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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

August 28, 2008 at 3:00 PM

The $30 million video game, and more from Seattle gaming bigwigs

Here are a few morsels from today’s Enterprise Seattle luncheon on “Trends, Innovations and the Impact of Today’s Economy on the Video Game Industry.”

Asked how much it costs to develop titles, Sony Online Entertainment’s Matt Wilson threw out a number that drew a respectful silence from the room:

“You’re not going to find a game at our level that’s being pitched for under $30 million,” said Wilson, head of Sony’s Seattle studio.

Microsoft’s Shane Kim said triple-A titles may cost $20 million to $30 million, plus another $20-or-$30 million for marketing. But Kim, former studio boss turned strategy VP, noted that the investment in Halo produced a $1 billion franchise.

AristoDigital founder Jason Robar explained the other end of the spectrum. He produced an Xbox Live Title, Carcassonne, for $500,000 in about nine months. It grossed about $2 million.

On growth in the games industry, Wilson said forecasts are low. He and others on the panel don’t think the scale of the market is being fully measured.

“I actually think the growth is much more substantial than what we’re projecting now,” he said.

Perrin Kaplan, former Nintendo marketing VP, said the industry is recession-proof, arguing that during a downturn people are more likely to stay home and play games instead of take a more expensive vacation.

Robar said games are inexpensive compared to movies, which cost $5 per hour of entertainment. A $12 monthly game subscription provides entertainment for about 25 cents an hour, he said.

Hidden Path Entertainment CEO Jeff Pobst said the industry’s seeing growth on both ends of the age and gender spectrums.

Kim gave credit to his rival for some of that growth.

“Nintendo deserves some credit for driving a lot of excitement into the industry,” he said.

Kaplan said not every company should pursue the broad market approach of the Wii, although its accessibility did help in her own family.

“After we launched the Wii, my dad said, ‘I finally get what you do for a living,”’ she said.

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