Video games are getting to be as expensive to produce as Hollywood films.
In fact, some video games have ended up costing way more than even the most expensive feature films.
Unlike with movies, though, the amount of money it costs to make video games is a closely guarded secret. Most of the costs we see floating around are purely based on analyst estimates.
And when specific numbers are released, they take into account not just production, but things like marketing and packaging as well.
“Tomb Raider” came out in 2013 to much hype — and much acclaim. It sold around 1 million copies within 48 hours of its release, and around 6.5 million as of last month.
Game industry analyst Billy Pidgeon estimated that the game cost $100 million to produce.
(Adjusted for inflation: $102 million)
“Red Dead Redemption” ~ $100 million
Set in the Old West, “Red Dead Redemption” was Rockstar Games’ way to prove that it was more than just the company that made “Grand Theft Auto.”
The game took more than six years to develop and was delayed several times. According to the New York Times, it cost between $80 million and $100 million to produce.
(Adjusted for inflation: $109 million)
“Grand Theft Auto IV” – $100 million
Speaking of Rockstar Games and “Grand Theft Auto,” at the time it came out in 2008, “Grand Theft Auto IV” was the most expensive game ever produced. Its producer, Leslie Benzies, estimated it cost Rockstar around $100 million. Of course, he later said that was just a guess, so take it with a grain of salt.
Within 24 hours, “Grand Theft Auto IV” sold 3.6 million copies, shattering sales records.
(Adjusted for inflation: $110 million)
Disney’s “Infinity” – $100 million
Disney’s video game unit was struggling, losing $1.4 billion from 2008 to 2013.
The company decided to take a different approach to gaming, and that’s where “Infinity” comes in. Production of the games and accompanying toys cost the company around $100 million, according to the WSJ.
But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what Disney is expecting to make off the game: The company told Reuters it expects revenues to reach $1 billion.
(Adjusted for inflation: $102 million)
Rockstar Games is back on the list, this time with “Max Payne 3,” which came out in 2012, although it was originally scheduled for a 2009 release.
It had a weak debut, selling only 440,000 units in the first month. This missed analyst predictions that it needed to sell 4 million units in order to break even, since it cost $105 million to produce. A year after it was released, “Max Payne 3” finally achieved that goal.
(Adjusted for inflation: $108 million)
“Final Fantasy VII” – $145 million
“Final Fantasy VII” cost around $45 million to make, and had a U.S. marketing budget of around $100 million.
The game came out in 1997 following a huge three-month-long marketing campaign in the United States that included TV and theatrical commercials, a holiday promotion with Pepsi, and print ads.
(Adjusted for inflation: $214 million)
“Star Wars: The Old Republic” – $150 million to $200 million
At the time of its release in 2011, analysts pegged “Star Wars: The Old Republic” as being the most expensive video game ever produced: They predicted it cost BioWare between $150 million and $200 million.
The game costs $60, and players pay around $15 a month in subscription fees to play as Jedis and Siths. It got around 1 million subscribers within the first three days after it launched, making it the fastest-growing massively multiplayer online role-playing game ever at the time.
(Adjusted for inflation: $155 million to $207 million)
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” – $200 million
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” is a first-person shooter that was released in 2009. It’s the sixth installment of the series, and is the sequel to “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.” Don’t let the naming convention fool you.
According to the LA Times, “Call of Duty” cost around $50 million to produce. But add to that marketing expenses, as well as production and distribution costs, and the launch budget was around $200 million.
(Adjusted for inflation: $221 million)
“Grand Theft Auto V” – $137.5 million to $265 million
The estimates for how much “Grand Theft Auto V” cost to develop and market range from around $137 million all the way up to $265 million.
The game won seven Guinness World Records in 2013, including best-selling action-adventure video game in 24 hours, best-selling video game in 24 hours (it generated around $800 million in sales within the first day), and fastest video game to gross $1 billion.
(Adjusted for inflation: $139 million to $270 million)
“Destiny” – $500 million
“Destiny,” which comes out in the fall, is as of right now the most expensive video game ever made: $500 million.
The $500 million price tag breaks down to $140 million for development costs, according to a leaked contract between Bungie (the developer) and Activision (the publisher), and the rest being marketing, distribution, royalties, etc.
Just note that the most expensive film ever made, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” cost $300 million.
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