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Making A Shoestring Budget Game For The Xbox One
by Jamie Fristrom on 07/28/14 06:32:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Just last month Happion Labs launched Sixty Second Shooter Prime for the Xbox One through their ID@Xbox program.


Now, I’m one of the cheapest game developers I know. I’ve been indie for almost nine years now and am still in the red, so I’ve gotten to a point where I’m loathe to spend another penny. Add to that I really had no idea how a game on the Xbox One would sell. So I wasn’t even willing to hire an artist for Sixty Second Shooter Prime (which could very well have hurt sales a lot as my logo screens were made by, well, me) so you can figure that when I approached the project I was doing it just about as frugally as possible.


So how cheap is cheap?


You might think, since Microsoft is giving away their dev kits to early adopters of the ID@Xbox program, as long as you have no offices and pay everyone with rev share you could ship a game for just about nothing. But that’s not quite the case: let's look at how our costs broke down:

Maintaining the Sixty Second Shooter URL


Sending the second dev kit to
 Brett Douville


Hardware (usb and video
 cables and the like)


Video capture device (for
 making trailer)


Localization (French,
 Spanish, Italian, Portuguese)


E&O Insurance


Foreign ratings boards (PEGI,




So, about $5K. Not as cheap to make as a PC game - by a long shot.

What are those big expenses?

First: Errors & Omissions Insurance. Microsoft requires this; it’s in the contract. And it’s not just any E&O Insurance - it has to cover IP and copyright violations, so the cheap E&O Insurance you can easily find online doesn’t qualify. I went through an insurance broker (Parker, Smith, and Feek) and found the cheapest insurance that would qualify.


Second: Ratings boards.  Again, Microsoft requires this - if you want to release in a given territory, you have to get your game rated by the official ratings boards of that territory. It’s sad but true, getting your game rated in some territories can be a lot more expensive than simply translating your game to that territory’s language! I spent about $700 on localization, all told, and spent nearly $2000 on getting my game rated by PEGI and USK. (I skipped Australia and New Zealand because they both wanted around $2K for their ratings boards...maybe I’ll launch in those territories later if the game seems to be selling particularly well.)


Obviously, localization and other territories are optional - if you limit yourself to regions where you don’t have to pay (which would mean skipping Europe) - you could get the costs of your Xbox One game down to well under $3000.


All that said, although those costs were somewhat daunting for a shoestring developer like myself, it was absolutely worth it. Although we haven’t gotten our first sales report yet, there were at least ten thousand entries on the leaderboards last we checked, so we’ve certainly covered our costs and made a living wage to boot - which is kind of rare in the indie game development world, in my experience - so I'm really happy we jumped aboard the ID@Xbox wagon.

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Benjamin Quintero
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Love the transparency. I wish more studios were as open with their numbers.

Nicu Listana
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I see that the: Localization (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese), E&O Insurance, Foreign ratings boards (PEGI,
USK) components made up a chunk of your development budget. Why did you decide to spend money for these? Are they required by Xbox?

Javier Degirolmo
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He mentions near the end that not doing that would basically lock him out of European markets (which would not be a minor thing!).

Jamie Fristrom
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What Javier said. My back-of-the-envelope predictions were that European sales would probably pay for PEGI & USK but NZ/Australia sales might not pay for their boards.

Jeff Postma
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Thanks for the openness about these!

James Yee
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Great to see and I think something more Kickstarter creators as well as devs in general should know! As a soon-to-be Aussie it is sad/good to know that it's about $3k to get through their ratings board! o.O!