The 11 Most Expensive Video Games Ever Made

July 10, 2020

Over the last decade or so, the cost of developing video games has ballooned massively. With the push to create bigger and more technically impressive games, budgets have continued to rise. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. After all, blockbuster titles usually have teams of hundreds of developers working on them. In fact, it is not unusual for recent AAA games to involve more than a thousand designers, programmers, and artists. 

What many people don’t realize is that some projects can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to complete. That puts them on a par with summer blockbuster movies, especially when you consider marketing costs. So if you thought video games were not big business, you will be surprised by the budgets of these high-profile releases.

Here are the 11 most expensive video games ever made.

11. APB: All Points Bulletin — $100 million

APB: All Points Bulletin is one of the most notorious games in the history of gaming. The first concepts for the title arose in 2005. However, the project would get stuck in a development cycle that continued for more than five years before its release in 2010. Even then, the game struggled, with the original developer falling into administration. That protracted development period meant that APB: All Points Bulletin cost an estimated $100 million to create. 

10. Tomb Raider — $100 million

The Tomb Raider franchise has been around a very long time. However, the series got a reboot in 2013 when Crystal Dynamics took over development duties. As well as completely reworking Lara Croft’s origin story, the game significantly switched up the gameplay. It was in development from 2009 and went through several different phases as the team decided how to approach the game. Ultimately, it is estimated to have cost some $100 million to develop.

9. Max Payne 3 — $105 million

Rockstar is no stranger to expensive video games. The studio has franchises such as Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto in its catalog. But one of the most costly games ever created by Rockstar is Max Payne 3. This third-person shooter was released on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in 2012. Originally set to launch in 2009, it was pushed back several times. This added to the overall quality of Max Payne 3 but also caused the budget to rise significantly. 

8. Shadow of the Tomb Raider — $110 million

Launching in 2018, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a direct sequel to 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider. This time around, development was the responsibility of Eidos Montréal rather than Crystal Dynamics. Meant as a final act to Lara Croft’s origin story, it contained a number of gameplay improvements and new features. Of course, this all came with additional costs. Ultimately, the game cost $10 million more than the 2013 reboot.

7. Halo 2 — $120 million

Microsoft and Bungie put a huge amount of effort and money into Halo 2. The game was seen as the killer app for the original Xbox console and was treated as such. As one of the biggest console exclusives of the time, the 2004 shooter drew a huge amount of attention. That didn’t mean it had a smooth development. In fact, Bungie essentially began the process from the start after realizing the game’s scope had grown too big. Combined with large marketing costs, Halo 2 had a budget in excess of $120 million. 

6. Dead Space 2 — $120 million

Although Dead Space 2 was critically acclaimed and well-liked by fans, it was a financial disappointment. That’s largely because of the money that was spent creating and marketing the title. In total, industry analysts believe that up to $120 million was spent on the sequel. That’s a lot of cash considering how the company only sold a couple of million copies. The excessive spending was later curtailed with Dead Space 3 when it launched in 2013. 

5. Destiny — $140 million

After splitting from Microsoft, Bungie moved away from the Halo series and set about creating a new franchise. Although still a sci-fi shooter, Destiny was set to be a more expansive experience than any Halo game. Entering a 10-year agreement with Activision, the studio poured money and resources into the project. By the time Destiny released in 2014, some $140 million had been spent on it. However, Bungie claimed a lot of that cash had been invested in setting up the franchise for the future.

4. Star Wars: The Old Republic — $200 million

BioWare got its first taste of Star Wars long before The Old Republic. The MMO released in 2011 but the studio worked on Knights of the Old Republic way back in 2003. That gave the developer plenty of experience when it came to producing the online multiplayer title. Creating such a large world filled with characters, locations, and quests was a costly endeavor. Estimates suggest that the game, which takes place 3,500 years before the films, cost around $200 million in total.

3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 — $250 million

After the hugely successful launch of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007, a sequel was certain. Activision and Infinity Ward spared no expense when it came to developing the second game. With expectations set so high, both the multiplayer and singleplayer campaign had to be spectacular. That might explain why the publisher spent $250 million on developing and marketing the title in 2009.

2. Grand Theft Auto V — $265 million

Grand Theft Auto V was always likely to be an expensive game to create. After all, Rockstar had set standards for the series incredibly high with the previous titles. The studio would obviously have to not only live up to these but also exceed them to keep fans happy. The 2013 release did not disappoint with its stunning open world and excellent gameplay. Taking some five years to complete, it had a development budget of $137 million. Almost the same amount of money was then spent on marketing the game. 

1. Star Citizen — $364 million

Star Citizen is now the most expensive game ever made and it still has not yet released. Thanks in part to a huge crowdfunding campaign, which raised more than $300 million, it has the biggest game budget ever. Add in the private investment of around $64 million and the space sim has cost more than $364 million. What is more amazing, though, is that no launch date is in sight. A remarkable fact considering the game has been in development since 2012.

Which of these games’ high budget was money was spent? Which were a huge waste? Sound off in the comments below!

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