Piggybacking on a conversation that you were having on GAF, RexNovis:
Star Fox Zero had a core development team (excluding localization costs and voice acting) of 139 people. Assuming they worked for an average of two years on the project per person and made an average salary of $70,000 each, that's $20 million in development costs. Add in $10 million for localization, voice acting, marketing, manufacturing, distribution, overhead, etc. That's $30 million in total to make Star Fox Zero.
Conservatively, Nintendo would break-even at Star Fox: Zero around 1 million units if the project has an average return of $30 per copy when you take into account retailer margins and other COG expenses. This echoes what Reggie Fils-Aime said back in 2009.
Star Fox Zero sold 100K in the USA at launch. Let's assume a generous digital share----150K in the USA when you include digital.
Now double that for Europe + Other and add 30K from Japan----and you get 330K sell-through worldwide for Star Fox Zero's first month.
I guarantee you that 330K is not enough to turn a profit...I imagine Nintendo shipped 500K of inventory...the unsold portion will just stagnate over time because historically the Star Fox series hasn't had the best legs.
So yeah...this is probably the end of Star Fox. 100K is a harbinger for the demise of the series. Nintendo isn't going to make another iteration of Star Fox if they lose money on this project.
Isn't there a lot of crossover for employees at Nintendo? And 70k USD seems fairly high as an average for development team. No doubt these sales are disappointing for Nintendo, but that budget certainly seems pretty high. Compare that to a heavily marketed, cutting edge tech game like Witcher 3 which had four years of dev time, a dev team of 250, and a massive marketing budget but only cost 80m USD.
Also, the fact that a dev team of 140 with two years dev team put out such an ugly, short, half-baked embarassment of a game is a bit baffling. Nintendo's internal studios have really fallen from grace, as has that hack Miyamoto.
Nintendo's development staff are highly paid because they prioritize employee retention over all else (most notably, to keep employees from moving out of Kyoto to Tokyo). It's normal for developers to get paid more than $100,000 per year on average. Employees LOVE working at Nintendo Co., Ltd. It's a destination for people working in the Japanese game industry...that's why they have accumulated a lot of talent over the years.
So yes, $70,000 per employee is very reasonable as an annual salary when you mix a higher rate of Nintendo employees with a lower rate for contractors.
Platinum Games was only one contractor Nintendo hired for the project. They also outsourced art and animation assets to Alvion Co., Ltd., Bee Tribe Co., Ltd., Black Beard Design Studio Co., Ltd., Lakshya Digital Pvt. Ltd., XAX Entertainment Inc., Teco Co., Ltd., Digital Media Lab, Inc., and iNiS Corp., which all have various contract structures bumping up the development cost.
Star Fox Zero had a two-year development time for the game proper, and more than a three-year development time (almost 4-years) including the experiments conducted by Nintendo employees. See this quote from Miyamoto:
"We spent more than one year on numerous experiments using the Wii U GamePad ... We fixed the basic form in six months, and then commenced the one and a half year development process. In the end, it took an extra six months [of development time] though…"
The average is two years per employee because the game (and its experiments) were worked on for almost four years by a good number of internal staff at Nintendo who were fully dedicated to this project, which are offset by a shorter development time by the Platinum contractors.
If the Nintendo staff worked for an average of 3.5 years on the project, and all of the contractors worked an average of 1.5 years on the project, and they're split about 30-70, there's your 2 years on average.
Normally yes, Nintendo employees wouldn't spend this much time on one game and would jump around to other projects. But it's pretty well-known that Star Fox Zero was in development hell and the team really struggled to incorporate the gamepad and bring the game together as a cohesive product. I imagine the project may have gone through a reboot or two along the way...which causes everyone to double-down on it.
In addition, Nintendo delegated significant tasks to a very select few individuals. For example, the NPCs were programmed by one person---Yukari Mori. The camera was also programmed by just one person----Ryu Shinomiya. It takes a LOT of work to properly polish and refine everything to Nintendo standards....and when you're doing it in a very small team or by yourself, it takes a lot longer to get perfect...again adding to project retention.
...I agree, the fact that so many individuals worked on it and yet it turned out so mediocre, short, and homogenized...it's pretty baffling.
While I agree that the budget for the game isn't that big
You would be surprised.
Reggie said back in 2009 that their average Wii game needed 1 million units to break-even.
This was back in 2009....7-years ago....for the Wii, which didn't require HD assets.
1 million units for Star Fox Zero really isn't a stretch at all given Nintendo's ways of conducting business and the development hell Star Fox Zero has been subjected to.
If development of Star Fox Zero went very smoothly and with a smaller team, then yes, they could maybe make do with 500,000 for profitability. Just not in this unique case.