Video games aren’t easy to make. To make your favorite, Hollywood-style blockbusters, hundreds of people put thousands of labor hours into them. And all of those people needed to be paid, contract work or otherwise. Also, the game then needs to be certified, printed to discs, and shipped to retailers. But then, perhaps most importantly to our purpose here, it has to be marketed. Before you know it, the budgets of big games can balloon into hundreds of millions of dollars. While this list may be outdated soon, once we learn more about the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 , God of War , and other massive, AAA games of recent months, here are the most expensive games to date, based on available data. This includes dev costs, marketing, and inflation.
Max Payne 3
Released in 2012, Max Payne 3 saw the series transfer from Remedy to Rockstar Games. This is far from the last time we’ll see Rockstar Games on this list, so strap in and get ready to look at some big numbers. While the numbers for Rockstar’s budget aren’t super detailed, we know from sales reports that the game’s budget was somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million dollars, if not slightly more.
APB: All Points Bulletin
APB: All Points Bulletin is most famous for, well, being a spectacular failure. Costing over $100 million to make, the game ultimately stumbled out of the gate and caused original publisher Realtime Worlds to go under. The game even shut down briefly, before being purchased for a small fraction of its development cost and re-branded into a free-to-play title. It’s still running today, but who knows if it will ever make as much money as it cost to make.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Hey look, it’s the second Rockstar Games joint on the list! You know which one’s after this. Grand Theft Auto IV , which was at one point the biggest and most expensive game ever made, sits with the last two games on this list at hovering over, based on statements but no hard data, $100 million dollars. Of course, that kind of money can’t buy great working conditions for staff, and the horror stories from this game’s development are legendary.
Final Fantasy VII
How in the world did a PlayStation game get on this list, much less one from 1997? This game’s spot on this list is dubious, but such is the nature of video game budget data. Depending on the source, most recently Polygon’s ” Final Fantasy 7: An Oral History ,” Final Fantasy VII costed upwards of $200 million, if you adjust the total supposed costs for inflation. The ony reason this game isn’t higher on the list is because of the fact that information elsewhere challenges that number a bit. You know how oral histories can go.
Dead Space 2
Dead Space 2 ‘s inclusion on this list is quite tragic, as it’s ultimately proof of how mishandled this series was. After the surprise success of the first Dead Space , which was a much more modest affair, EA slammed the “AAA” button and spent double the game’s budget on marketing, jacking the total costs to over $130 million. Visceral would not be able to support this kind of growth, and the third game would suffer for so many reasons. Now, the studio has been shut down, leaving behind stories of ambition and frustration.
Destiny is a huge property for Activision, despite all the drama that has continued through the life of Destiny 2 , causing the publisher to state in a recent earnings call that the series isn’t meeting expectations. Part of that is the price that that came with the series, which Bobby Kotick infamously pegged as $500 million overall. For just the first game, estimations are resting at somewhere in the neighborhood of $140 million. That’s wild, but not as wild as the rest of this list.
Halo 2 is one of the most notable game releases of all time, and it’s also one of the biggest game developments of all time. A presentation from industry veteran Chip Pederson states that the legendary shooter had a development budget of $40 million and a marketing spend of $80 million, pushing it just over the $200 million mark, when adjusted for inflation. Depending on the earlier Final Fantasy VII slide, this makes Halo 2 the first on the list to cross that line based on available knowledge.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Back when BioWare could do no wrong, Star Wars: The Old Republic happened. This was before the MMO bubble burst and before the mass market presence of free-to-play games and things like MOBAs had taken over. Unfortunately, this game was one of the key arrivals that led to everything crumbling to pieces, or at least falling well behind the likes of World of Warcraft . And while Star Wars: The Old Republic still runs and would eventually cross over to a free to play/subscription hybrid of sorts, that doesn’t change the fact that LucasArts and Electronic Arts sunk over $200 million into this project, with hopes of it challenging Blizzard for the championship.
Grand Theft Auto V
Keep in mind that these numbers are from 2013, which means before Grand Theft Auto V launched for modern consoles and before Grand Theft Auto Online became what it is today. In short, these numbers, despite already being ludicrous, are probably much higher today. According to data from analysts and Scottish marketing companies, this game had a budget of nearly $300 million. Back in 2013, we’re looking at just under $280 million with inflation. It’s probably not unrealistic to assume that number is even higher now. But considering how much money the game has made in return, well, it seems almost trivial.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
As we just said, this may be outdated and inaccurate, based on things that have happened in the past couple years that aren’t public knowledge yet. However, as of now, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is arguably the most expensive game of all time. Yet, its development budget was fairly modest at $50 million, a number much lower than most of the other games on the list.
So what gives? Activision spent a whopping $200 million marketing this thing, which paid off quite well, as it’s one of the most successful games of all time as well. In total with inflation, the official budget number rests at around $285 million. Wow!.