Appendix B – Using the budget templates

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Now that you’ve spent some time learning how we put our sample budgets together, it’s time to take the plunge yourself. With your data and the formulas built into the templates, you’ll start to get a complete picture of your game development costs quickly.

We recommend you make a digital copy of the sample and template document, ensuring you always have a blank one to start from. This can be done by using the “Make a copy” option in the Google Sheets “File” menu. Yes, you have our permission to make copies for personal use, but you may not redistribute the samples and templates (© and all that, thank you).

Some other things you should know:

  • The three templates each include clearly marked cells where you should enter information. Only fill in the bright yellow cells to ensure you don’t overwrite those important formulas.
  • There are notes in many of the cells. For more information, simply hover over the cell to bring up the accompanying text.
  • You can add or subtract rows and columns or change the timing on the different project phases to customize the templates. However, this will alter formulas.
  • If you add columns or change the timing of project phases, you will need to amend the formulas underneath the cash flow tracker at the bottom. These are highlighted in _____. These cells are simple sums that add the expenses for all of the months in a specific phase.
  • If you add staff contractors, you need to ensure that the formulas that handle department subtotals are updated. Those cells are highlighted in _____. The subtotal cells are calculated by adding all of the position costs for the month (hours multiplied by the hourly rate in column D). Follow the formula format to add new positions to the calculation.
  • Formulas that simply sum rows, columns, or cell ranges should dynamically change upon the addition of new rows and columns.
  • As explained in Chapter 1 of The GameDev Business Handbook, we calculate out 174 dev-hours per month. This closely models a 52-week year.

The “First project without funding” template functions differently than the other two. First, there is a distinction between founder salaries (which will likely be foregone or reimbursed later) and expenses related to contracted workers that must be paid in a timely fashion. Additionally, the cash flow tracker at the bottom requires out of pocket contributions to cover monthly expenses, as there are no disbursements from an outside funding source.

When you start working with the other two templates, customization becomes even more important. While you’ll have an idea of when you’d like your milestones set and how much money you want assigned to each, those details will ultimately be negotiated by you and your funder/publisher.

As you are negotiating, plug numbers into your budget and see how they impact your ability to maintain positive cash flow. Remember, once you dip into the red, someone isn’t getting paid. Failing to meet your financial obligations can start you on a disastrous path, causing work stoppages, project delays, and negative impact on your reputation (and ultimately your ability to attract employee and contractor candidates).

We urge you to spend time playing with the budget templates to get a feel for how the formulas work. Play around with adding, subtracting, and moving rows and columns. Becoming familiar with the tools early can prepare you to make smarter, faster decisions about your financial position later, when it counts. Just remember to make copies of the templates, so you can always start over with an untarnished blank in case you accidentally break the formulas and can’t figure out how to repair them.

FINAL NOTE: These templates and samples are a long-term project of The GameDev Business Handbook team. We hope to update these over time and make them as accessible to provide maximum understanding for those starting out. If you’d like to send us samples of your budgets where you’ve added features you’d think would be helpful to others, please send them to If we incorporate it into a future update, we’ll be sure to credit you if requested on the update.

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