Cost Analysis of 3D Game Art Production

Guillaume Chichmanov
March 1, 2024

Game development is a complex task with many variables that must get together perfectly to create a compelling final product. Therefore, it is also a financially intensive endeavor that requires huge investments from beginning to end. Even if you're developing an indie game, the costs start from $50,000 to millions of dollars for AAA titles.

One of the major expenses in this process is the game art production, ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. It involves various elements, such as environments, landscapes, characters, UI/UX, props, and NPCs. Video game artists have expertise in these areas and can create compelling art that can fit the game's storyline. From making sketch outlines to 2D/3D models and bringing them to life with animations, the creative process is long and expensive.

Let's discuss the video game art creation cost and several aspects that contribute to it. Moreover, this guide will also discuss game art outsourcing.

The Type of Art 

Game art is mainly divided into two categories: 2D art and 3D art. Some games are based on the former, some on the latter, while some are created using a combination of both. Therefore, the cost of the game also varies depending on the type of art you choose. Let's briefly understand 2D and 3D art and how they differ in price.

Differences Between 2D & 3D Art and Their Pricing 

As the name suggests, 2D art operates in 2 dimensions and looks flat. One can create an illusion of dimensionality in 2D art, but it still doesn't come close to the dynamism 3D art offers. On the other hand, 3D art uses 3-dimensional figures and offers a more realistic & life-like environment.

Usually, 2D art is hand-drawn, where artists create sketches and make them into illustrations or sprites. 3D art is generated through computer software, involving rigging, texturing, lighting, animation, and much more. Some of the software used for creating 3D art are Unity, Unreal, Adobe Photoshop, and others. 

So, 3D game art outsourcing is much more expensive than 2D art because of their structure. 2D art is less complex and easier to create than 3D art, requiring less time, energy, and resources. However, in some rare instances, if the game requires sophisticated 2D art, it might become more expensive than 3D art.

The Staff Bill 

You need to hire 3D game artists, whether you're creating a simple indie game or a blockbuster AAA title. One way to reduce this bill is by creating the artwork yourself. Otherwise, you'll need to spend thousands of dollars.

It is no news that the better art you want, the higher your costs will be. If you're creating a simple game with basic graphics, you can hire beginner artists and pay them a small amount. However, developing a complex game with detailed graphics requires high-quality artwork only experienced 3D game developers can create. 

It is not the job of a single artist either: you'll need to hire 3D artists, concept artists, 3D modelers, environment artists, CGI marketing experts, and more. Having these many experienced people on your team requires a hefty budget if you want to create a compelling AAA title. 

Time Frame 

As they say, time is money, especially in the gaming industry with strict deadlines and stiff competition. Depending on its complexity, a game art concept typically requires 50-80 hours. While one expert can complete one concept in this timeframe, you must pay more if you want the product urgently.

Generally, if you want the project to be completed as quickly as possible, hiring highly experienced 3D game developers is indispensable. That's because they can handle the pressure, communicate with you effectively, and share relevant ideas more clearly. Since it requires a lot of experience and skill, these artists charge much more than newbies and junior artists. 

Number of Assets 

The cost of game art is also affected by the number of assets in it, which are the environment, characters, animations, objects, and more. The more assets the game requires, the more time, energy, and resources are spent on generating them, pushing the artists to ask for higher prices. 

Larger games with complex narratives have a greater variety and quantity of assets. As the scope and scale of the game increase, so does the demand for artwork across multiple areas, such as characters, landscapes, structures, and props.

Moreover, the chosen art style and level of detail significantly influence the cost of 3D game art outsourcing. Realistic, highly detailed art styles require more intricate designs, textures, and animations, increasing production time and costs. Conversely minimalist art styles may require fewer assets or simpler designs, resulting in lower costs.

The Location 

Location significantly determines game art costs, influencing labor rates, studio overheads, and access to talent and resources. Different regions worldwide offer varying cost structures and competitive advantages, affecting the overall expense of creating game art assets.

