to launch it. De on your publishing strategy, uploading your game on platforms of your choice, like Steam. Or else, you can create physical copies as well. Physical copies take time and can extend the release window.

 

Looking to launch your own game? Get in touch with us and we’ll help you streamline your game-making journey. 

We are still not over that GTA VI is finally announced after a decade-long wait. At the same time, other studios launch sequels much quicker. 

 

Rockstar is still refining their next megahit. Still, you can make pixel games in 2 to 3 weeks.  

 

Game Jams are a work of a mere 48 to 72 hours, and mini-games are made from scratch over a weekend. 

 

How Long Does it Take to Make a Video Game from Scratch?

 

On average, a uni-platform game takes up to 4 to 5 years to get launched. On the other hand, a mobile mini-game can be created in 8 to 12 months. However, the accurate timeline depends on several factors.

 

Factors Affecting Game Development Timeline

 

Several factors affect the time it takes to make a video game from scratch. Here are a few of them: 

 

  • Game Lifecycle

  • Size of your Team

  • Quality Development

  • Choice of Game Engine

  • Monetization Strategy

  • Sound and Music

 

Out of the above-listed factors, the most time-consuming factor is the game lifecycle. Let’s take a look at this in detail. 

 

The Video Game Development Stages

 

The Video Game Development Stages

 

The game development steps include making a video from conception to launch. 

 

Breaking your video game development into stages will help you manage the timelines and resources. Also, it will help you overcome bottlenecks and reduce inefficiencies at once.  

 

The stages can vary depending on the studio and depth of the project. Still, the whole process is pretty much the same whether you are working on a AAA game, mobile, or indie.  

 

So, the making of video games is commonly broken down into three stages; planning, production, and post-production. 

 

Stage 1: Planning

 

The pre-production stage of video game-making focuses on the core concept and initial design documents. This stage lays the groundwork for the future of your game. 

 

The creation of the game starts way before the production stage. This pre-production stage affects the overall gameplay, team spirit, and the success of the project. 

 

This pre-stage generally consumes the planning part. Say, a two-year production of a game can take anywhere between 1-2 months of pre-production. 

 

The initial stage of production comes with a few sub-stages. Each of them holds its importance; some may be necessary for all games, while a few can be skipped. 

 

Core concept

 

When in concept creation, think about:

 

  • Target audience 

  • Key foundation

  • Key gameplay mechanics

 

Your core gameplay mechanic is what you are betting everything on. 

 

Prove that the Game is Sellable

 

No publisher wants to sign a game without a running market. Prove your publisher that the game has: 

 

  • Early monetization

  • Advertising potential

  • Strong engagement Metrics

 

Throw some ads up within a particular app and see how your audience responds to those banners. There are many ways to analyze your market. Go for the most appropriate one, or use a combination. 

 

A Game Design Document (GDD) 

 

A Game Design Document (GDD)

 

Take the game design document as your game’s north star. It is a document that helps your team to understand, get on board, and follow it like a bible for a greater vision. In your GDD, you can put things like:

 

  • Timeline

  • Game Mechanics

  • World Design

  • Characters and Story

  • Gameplay and Levels

  • Art Design

 

Many people, particularly smaller developers, go for agile development strategies that focus less on process and documentation and more on simply making things. 

 

However, larger game development studios use a different strategy.

 

Game Design

 

Think about placeholder assets, and save yourself time and money. Low-asset things like weapons and props are designed during this stage. If they get approved, they, later on, go for a high-quality version. 

 

Placeholder assets can be purchased or you can find them for free online within game development software. 

 

You can allow the player to either purchase placeholder assets, hunt them, or release them at later levels. 

 

Take them as basic shapes, but can also be a little in detail. 

 

Stage 2: Production

 

The production stage is the longest pipeline stage; it’s all hands on deck. 

 

Being the core part of game making, with time-pulling 3D modelling and years of coding an average game takes 2 to 3 years of production. This is where your game becomes a playable product. 

 

A story of laid down props, music, environments, and creatures takes the form. Ground rules are made for levels and worlds and begin to be written down in code.

 

You can break the production stage into three stages:

 

Graphics

 

Your 2D/3D artists take part in the creation of visual effects, interface elements, and environments. For example, deciding what a player should experience when on the toughest level. Quality graphic games ignite emotions in players.

 

Graphics

 

Coding

 

This is where you need the core resources of your project. Programe is a player product, the backbone of interaction with the gamer. You can use existing gaming engines or get your game fully custom-developed from scratch. 

 

Sound

 

Give your game a voice. Work on sound effects, character voices, and background music. All of this should change dynamically within a game, based on what is happening or the player's action.

  

Game Production Milestones

 

When going through these stages, you set a few milestones for when your game should be ready to launch. 

 

Pre-Alpha

 

You create templates, modules, functions, features, images, audio data, and video data, in the pre-alpha stage. You make big decisions, like what should be kept and what things should be cut down, or you need to add a few new elements for gameplay improvement. 

 

Alpha Stage

 

By the end of the alpha stage, you have a feature-complete game. Here, your game should be playable, from start to end. Put simply, your functionalities and all content should be aligned. Don’t bother with quality here, forget bugs, and leave the changes to playtest. 

 

Beta

 

Move your game towards completeness. Lock all of its content and the only changes should be related to bug fixes, small tweaks, and enhancements. At this stage, you conduct the public beta test, based on closed, invite-only, or played by anyone. 

 

Gold Status

 

Once you address all major issues, the publisher can accept a release candidate, putting the game on track for publication! The gold status itself dates back to the previous practice of establishing a GM (Gold Master)—a version of the game signed off and used for mass copying of the finished product.

 

Release

 

It is time to strike! Your game outperformed the odds! Making games is difficult and expensive, and the great majority never see the light of day.

 

Stage 3: Post Production

 

Unlike planning and production, the post-production timeline is entirely based on your decision-making. Here’s why:

 

Quality assurance testing

 

Does the game give all the features you wanted for the players? Is it fun to play? Does it have any hiccups on the desired hardware? 

 

You can use up as much time as you want on these and like questions to increase the overall quality of your game.

 

Finalization and submission

 

If you are satisfied with the game and it is as you’d like it to be, it’s time to launch it. De on your publishing strategy, uploading your game on platforms of your choice, like Steam. Or else, you can create physical copies as well. Physical copies take time and can extend the release window.

 

Looking to launch your own game? Get in touch with us and we’ll help you streamline your game-making journey. 

frequently asked questions

It is possible to master the fundamentals of game creation in one year, but getting adept and generating a full-fledged game would most certainly take longer. Game production is a multifaceted process that requires numerous skills and disciplines, including programming, graphics, design, and audio.

As a result, an increasing number of independent games are being released each year. The cost of developing an indie game might range from $10,000 to $1 million. Numerous elements affect game production expenses. Here are a few of the things that determine independent game production expenses.

Developing a AAA game can take two to five years, depending on the game's complexity, team size, and available resources. Duke Nukem Forever holds the Guinness World Record for the longest video game development time, 14 years and 43 days.

Writer InvoGames

Written By:

Kammil Sarbuland
Content Writer

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