RPG Game Development Realities: Navigating Budgets and Industry Standards in the Shadow of Baldur’s Gate 3

by Kristina
3 minutes read

Owlcat Games CEO Discusses RPG Budget Challenges and Larian’s Influence on the Genre

Role-playing games (RPGs) have long been recognized as one of the most complex and financially risky genres in game development. Oleg Shpilchevskiy, the founder and CEO of Owlcat Games, recently shared his insights on the escalating costs of producing RPGs, as well as the impact of Baldur’s Gate 3 (BG3) on the industry.

Breaking Down RPG Budget Tiers: A Reality Check

Shpilchevskiy highlights the different budget tiers for games, noting that there’s usually a correlation between production costs and expected revenue:

  • AAA games typically have budgets ranging from $50-70 million, with expected revenues of around $300 million.
  • AA games have smaller budgets, usually between $5-15 million, with a revenue expectation of $50 million.
  • A games have even lower budgets, around $1-2 million, with no specific revenue expectations mentioned.

These figures can vary based on factors like studio location and employee costs. For instance, major US-based companies like EA and Sony often have much higher production costs.

Owlcat’s previous titles, such as the Pathfinder series, fall into the AA category. However, Shpilchevskiy emphasizes that increasing the budget doesn’t always lead to success. The studio’s new unannounced game involves a larger team and budget, presenting new challenges in terms of workflow and communication.

The Phenomenon of Baldur’s Gate 3 and Its Industry Impact

Shpilchevskiy refers to BG3 as a “phenomenon” due to its substantial investment in the isometric RPG genre. He acknowledges that few studios can afford such a budget and that it sets a new benchmark for quality and execution in RPGs.

This success has implications for other RPG developers, who now face the challenge of making their content presentation more cinematic, including aspects like cutscenes and voice acting. Shpilchevskiy admits that full voiceover is becoming a must-have feature, despite the cost and complexity it adds to development.

Adapting to New Realities in RPG Development

The success of BG3 is pushing companies to reevaluate their production values. Developers must now meet higher standards to stay relevant and competitive in the RPG market. This means finding creative solutions and adapting to the evolving expectations of players and the industry.

In conclusion, while the success of games like BG3 sets new benchmarks, it also presents challenges for other studios. Companies like Owlcat Games must navigate these challenges to continue producing engaging and successful RPGs within their budgetary constraints.

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