Although big video game franchise releases and popular titles have never been particularly cheap, they are certainly becoming more expensive for consumers to purchase. These days, it isn’t unusual to pay anything up to $90 for a brand-new AAA video game, and that’s just for the disc or download.
Standards have been set so high for video games that developers must often push to the very edge of what gaming consoles and PCs are capable of doing. As there’s little doubt that the tech will stop evolving anytime soon. The talent, time and money that goes into making AAA games could rise even further than they already have. That is, of course, unless there is a limit to how much we are willing to spend on video games.
With the popularity of new platforms, will gamers simply refuse to pay the exorbitant prices and will this, in turn, limit how much money development studios can pour into AAA games? Are we already witnessing the decline of overly expensive AAA video game releases?
How Expensive Are AAA Video Games?
For a long time, Final Fantasy VII (1997) was the most expensive video game ever developed, having cost somewhere between $40 million and $45 million to develop. Up to $100 million was also spent on marketing, and if we adjust for inflation, this means that the game would cost up to $221 million to create today. This isn’t too far off more modern releases, with most costing well over £200 million to develop and advertise. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009) is said to have cost £250 million, while Grand Theft Auto V (2013) set Rockstar back $265 million.
However, in more recent years, few games have managed to climb their way up the list of most expensive games. In fact, many of the most recent expensive games were released back in 2015, including Watch Dogs, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Is it possible that AAA video games have already reached their limit, and why?
Are Mobile Apps & Online Games Better Value?
Well, the largest and most obvious reason is the rise of cheap mobile apps and free online games. Expenses surrounding online games vary depending on the genre they fall into and the tech they use. For example, creating iGaming software for platforms such as Spinit free spins casino could cost anywhere between $30,000 and $600,000, though we imagine there’s only a few iGaming develops such as NetEnt and Playtech willing to spend the higher amount on a single title. HTML5 game development is just as varied, with prices ranging from $100,000 to $200,000 at most, though if developers use tools like AIS Technolabs HTML5 Developer, this will be significantly less.
As for mobile apps, according to New Gen Apps, the price of developing a mini mobile game can be as little as $3,000, while high-level mobile games will cost $250,000 at most to create. As for AAA mobile games such as Pokemon GO and Infinity Blade 3, these will be more expensive as they require constant maintenance long after they are developed. However, it’s still highly unlikely that they will cost anything like the $200 million required for AAA video games.
Of course, the best part about mobile apps and online games for consumers is that it often doesn’t matter how much each title was to develop: they’re still cheap or even free. This has ensured that mobile and internet-based games are huge competitors for AAA console and PC games. It’s really no surprise then that no AAA game has cost over $200 million in the last 3 years, and it’s quite possible that it’ll be a long time before another one does. It seems that AAA video games truly have reached their limit, at least for now.