Unfortunately, almost all of our hobbies cost money to do. With gaming, there is no exception. It is actually the opposite for a lot of people who feel like gaming has become too expensive. I don’t know if it is “too” expensive, but I can talk about why gaming costs as much as it does.
Games are expensive because there are a lot of costs involved. Some games can cost more than $250 million to create, and so, development companies need to make their money back and still turn a profit. These costs include development, running costs, marketing, and distribution.
In this article, we will go in-depth into all of the factors that make games as expensive as they are. There is a lot to consider for this topic, and we will try and answer your question as thoroughly as possible. So, for everything that you need to know about the cost of gaming, keep reading.
Here’s Why Video Games Are So Expensive Now
There are many factors as to why video games are so expensive, and in this section, we will take a look at those factors. Later, we will discuss some other factors and some interesting facts about the gaming industry and why the games cost so much. Some reasons are obvious, while others are often not considered.
We will take a look at:
- The time that it takes to make a game.
- How many people are involved in making a game?
- The running cost of a gaming company.
- The Marketing of a game
- The Distribution of a game
- Royalties that get paid to game actors and voice artists
- Game maintenance and DLC.
If you see a headline and already know that, please skip that section because each headline is a standalone piece of information.
How Long Does It Take To Make A Video Game?
One of the biggest factors that you need to consider is the amount of time it takes to make a game. You could almost tie a lot of the other reasons to this because, let’s say you are paying your developers a salary, and the game takes three years to develop, you have basically paid each developer three years worth of salary to work on one game.
There are other things to consider when it comes to the time that it takes to make a video game. Things like the running costs of the company. So if a company is working on two games at the same time, and it takes them three or four years to publish both those games from start to finish, the company needs to make back its running costs for those three or four years.
That is before they even make a profit or, at the very least, break even. They also need to ensure that they make enough money to run the business for the next few years while working on other games.
They need to add DLC to games to update content on that game throughout the years to come, and this often requires having an individual team to do so. That individual team needs to be paid as well.
How Many People Does It Take To Make A Video Game?
There is no specific answer to this question. Every company is different, and every game is also different. One will always have different requirements from the other. We can use statistics from games that are being made, and we will get into that now.
A video game that is being made for the Xbox Series X called Bright Memory is developed by one person, yes, one person. That is, in my opinion, incredible to think about because it is a triple-A first-person shooter. You have a game called The Last Of Us 2, which, when you tally up the total collaboration, was made by over 2000 people.
Some games also just require a team of a few hundred people, but that is still a lot of money that goes into paying salaries and making sure that the workforce is happy.
The Company’s Running Costs
If you have a team of 350 involved in making a video game and 200 of them are in design and development, think of the cost involved. We will not be looking at salaries as we have already discussed this.
Every designer and developer needs a powerful computer that needs to always be up to date with the latest technology and hardware. This can cost thousands of dollars for each developer every year.
The company needs to pay the electric bill, which can cost thousands of dollars each month due to all the electronics in a building.
Then you need to think of the marketing team. Before any advertising or even salaries, the marketing team requires a financial backing to do what they do. They are often traveling to meetings, either locally or internationally.
This can cost a lot of money as ad space is very expensive, depending on your advertising platform. You also need to pay event promoters and campaign actors.
All of this can cost the company a significant amount of money.
With digital media becoming more relevant than physical media, this point is starting not to be as expensive as it used to be. Still, distribution costs a lot of money, especially when you understand what goes into it.
First, you need to find a company that does all the packaging, creates the physical disks, and sends it out to the distribution center. From there, you have to add more transportation costs as It gets shipped to suppliers all across the world. Not only do they pay for those transportation costs, but they also have to pay import fees and duty fees at customs for every country.
Then the supplier needs to sell it to the retailer, and from there, the retailer will sell it at the recommended price, believe it or not, the people you actually buy the games from and make the least amount of money in this entire endeavor.
There are places where important duty fees are a lot cheaper such as in the EU, where there is a free market and you don’t pay to ship things across borders within the EU or European Economic Area.
All of that being said, we will touch on the topic of game prices increasing for the Series X and PS5. I think that it is slightly contradictory that we are getting a price increase when most games are being sold digitally, which cuts the distribution costs.