1. Labor Rates 

In regions with higher living standards and stronger currencies, like North America, Western Europe, and parts of Asia, labor rates for skilled artists and developers tend to be higher. Conversely, regions with lower living costs and currencies, such as Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America, often offer more competitive rates for video game art creation. 

2. Studio Overheads

The cost of operating a game development studio, including rent, utilities, and equipment, varies significantly depending on location. Major urban centers and tech hubs typically have higher overhead costs due to greater demand for office space and higher living expenses. 

In contrast, setting up studios in smaller cities or regions with lower living costs can reduce overheads, allowing developers to allocate more resources to art production.

The Hidden Costs of Game Art Creation

While everyone talks about the obvious costs of video game art creation, some hidden costs come to the surface when you get into the creation process. Let's discuss them and understand how they impact your overall expenses.

1. File Management 

If you're outsourcing game art, you'll require cross-studio workflows. File naming, version control, and transfer tools are all part of the collaboration, requiring you to allocate some amount to pipeline tools. Moreover, you might need to spend extra for additional server or Dropbox space.

2. Art Integration & Revisions  

Outsourced art might require minor tweaks before integrating with the game engine and project architecture. When you do that, hidden costs emerge in imports, debugging, and optimization.

Similarly, you might think about changing the direction of your game art in the middle of its creation, pushing artists in a different dimension. Since they need a complete or partial reframing of their thought process and the way they use different tools, the assets can diverge from their original pricing. The more changes and revisions you demand, the more you might have to spend.

How to do Effective Game Art Budgeting 

The best way to reduce extra costs while creating game art is to set priorities straight. It'll help you avoid delays and launch the final product within the desired deadline. Let's discuss the factors that can help you set a realistic budget for your game art.

1. Define the Scope of Your Project 

The first and most important step for avoiding game art budgeting risks is to determine the scope of your project. What are your game's characters, environments, skins, textures, and other elements? How long do you expect them to be completed? How much money are you willing to spend on them? 

Addressing these questions gives you a clear picture of the situation that'll help create a practical budget. Moreover, documenting the answers will help you communicate them clearly to your team, clients, and partners. 

2. Estimate Your Resources & Spending  

Now, you need to determine your resources and how you'll spend them. How many people do you want to work on your project? What skill sets do these people possess, and what are the rates they ask for? 

Are there any contingencies, such as licenses, taxes, and fees, that you need to monitor? By estimating these costs, you can compare them to your resources and know if you're falling short.

Even if you're falling short, you can do reallocations, cut spending where it's least needed, and reorient your budget in a way that doesn't hamper the game art creation.

3. Risk Mitigation 

Any game art creation project faces some probable risks that you must effectively manage. Otherwise, they could balloon your spending and jeopardize the whole project. For instance, one of the most common risks in game development is “scope creep,” which means the original scope of the game keeps expanding, increasing the costs to an untenable level. 

It usually happens due to shaky communication, so it's important to keep communicating the expectations and goals with the artists. 

4. Outsourcing Game Art 

Outsourcing is an excellent strategy to reduce game art costs significantly. Instead of hiring a game art designer and paying them hefty sums, you can outsource the project to a reputable company with a team of experts. They can turn out the project in the given time with a significantly lower price tag, helping you spend on the more substantial game development aspects. If you are interersted in Game Art Outsourcing, you should read our blog "Tips on Hiring a 3D Team For Your Game"

Outsource Game Art Creation to Cominted Labs 

Why spend extra when you can save by outsourcing game art to a capable name like Cominted Labs? We are a leading company in 3D art creation trusted by several clients, such as TCG World, Baby Doge, MadWorld, Ethereum Towers, and many more. 

Our expert artists are dedicated to their craft and always do their best to turn your artistic vision into engaging games. From environmental and 3D artists to character artists and programmers, we have everything it takes to make a world-class game design team. 

Offering our game art services with fixed monthly rates and competitive pricing, we strive to offer you the best game art outsourcing experience. In addition, we are also a class-leading brand for 3D marketing.

So, contact us today to book a demo, and we'll share all the details through web conferencing.

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