In the early days of the industry, game development sometimes cost ridiculous sums of money, incomparable with the sales revenue. If the figures in the millions of dollars appeared somewhere, it was most likely about the cost of advertising. Suffice it to recall at least the cult Super Mario Bros. 3 : 25 million for marketing and only 800 thousand for creating the game.
The situation changed radically with the arrival of the first PlayStation . Although the graphics were still uncomplicated at the time, the developers tried to compensate for this with spectacular CGI videos created on expensive PCs. And the cost of screensavers for any Final Fantasy VIII could easily surpass all other costs.
But now the figure of $ 100 million, excluding PR campaigns, is common in the development of many AAA blockbusters. And in this article, we decided to recall the most expensive games in game production in history.
10 th place . Shadow of The Tomb Raider – from $ 75 to 100 million
To complete the updated and controversially accepted trilogy about Lara Croft was unexpectedly entrusted to Eidos Montreal – the studio known for the last parts of Deus Ex ( Crystal Dynamics was responsible for the two previous parts of “Lara” ). But, alas, neither tens of millions of the budget, nor the change of the developer brought much benefit: the new team issued a rather regular triquel, and I would like more from the final of the trilogy, which was successful as a whole. Not to mention the fact that even on the third attempt, the scriptwriters failed to come a kilometer closer to what the creative tandem of Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley showed in the second and fourth parts of Uncharted .
Critics greeted the game cooler than its predecessors, although this did not really affect sales – despite a sluggish start, over time, Shadow of The Tomb Raider has sold more than four million copies. And after that, fans could well count on a new beginning, but alas. Due to the deafening fiasco that the publisher suffered with Marvel’s Avengers , Lara Croft cannot be expected to return soon.
9- th place . Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – $ 80 million
Kojima fans will remember the fifth part for a long time, because after it the stories of the two Snakes, in general, ended. The paths of the genius himself and his “native” publishing house also parted. The reasons for the separation are still the subject of numerous speculations . There is reason to believe that Kojima was unhappy with the constant interruptions in the creative process, just as Konami was not happy with the shifts in deadlines and increased costs for games, which were not exactly profitable. By the way, there is also a curious rumor (albeit denied by Konami) that Hideo wasted part of the budget allocated for Phantom Pain on the commemorative PT, which has formed around itself a whole cult of fans on the one hand and many copycat games on the other.
As for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain , despite the claims of especially discerning fans and the lack of voice acting from David Hayter, the game still became a hit and sold millions of copies, having recouped $ 80 million allocated for development.
But how much it cost Kojima’s next project, Death Stranding , is still not known for certain. Someone speculates about the amounts of 100-200 million dollars (the costs of the actors alone should have cost a pretty penny). And someone, on the contrary, believes that it should be cheaper than MGSV: they say, they took a ready-made engine for it, and there was no need to develop multiplayer. One way or another, the exact numbers of Kojima Productions and Sony have not yet been released.
8th place. Battlefield 4 – $ 100 million
Now fans of the series have an especially fond memory of Battlefield 4 . If ten years ago there was no end to shooters devoted to modern conflicts, now most of the developers prefer either futurism or the First World War – and the same can be said about the creators of the “battle” themselves. Perhaps, the DICE did not in the best part of the series, but certainly one of the most iconic shooters of his time.
The updated Frostbite engine was a good demonstration of the capabilities of the newly arrived PS4 and Xbox One and brought entertainment to the next level. And the constantly changing setting and the scenario, written quite well by the standards of military shooters, did not let you get bored. And, of course, the network mode, without which the series cannot be imagined at all. All this beauty cost a modest $ 100 million.
7th place. Max Payne 3 – $ 105 million
The other day the shooter Max Payne about the eternally reflective ex-detective turned 20 years old. Remedy ‘s creation became one of the most iconic of the genre, but the Finns, led by creative writer Sam Lake, did not want to be remembered as the authors of one hit. Therefore, the rights to the series were sold to Rockstar , and Remedy moved under the wing of Microsoft , where it began to develop Alan Wake – also a dark, but already paranormal story about the writer. As for the continuation of the story about Max, then Rockstar personally took care of it. The script was largely written by Dan Hauser, who has had a hand in all of the company’s iconic hits in the past.
