Jonathan Blow has said it cost him USD 200,000 to produce Braid, the hit puzzle-platformer he made for XBLA and PC.
However, he reckons it's possible to produce games for much less than that. He spent most of the money on hiring an artist, and could have saved loads if he'd bothered learning how to draw. "The game wouldn't have been as good, but it would have made a profit," Blow said.
"Also, a lot of that 200k was spent because I didn't want to live in a shack somewhere... It doesn't require USD 200,000 to make a game. It requires a PC, a dev kit and enough money to live on for the time it takes to develop, plus extra time because it will always slip. If you can live for three years at your Mom's house, you can make a game for free."
Blow was speaking at the Game Developers Conference, during a panel discussion titled "Braving the stormy waters of XBLA and PSN: Smaller is NOT Easier." But it's not really harder, according to Blow.
"[Braid] was a lot of work, but the process is structured such that it's very easy. Now I'm about to ship my game on the PC and it's much more nebulous," he said. "Put it this way: I worked an average of three or four hours a day on development, with a few self-imposed crunch periods. The development cycle was around three years. It was hard at times, but that's just because it's a lot of work for one person to do."
Towards the end of the cycle, Microsoft started focus testing Braid - and "it was terrible", said Blow. "The scores were terrible. And then you could feel the interest in this game at Microsoft evaporating rapidly. They stopped answering my emails quite so quickly."
The thing is, Blow continued, platform holders have a priority towards their platforms. As a result they rely on focus testing and the like - even though that's not always the best idea. "Any publisher who takes a gatekeeper role doesn't necessarily understand what makes a good or bad game in the first place," he said. "What they greenlight or turn down isn't necessarily in their best interests, even though they think it might be."
Blow went on to say that while marketing and PR can be useful, they won't help if your game's just not good enough. "It's hard to sell a turd," he observed. "If everybody can smell it, doesn't matter how many people you advertise it to."
Find out what Braid smells like by reading our review.