The video game industry has advanced tremendously since the monochrome and 3D graphics of the 1970s. Thanks to technological advancements and famous titles, gaming has turned out to be a multi-billion dollar industry. The latest games feature impressive graphics and intricate gameplay, keeping the players entertained for hours.
However, making a game can be a costly ventures. Dame developers typically invest millions of dollars into large game projects. With so much spent on game development, developers experience tremendous pressure to make a successful product to recoup their investment. In this article, we dive into the world of game budgets and discover the most expensive video game ever made.
For this list, we’ll look at the games that require a massive investment during development and promotion. The figures we are quoting are the best available estimates, as companies are often unwilling to release their exact spending. Also, the estimated figures are for games development plus marketing and may go up a little higher due to inflation. So, which high-budget game is your favorite? Let’s find out!
#15. Red Dead Redemption: $80 Million
If anyone thought Rockstar Games’ claim to fame was Grand Theft Auto, they changed their perception after Red Dead Redemption’s release. It’s an action-adventure game released in 2010, a successor to 2004’s Red Dead Revolver. The game took over five years and consumed tens of millions of dollars to develop. It ended up becoming one of the most expensive video games ever made.
Controversy arose during the game development following accusations of unethical working conditions, criticized by staff members. Red Dead Redemption was released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It won several year-end honors, including Game of the Year awards from multiple gaming publications.
#14. Deadpool: $100 Million
The Deadpool video game draws its inspiration from an American movie based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Surprisingly, the cost of developing Deadpool video game was $40 million higher than that of the movie.
This $100 million game featuring the Merc with a Mouth lacked the type of gameplay you might expect from such an expensive game. However, Wade Wilson’s typically vulgar fourth-wall-breaking humor was abundant. It did even poke fun at the developers and the shortcomings of the game. As much as Deadpool mocks gaming cliches, it doesn’t hide the fact that many similar tropes are present in almost every lifeless level. This all stemmed from a notably tumultuous existence. High Moon Studios employees were fired during development, which led to the game’s removal from online services after its release. Perhaps Deadpool was in charge all along.
#13. Disney Infinity: $100 Million
Many companies have attempted to promote toys and figurines connected to online experiences or games, also referred to as toys-to-life. Disney’s immense popularity and financial power meant it was almost inevitable that they would venture into this arena. In the late summer of 2013, Disney Interactive began to use physical toys to boost video game sales and reception as a way to reduce $1.4 billion in losses incurred since 2008.
Disney Infinity received generally favorable reviews (except for the 3DS version) and generated over $1 billion in revenue by late 2014. This helped Disney Interactive to recuperate their previous losses and the estimated $100 million used in the game’s development.
#12. Battlefield 4: $100 Million
FPS (first-person shooters) is a popular genre among many gamers. During the Battlefield 4 release, multiplayer first-person shooters were already a common sight. However, DICE, the game’s developer, did something different. The game has massive multiplayer maps, which makes players feel like they are in a war. To advance the game, Battlefield introduced “Levolution,” which could change maps drastically due to in-game events, such as skyscraper collapsing. Gamers were excited about this feature. However, it got riddled with bugs and glitches, leaving many players disappointed. Some were unhappy and even sued EA Games, the publisher. Despite this, Battlefield 4 sold over seven million copies, making it one of the most expensive games in history.
#11. Grand Theft Auto IV: $100 Million
Rockstar is a prominent player on this list, as their games tend to be expensive to develop. They do not skimp on the cost of creating their modern games.
GTA IV may have cost around $100+ million during its release. A strong team comprising 150 members, produced this game. It became one of the most expensive games ever made in the era. Despite the probable criticisms of violent content, this iconic title didn’t garner negative reviews, which continues to define the open-world market.
#10. Max Payne 3: $105 Million
Max Payne is yet another Rockstar game. The game came out in 2012, four years after Grand Theft Auto IV came out. Both had a similar budget. Despite the hype and anticipation, the game did not sell well. This was disappointing to Rockstar, given the significant investment in its development.
Although the game had a loyal following, it didn’t live up to the high sales expected from a Rockstar product.
#9. Halo 2: $120 Million
Surprisingly, Halo 2 and Dead Space 2 had a comparable development budget. Halo 2 launched seven years before Dead Space 2. Actually, with inflation, Halo 2 ends up being the most expensive game of the two.
Halo 2 left behind a lasting legacy on the gaming industry, particularly with its console online matchmaking. Many gamers still consider it the best game in the series, and up to date, some avid gamers still enjoy speedrunning the game.