This is something that might get overlooked by a lot of people because most people see a game as only being CGI or special effects. In truth, there are actually a lot of actors involved in video games.
Actors and voice-over artists need to get paid, and as with the film industry, many gaming companies pay their actors’ royalty fees. This means that for every game sold, the actor or voice over artist gets a small percentage paid to them every year for as long as the game exists and is being sold.
This can work out to quite a lot of money, especially when you take games like The Last Of Us, the Uncharted series, Detroit Become Human, Death Stranding, The Witcher 3, Halo, and the upcoming Cyberpunk game. All of these games have actors in them and voice-over artists. There are a lot more examples, but these are popular games.
In the gaming industry, we are actually starting to see many games using Hollywood celebrities as their actors. This is great because it just enhances the way our games are presented to us and makes the storylines a lot more intriguing and believable.
The best example of this would be in Cyberpunk 2077. The developers, CD Project Red, managed to get the beloved Keanu Reeves to act in the game. You also have Death Stranding that starred Norman Reedus, famous for playing Dale in The Walking Dead.
So, for single-player games, this is not really that relevant even though, in some cases, it is. Gaming maintenance applies more to multiplayer games or any “games as a service” type of game.
It costs money to create new content for existing games, such as new maps, new storylines, new weapons, and sometimes upgraded visuals. It also costs money to fix bugs, but that is a controversial subject as gamers believe that there should be no bugs in a game when released.
Many development companies will release the game and then hire a small team of developers to constantly work on fixing bugs and releasing new content for those games. This can cost the company a lot of money to do so. Those small teams of developers need to be paid and also, them being employed by the company only adds to the running costs that need to be recouped.
this actually leads us into our next section.
Why Do Developers Sell DLC?
DLC stands for “downloadable content,” Basically, it is content that gets released into a game after the full or base game has been released. There is a reason why developers do this, and contrary to popular rage bait belief, it is not because companies are “greedy” most of the time.
There is only so much that we can do in games, and developers want to keep us happy within the game. Let’s take one of my favorite games of all time, Battlefield 4, and let’s discuss some of the DLC and why they released it.
Battlefield 4, in my experience or opinion, is one of the greatest first-person shooter games ever made. It was groundbreaking for its time, and it had almost perfected technology that Dice had created before, such as destructible environments and the incredible shooting mechanics.
As great as the game was, there was only so much that a player could play the same rotating maps. At first, they released their first set of DLC, which included a rotation of four new maps and a few more guns to the game.
They then started releasing a new set of maps every now and then. Here is a list of all the DLCs that were released for Battlefield 4.
- China Rising: As the name suggests, this was a map pack that focused on Asian themed areas. It was released on December 17, 2013, for all platforms.
- Second Assault: This is the most popular Battlefield 4 DLC. It brought back remastered versions of popular maps from previous Battlefield games, including the famous “Operation Metro” map. It was released on March 4, 2014.
- Naval Strike: This was a set of maps that focused on sea and ship battles. It was released on April 8, 2014.
- Dragon’s Teeth: This was a map pack that brought us back to war-torn cities in China. It was released on December 2, 2014.
There was a lot more content added to the game than that. Such as the community maps, air assault, and night mode, which saw players fighting in the dark and relying on sound rather than sight.
Dice had done this in a way that kept the players interested in the game at all times. I remember, whenever I heard that a new DLC was being released, I would get so excited because I knew that the community within Battlefield 4 was going to all come back and play the game, and it would fill up the servers.
One of my favorite Battlefield 4 maps was actually part of the community operations DLC. What this was, is a map built by the most hardcore of Battlefield 4 fans. I wish that companies would do this more often because that nap was built by gamers who knew what a Battlefield 4 gamer would want in the game.
With all its DLC and game modes, I have been playing Battlefield 4 since its release in 2013 until now, in 2020. I think that I will still be playing it for the next few years.
How Do Free To Play Games Make Money?
Free to play games are becoming so popular that so many companies are starting to do it. Some companies are doing it right. Let’s take a look at some free to play games and also how they actually make money.
Fortnite Battle Royale is a free-to-play game that was actually just the Fortnite Save The World game’s spinoff project. The Battle Royale was free to play, and they sold cosmetics such as character skins, character banners, and emotes.
There was no pay-to-win mechanic in the game. You could have only the default skins and still be better than anyone who had the best player skins and player dances. The cosmetics had no bearing on your skill.
