If you have the number of employees a team has/ number of people who have worked on the game (credits) and multiply that by the average salary, then multiply that by the number of years the game spent in development, you then have a 75% estimate of the overall cost. Good luck! :)
It’s not quite that simple. The whole team doesn’t work on the game from start to finish. Different disciplines come in at different times. Especially when you’re looking at game development pipelines.
Different disciplines come at different points in development. To illustrate a bit, design and production will be heaviest in the early stages. It will probably utilize some senior art and code people to help conception. Senior coders and artists art will then mock up certain elements of the design, but stand-in elements will be mostly used from previous games (I believe they even used Zelda 1 at some point for Breath of the Wild).
Code will then work more properly on the core game mechanics before bringing in content teams (other designers, script coders and such) and more artists to start making more proper game content.
QA comes in at full force at some point during Alpha.
Alpha is complete when all major features are done and no major bugs exist.
Beta phase is when the team is at the biggest as production and design will be playing the game a lot while code and art smash bugs and all of the polishing occurs. Much of the core (feature dev/hard coding) code team will finish up during Beta and only come in if absolutely required. This is largely scripting and content bug fixing heavy. They might also change things based on feedback, but largely core features will have been finalized in Alpha, it is less likely new changes will come during Beta.
Gold Master is when the game is essentially done and they’re just testing it for any remaining bugs. Most of the team will already have moved off at this point except those who are behind and testing it for flaws according to their discipline, but most people working on the game will be QA.
While not all companies use the same procedures, they’ll use some version of the above framing.
But anyway, one last thing: AAA pipelines typically have a trunk and branches. So the branches are the yearly releases of games you get. They actually begin quite a while before release, probably two years. Basically the trunk keeps getting developed to keep pushing forward features, optimization, and such, but the branches are split off for scripting and art leading into an actual game release. Usually you’ll have 2-3 different branch teams that are the ones responsible for your actual game releases. With some game franchises, they might even contract another dev studio to handle one of the branch schedules, or even all of the branch schedules (I believe the old WWE games were done this way, the older ones, I believe, had their trunk developed in Japan while the branches were done by English teams in the UK and/or the US).
Anyway, in the timeline of budget. Unless you’re talking about AAA pipelines. Typically games don’t utilize the entire dev team from start to finish. This will be a bit different for small indie teams with like 1-6 people doing multiple things (Any designer who worked on smaller teams also knows they spend half to most of their time doing QA). But either way, budgeting is not so simple as calculate team size and multiply salaries by time to develop the game.
Last edited by Jumpin - on 21 November 2020