#8. Dead Space 2: $120 Million
Ranked 8th in our list is Dead Space 2, developed by Visceral Games in 2011. It is a follow-up to Dead Space. Dead Space 2 received positive reviews and offered a fresh new take on the survival horror genre. It had an inclusive cost of around $120 million for development and marketing costs.
Despite selling millions of copies, the game failed to meet EA’s sales standards. The developer, Zach Wilson, lamented the game’s $60 million marketing cost and budget management. Regardless, Dead Space 2 is still considered a well-made and enjoyable game.
#7. Shadow of the Tomb Raider: $135 Million
Shadow of the Tomb Raider was not well received as its 2013 predecessor. However, it outdid its reboot, the Tomb Raider, in terms of cost. While Tomb Raider cost only $100 million, its successor ended up with a larger figure due to the marketing costs.
Game development cost around $110 – $135 million. The Shadow of the Tomb Raider initially suffered from much lower sales than its predecessors. Despite this, the game received positive reviews and would go on to ship a healthy 4 million copies worldwide.
#6. Destiny: $140 Million
As the creators of one of the most successful video game franchises, Activision pumped a lot of money into Bungie’s first-ever game since moving on from Halo. With an estimated total cost of around $140 million, Destiny needed to be a success. Luckily, it sold over 325 million in its first five days. This made it the most successful franchise launch of all time. This is not bad for a game that received polarizing during its release.
#5. Final Fantasy VII: $145 Million
Despite the game’s recent remake being more technologically advanced and graphically impressive, the original Final Fantasy VII had a larger budget than its remake. The overall budget was around $145 million. $100 million was for the game’s marketing and only $45 million for the production.
Surprisingly, the developers were forced to leave out several planned elements ahead of its release. Those exclusions made no difference to fans and went on to sell 12.8 million copies.
#4. Red Dead Redemption 2: $200 Million
Rockstar Game’s original Red Dead Redemption was a huge success, and fans demanded a sequel that launched eight years later. RDR 2 was worth the wait, offering players an immersive open world where they could live out their outlaw fantasies. This game’s narrative was riveting and heart-wrenching, following the journey of a man trying to make amends for his past misdeeds. However, this narrative is just the tip of the iceberg. The game is full of engaging activities, like hunting and fishing, and discovering hidden easter eggs even years after its release. Red Dead Redemption 2 was a critical and commercial success. Several publications named it the Game of the Year. It’s still one of the best-selling games of all time.
#3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – $250 Million
Modern Warfare 2, a top-ranked game in the Call of Duty series, was a huge hit for Infinity Ward and Activision. However, this was a high-end project, and it’s not surprising that it ranks high on the list. The development costs were not high as only $40-$50 million was for the game’s development. A whopping $200 million went into marketing this FPS (First Person Shooters) Titan worldwide.
The game features a refined, almost flawless online multiplayer and a new Spec Ops mode. 5 million copies were sold in a day. It went to pass 1 billion in sales in just a few months.
#2. Grand Theft Auto V: $265 Million
GTA V is yet another Rockstar Games masterpiece originally released for PS3 and Xbox 360. Like its predecessors, GTA V follows the theme of video game crime and allows players to switch between three characters who eventually join forces to carry out lucrative heists, but not without complications. With a reported cost of $265 million, it dwarfed the $100 million budget of Grand Theft Auto IV and similarly obliterated it in pretty much every statistic you can think of. The game development started around the same time as its predecessor’s release, and a team of 360 people led the development.
Despite being released in 2013, the game is still popular, with 169 million copies sold, making it the second-best-selling video game of all time. It received the Game of the Year award from numerous publications.
#1. Cyberpunk 2077: $316 Million
The title for the most expensive game goes to Cyberpunk. It was unveiled in 2012 and later released officially in 2020. The developers, CD Projekt Red, promised a revolutionary, immersive world that would transform role-playing games. So, it isn’t surprising that it has emerged as the most expensive video game ever made. However, after its launch, the gamers were disappointed that it was riddled with game-breaking bugs and glitches. This led to its removal from the PlayStation Store after only a few weeks. Since then, developers have continued to release updates. Many gamers are giving it a second chance and loving it. CDPR has also announced an expansion for the game. An anime series based on the Cyberpunk 2077: Edgerunners video game has been praised by both critics and audiences.
The Most Expensive Video Game Ever Made: Bottom Line
Video game development costs have skyrocketed, and some games have cost a fortune. While some games have a higher budget, the ones above are the most notable. These games are without a doubt the most iconic works of art in the gaming industry. And the time, resources, and effort were well worth it. Ultimately, game development is somewhat of a risky business. While some games may cost hundreds of millions to make, the final product can fall short of expectations.
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