Epic Games, the developers of Fortnite, ended up making billions of dollars from this free-to-play game, but as I said, they did it right. This actually feeds off of a previous section where we spoke about DLC.
You see, Epic Games constantly added things into the game. They even hosted live events within the map where all the servers would do the same thing, such as when the cube moved. If you logged in and were in a match at a certain time of the day every day for a few weeks, the giant cube would move, and it would alter the game and how the map played.
This got players involved in the game, even if they had completed the season’s battle pass, and you had completed all the challenges. If you had gone over to another game, the minute you heard that something was happening in Fortnite or the season was changing; you would jump straight back in and get involved.
Epic Games was considered to be very consumer-friendly as they made cosmetics very accessible to players. In fact, if you had been playing the game for a while, you could end up buying the battle pass for free just by playing the game and getting the free v-bucks that were available every season. Then, the battle pass gave you more v-bucks than it cost to buy it. Eventually, just by playing the game, players could buy more premium skins after every second season. They were still able to afford the new battle pass.
Will Games Become More Expensive
We did briefly touch on this above but let’s get into this topic. There is a lot of controversy because developers have just announced that games will increase from $60 to $70 for their base games, and there is a very mixed reaction among gamers.
We need to look at it from a media perspective. Things like the cinema and digital media, including your TV service provider, whether it is cable or satellite, have all increased over the years. It has become more expensive to create these types of media. The thing is, game prices haven’t really increased even though they’ve become more expensive to make.
So I do believe that in some cases, a price increase for games is justified, mostly with single-player games, but in games such as FIFA, NBA, and almost all the sports games that have an ultimate team mode, I do not believe that an increase is warranted. This is because these companies make more than enough money selling loot boxes.
I think it is a bit of a shame and a slap in the face for developers who genuinely have valid reasons to increase their game price for some companies to take advantage of this. As I said above, I do not see any reason why companies that make billions of dollars every year off of selling packs or loot boxes would have to increase the price of the base game. Especially when they are selling “reskins” of the same game every year.
In gaming, a “reskin” means that a developer used assets and mechanics from their previous game, made some changes, and then launched the game as a “new game.”
What Is The Most Expensive Game Ever Made?
If you wondered why games are so expensive, this is probably the most relevant answer to that question, and the figures might actually shock you. So, let’s get straight into it. Here is a list of games, a little bit about them, and how much they cost to make.
- Destiny: It is said that the initial investment in this game was $500 million, but it is hard to get the actual data.
- GTA V: This game cost around $265 million to make. It is also one of the most popular games ever made. In 2020, 7 years after its release, the game still makes millions of dollars every day.
- COD Modern Warfare 2: This game cost almost $250 million to make. Most of that money was spent on marketing.
As you can see, games are not cheap to make, and if you have played some of those games, you can understand why they took so long to create and why it takes so many people to work on it.
One of my favorite games on that list is Destiny. Destiny has provided me with years of value from the game, and I feel like they released content regularly enough to keep players involved. With their mode called “The Crucible,” where it is player versus player, once you have done everything you can do in the story mode and don’t feel like doing a raid, you can just jump into multiplayer.
Why Are Games More Expensive Than Movies?
This question is quite hard to answer, and it might require a little bit of guesswork mixed with some experience. So, allow me to try and answer this question as best I can.
Games offer a lot more value than movies do or even series. This is true If you consider that a movie is normally only 1 and 1/2 hours long, and a game provides you with around 40 hours if it’s single-player. For multiplayer games, they offer hundreds of hours of value.
Games are also more expensive to make. If you look at games that we discussed above, like Destiny that cost 500 million dollars to make, you start to understand why games are more expensive than movies.
Games also need to be hosted on servers, which costs a lot of money to set up. There is also the cost of running this. Again it is mostly true for some multiplayer games. Almost every single multiplayer game needs to have servers that are accessible to the payers.
Like I said at the start, it is unfortunate that gaming costs as much as it does. At the end of the day, it means that some people can’t get into gaming or, at the least, they can only buy 1 or 2 games a year.
This is why I love the “free to play” model as long as companies do not include any pay-to-win mechanics. Gamepass is another service that is making games more accessible. I want everyone to game because it is, in my opinion, one of the best hobbies available.