The other day, the following comment appeared in the Serious Games discussion list:
This gets to an issue that I believe is important, what does it cost an average team to build a good game. I have seen RFPs that had ambitious, laudable goals, such as aids education. … But the budget was in the low six figures. If the game was built for that kind of money there is no way it could achieve the goals.
And it really made me mad! It’s driving me nuts that folks are saying that meaningful games have to cost in the high six or low seven figures, because you don’t need that much; you can get meaningful learning outcomes in games in the mid-high five and low six figures. How do I know? Because I’ve done it, and know I can do it reliably and repeatedly.
On principle, the point is that if you get the design right, you don’t need to spend lots on production. If you know what you’re doing (and you should), you focus in on the key decisions, work them into a setting, sweat the details, model the design, and produce it. Now, I admit that these aren’t Wii-quality games, rather they’re likely going to be Flash on the web, but that works. You don’t need 3D scrolling graphics and rendered worlds (in fact, they can get in the way).
So, before you write off creating real engaging games, make sure you’re not buying the pricetags some folks would have you believe. If you do have that type of budget, I can help there too ;), but seriously, unless you need an America’s Army or some other mass-market quality game, don’t think you’ve got to break the bank!