Despite the radical change in the image and setting, as well as Hauser’s love for black humor, Max Payne 3 turned out to be no less cruel and depressing than the original. And at the same time, it was much more cinematic: I was especially pleased with the smooth transitions between gameplay and cut scenes. Well, in the end, with such a budget ($ 105 million), it would be strange at all not to get one of the most beautiful games of that era at the end.
6th place. Grand Theft Auto V – $ 137 million
Games in the GTA series have always been held in high esteem by everyone except politicians and fighters for morality. But, despite all the greatness of the legendary series, hardly anyone predicted the fifth part of the status of not just a good continuation, but a whole cultural phenomenon. The script in GTA was given due attention already starting from the third part, and whether it is good or bad is everyone’s business: the fact itself and the amount of work done are important. However, the fifth part brought all this to a new level with only one concept of not one, but as many as three main characters, between whose stories it was possible to periodically switch. A wonderful cast also made a contribution: the little-known at that time actor Stephen Ogg gave the gaming industry one of the brightest anti-heroes.
Yes, and from the mechanics of the “sandbox”, it seems, squeezed out everything that was possible at that time. But Grand Theft Auto V wasn’t just about the outstanding single player campaign. Multiplayer has the effect of a nuclear bomb: no other game has ever been so popular since Counter-Strike and World of Warcraft . And first of all, it is thanks to him that Rockstar still makes millions of dollars and is not particularly in a hurry to announce the sixth part. It’s easier to roll out another re-release – this time for PS5 and Xbox Series X | S.
We also note that, as in the case of Max Payne 3, the data on the cost of the game ($ 137 million) are only guesses of analysts – Rockstar did not publish official figures. But the publisher continues to report on the profitability of GTA V: in 2020 alone, seven years after the release, the game brought in a billion dollars.
5th place. Marvel’s Avengers – from $ 170 to 190 million including marketing
With the notorious creation of Crystal Dynamics , because of which it was necessary for a while (and maybe forever, who knows) to forget about Lara Croft and Adam Jensen, everything is ambiguous. The publisher did not disclose the amount of the production budget, noting only that the game did not recapture it. Renowned analyst David Gibson suggested that marketing costs could easily have spilled over into $ 170-190 million. Oddly enough, even with that kind of money, the authors could not afford to pay MCU actors for their faces and voices.
Disappointed, however, not only the appearance of the heroes. A very secondary single player campaign offered a rather banal and sometimes frankly ridiculous plot about how a girl inevitably mastered superpowers becomes a motivator for a group of morally devastated superheroes with experience. And the multiplayer, on which the authors of Marvel’s Avengers were betting, turned into a string of equally dull activities and bugs. Square Enix can only hope that the game based on “Guardians of the Galaxy” will be successful: “The Avengers” will obviously not be resurrected.
4th place. Red Dead Redemption 2 – from $ 170 to 240 million
At one time, the release of the first RDR was a real revelation for both the industry and Rockstar fans who did not miss a single game of the company. Despite the abundance of brutality, the GTA series has always been characterized by irony, and here Dan Hauser unexpectedly took and gave out a dark story in the spirit of Hollywood Westerns. The game designers have also tried their best: thanks to their efforts, the “cowboy” setting, atypical for the gaming industry, has become a good friend to the “sandbox” concept for which Rockstar is so famous. And the prequel released eight years later, like GTA V, brought it all to some completely unattainable level.
Unsurprisingly, Red Dead Redemption 2 received one of the highest scores in Metacritic history – a whopping 97. By the way, analysts are of the opinion that advertising costs could easily exceed the cost of developing a game (and this is already at least $ 170 million). However, the main thing is that it worked: RDR 2 hit its budget many times, earning $ 725 million in the first three days of sales.
