How Much It Costs To Create A New AAA Video Game Title

It’s well known in the gaming industry that the cost of creating video games has skyrocketed in recent years, especially when it comes to studio-published AAA titles. Twenty years ago, a small team on a relatively low budget could create a video game, but in a more competitive world, we’re seeing publishers and developers dropping tens of millions on a single title.

But how much do publishers actually spend, and why does it cost so much? It’s an otherwise simple question, but due to the industry becoming so large and widespread, it has become a much more complex, costly venture.

1. The Cost of Engines

All video games work on engines, which are what control a variety of core mechanics of the game, including the physics. In older games, engines were relatively simple in comparison to today, and could be put together by much smaller teams.

Today, the call for more realistic physics, better visuals, and more mechanics means that developers will often need to either build an engine from scratch, which companies like Square Enix often do; or they need to take an existing engine and heavily modify it for their own usage.

2. This Means More Manpower

With the new focus on aesthetics and a wider range of mechanics, new games will often require much larger teams. This means having designers, programmers, testers, marketing personnel, editors, storywriters, and much more.

Some major publishers, such as Electronic Arts or Ubisoft will often employ hundreds of developers to work on a single game, each one requiring their own salary.

3. Marketing

When gaming was still growing in popularity, even being more popular than movies in some cases and the number of games on the market was still low, it was much easier to get the news of a new title around, often through a magazine or word of mouth. Today, with millions of potential players, publishers need to market their products in the same way any company would: by creating marketing campaigns that reach as many people as possible.

So whether they are promoting games like those found at or the latest FPS release, the principle remains the same. This marketing is believed to be one of the most expensive parts of the process, with some campaigns costing millions at a time, which requires an entire marketing team of its own, including translators for those games that are sold in more than one language.

4. Cost of Specific Games

Most publishers do not publicly reveal how much a game cost to make, with some admitting that they simply spend as much as they need to on the game.

Companies like Blizzard are notorious for this, and tend to work the budgeting as a process rather than paying up-front for the project, which is dissimilar to how the film industry works, for example.

So, the costs of famous AAA titles on the market are usually rough estimates based on the salaries of developers, purchasing of assets, and marketing expenditure.

Frogger (1982) – $5 million
Resident Evil (1999) – $1 million
Call of Duty 2 (2005) – $14 million
Destiny (2014) – $140 million

The Future Of The AAA Gaming Industry And What To Expect

While AAA gaming has never been more popular, it’s also true that there has never been a more tumultuous time for the industry, apart from the crash of 1983 that saw the industry almost comes to a complete halt.

But with constantly rising costs, a more splintered player-base, and more and more indie studios taking the spotlight, will AAA developers and publishers start seeing their empires coming to an end?

It’s a difficult question to answer, especially when taking the industry as a whole. While one portion relies almost solely on physical sales, the other side is seeing more players turning to all-digital markets like Steam and Good Old Games, the best we can do right now is speculate what may happen in coming years.

1. The Cost of Creation

Video games have never cost more to develop, market, and produce, and we’ve seen more than a few companies over the few years filing for bankruptcy over the rising costs.

The average AAA title is now speculated to cost publishers up to $100 million to create, and the pushing of such mechanics as microtransactions points to the fact that this trend is showing no signs of slowing down.

2. Turning All-Digital

The age of physical media may soon start to see its end, as more media and entertainment outlets begin offering their services and products in digital form only. Such as would be found with something like the games available at

Steam was the first real platform to prove that physical media was not a necessity to enjoy video games, and it’s quickly become the world’s most popular gaming platform. The cost of creating physical copies is also starting to take its toll, especially in a world where there is a large call for the lowering of waste.

3. Game Streaming

Along with the change over to all digital, many publishers are turning more of their attention to live streaming, which has become immensely popular since the creation of streaming services like Twitch. Some, like CEO of Ubisoft, Yves Guillemot, have openly spoken about their future plans, and how they intend to make streaming a much more important aspect of their games in the future.

Talking to reporters, Guillemot has explained that linking multiple devices together, such as computers, smart phones, and tablets, allows for a much more practical relationship with games which are streamed on the go. He also explains that the ultimate goal is to have a single game that is playable across as many platforms as possible, and that said game could be easily switched from device to device, which would be powered by their streaming-centric data servers.

The implications of this kind of gaming aren’t quite apparent yet, as the gamer would need stable, fast internet, and devices that were capable of streaming without interruption.

But as fibre and LTE continues to grow in popularity around the world, and as more and more ISPs offer faster Internet speeds, it may just be the gaming of the future for AAA companies.

The Most Anticipated AAA Video Games Coming Next Year

With just over two months left of 2018, all the best games of the year have already been released, and while we’ve seen some truly amazing titles, such as God of War 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s time to start looking at what’s on the horizon.

We’re starting to see more companies turn to online elements, featuring extensive multiplayer options, and, of course, the Battle Royale format continues to be a fan-favourite.

But for those that prefer a single-player experience, there is still plenty to look forward to. 2019 promises a wide variety of games, perfect for those who enjoy everything from the real money bingo found at to MOBA and FPS.

1. Anthem

Anthem, set to be released on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC, is Electronic Art’s answer to Bungie’s Destiny, featuring many of the same elements. The player starts out in a large sci-fi universe that players can share.

The game will be in third-person, where each player will be featured as a Freelancer, wearing powerful exosuits that allow him or her to explore the large environment almost completely freely. Along the way, players will encounter alien enemies that they will need to defeat in order to collect loot.

2. Devil May Cry 5

Another edition to the extremely popular Devil May Cry series by Capcom, the fifth iteration will be available on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

The game is set in the original DMC universe before the latest reboot, and will have players in control of Nero, the protagonist of the fourth game.

3. Metro Exodus

Metro has long been a favourite of open-world fans, and Exodus looks to be a continuation of the previous games, all of which were met with enormous praise.

Players take on the role of a hardened soldier and survivor in a world decimated by a nuclear apocalypse, where they’ll spend their time exploring the world and fighting off the many dangers that lurk around the corner.

4. Doom Eternal

After the massive success of 2016’s Doom, id Software is bringing out a much-anticipated sequel. Doom Eternal will see the player battle the legions of Hell on Earth this time, and should feature much of the same fast-paced and brutal combat that made the 2016 iteration so well-liked. A trailer is expected to be released for the 2019 Quakecon.

5. Beyond Good and Evil 2

As one of the most highly-requested sequels of all time, Beyond Good and Evil 2 is technically going to be prequel to the original game and will follow the adventures of Jade and Pay’j.

While the game has not been officially been given a release date yet, the cinematic trailer promised a world full of high-tech ships, talking animals, and a vibrant crew of futuristic pirates.

6. Cyberpunk 2077

Following the Witcher 3’s incredible success, CD Projekt Red is hoping to prove themselves once again with their upcoming game, Cyberpunk 2077, which is will be set in a dystopian, Blade Runner-type world with plenty of RPG elements to look forward to.