In a recent update post on their Kickstarter, War Balloon breaks down where all that money's gone and it's a revealing portrait of what kinds of costs an indie dev team can face.
The revealing costs in question?
After that, we had $22,000 remaining. From there:
Music - $6,000
Attorneys, startup fees, CPA - $4000
Poster art - $2000
iPads - $1000
PAX East - $3000
Now, I don't RANT often (LOL), but here comes my squinty-eyed-viewpoint from 30000 feet...
$6000 on music! Woah, thats a terrible waste. Instead, buy a bunch of sample packs from the interweb and write a procedural background music manager. $100 for loops, 2 days labour, awesome sound filler.
$4000 on legal fees... I could be wrong, but that seems to be a really dumb move at this point. If you really need a legal entity in order to develop your game (!?!@?) instead of ramen noodles to feed your programmer army, then register something in the Cayman Islands or somewhere similar. Seriously, I don't think you need to this Right Now.
Poster Art, $2000. Are you kidding me? You spend 2k on Posters? For your office or for promotion? If these posters are for your garage wall, then I need say no more. If they're for promotion... then you don't need them right now. If they're for PAX East, then you spent way too much. You could buy an A3 colour inkjet printer, design your own and print a dozen copies, laminate and frame them for far less than 2k. In fact, you could just enlarge some of your awesome pixel art for some awesome retro posters. LOL.
iPads, $1000. This is the only cost that makes sense, but only if you are developing for iOS.
PAX East, $3000. This almost sounds like a Corporate Junket. These events are rarely worth going to for if you're looking for return on investment. Better to save the cash and go next year, when you have a product ready to go and you can hunt down some partners to help promote your game.