3rd place. Cyberpunk 2077 – $ 174 million
By the time Cyberpunk 2077 entered the stage of active development, CD Project RED was already loved by millions of players around the world. It seemed that the audience would certainly swallow any announcement of a new project from the Poles. And the PR people understood this perfectly, and therefore increased the effect due to magnificent presentations: remember only the sudden appearance of Keanu Reeves at E3 2019that blew up the hall and spawned many memes! But the beautiful castle in the air that the marketing department drew in the minds of fans collapsed on the day of release. Most of the stones, of course, flew into the garden of the console versions, which were distinguished by poor optimization and terrible graphics quality. The imaginary nonlinearity and immersiveness, which the developers trumpeted at every opportunity, did not anger as much as outright lies about the work of Cyberpunk 2077 on PS4 and Xbox One .
Therefore, it will not soon (and maybe never) will be forgotten the words of the CEO of CDPR about how amazingly good the game feels on the consoles of the previous generation . Even then, evil tongues began to joke that the company had poured the entire budget into Keanu Reeves, and, they say, blinded the game for change. But no – from the CDPR materials it follows that the advertising budget was slightly less than the cost of the game itself ($ 174 million): in total, they spent 1.2 billion zlotys, or slightly more than $ 300 million.
Be that as it may, Cyberpunk 2077 is an excellent example in a bad sense that even fabulous money, a talented development team and months of crunches do not guarantee the release of a uniquely high-quality game.
2nd place. Star Wars: The Old Republic – $ 200 million
Alongside the singleplayer Dragon Age: Inquisition , the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic was BioWare ‘s last truly standout creation – after that, the studio was waiting for only one adversity with either canceled or poorly received games. The team managed to transfer all the key features that were inherent in the first two KOTORs to the rails of a multiplayer role-playing game . The only pity is that without Casey Hudson, but with Drew Karpishin, who once again showed himself as a wealthy screenwriter.
The creators seemed to be trying to blur the line between single-player RPGs and MMOs. Previously, in the latter, no one paid such attention to either the script or the dialogues. Thanks to the rich lore and huge amount of content, it was possible to hang out in The Old Republic for months on end. A huge budget of $ 200 million made it possible to voice absolutely all the lines in the game, which was unthinkable for a 2011 MMORPG. And thanks to the timely transition to the F2P model, the game is still in demand among gamers.
1st place. Star Citizen – $ 380 million
Isn’t it ironic that the status of the most expensive game in history belongs to a project that has been developed for many years with the money of fans? Industry veteran Chris Roberts, who gave us the legendary Wing Commander series , in the early 2010s thought about creating a multiplayer space simulator that would become the spiritual successor to Freelancer , another iconic game in his portfolio. Having made a small prototype on CryEngine 3 and presented it at GDC in 2012, Chris went to Kickstarter that same year and … started collecting tons of money thrownfans into the monitor. Less than a year later, he raised an impressive $ 2.1 million. Later, this record would be broken by the infamous Shenmue 3 , but at that time such a stir was a real revelation. Of course, Roberts is far from the last person in the industry, but he clearly did not expect such a hype. Apparently, that’s why Ostap suffered. And on a wave of bloated hype and huge money, Chris began to develop the initial idea to some unprecedented heights.
It should be noted here that the Star Citizen Kickstarter campaign , which ended on April 7, 2013, was not the only source of its funding. Roberts’ ambitious project attracted the attention of private investors, and the players themselves continued to generously flood the game designer with money in exchange for in-game content. It got to the point that at some point the fans were promised not only a growing MMO about space, but also a single player campaign. A whole galaxy of famous actors was invited to play the roles of the characters: Gary Oldman, Mark Strong, Gillian Anderson and others. But as vivid as Roberts’ statements are, the game is progressing at a snail’s pace. And despite the long development timeline, Star Citizen still doesn’t have a release date.