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

Posted on October 26, 2018 

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


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