Why are AAA games is expensive?

Original artwork by keita okada

Thousands of games are released each year to suit every taste and budget. Some are gaining popularity and sales, while others are not as successful as their developers and publishers would like. AAA games have their niche in the market, pushing mobile gaming to the sidelines.

While exploring the shelves of your local store’s gaming area, you notice the changing costs of video games, with items behind the glass ranging from $40 to $100. Since Sony released the initial £69.99 launch games for the PlayStation 5, making them $30 more costly than the identical game in America, this has been a long time coming.

The pricing of video games becomes even more puzzling when the same game is available in silver, gold, and platinum editions, leaving you confused and wondering…

Why are AAA games so high-priced?

The phrase “AAA Games” is used in the video game business to highlight high-budget. These high-profile games are often created and distributed by major, well-known publishers. Because of their extraordinary popularity, these games frequently rank as “blockbusters.”

The global video game business is worth about $300 billion. As income has increased, so has the expense of generating these blockbuster games. AAA video game titles such as Grand Theft Auto V, Call of Duty, and Final Fantasy easily surpasses the $100 million mark.

Read: How much does it cost to create a video game?

Shawn Layden, a former executive for PlayStation, discussed the need to rethink the spiraling costs of AAA development at Gamelab Live. Layden compared when the company developed games on budgets of around USD$1million to the price of most AAA games nowadays (between $80m and $150m).

For Layden, who has been on hiatus since leaving Sony, this is the fundamental issue that the AAA industry must address as the next console generation approaches. When Epic Games decided to employ the new PlayStation hardware to show off the capabilities of Unreal Engine 5, Layden was sure about one thing.

Shawn Leyden

“AAA development won’t be less expensive than the current generation of game development,” he said. “4K, HDR art, and creating worlds don’t come cheap.”

Shawn Layden – former executive for PlayStation

The increase in production costs in AAA video games is due mainly to the disparity (distance) between quality and the tools used to generate that quality and the gap in revenue rates across roles and responsibilities.

Read: How Video Games are Created

You are correct in your belief that “video games are just software,” and software is a product. A market exists for a product that has wants and requirements. This chain indicates that a video game contains needs and requests.

For example, in the Battlefield series, increasing the number of players from 64 to 128 was a “necessity” due to the map layout scale increased. The ability to swim in later Assassin Creed games (after your character drowned in the first game) was a “request” from the market. I could go on all day describing the notion of “evolution” in the video game industry. Still, I’ll keep it brief: The market is constantly looking for something “new” and “better,” and publishers aren’t any different because it’s profitable.

Does the software make it expensive too?

Software, like writing and digital art, costs nothing but time to develop (no physical materials used). Sure, some equipment and even licensing for premium tools are required, but the actual expense is time.

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You pay hundreds of highly qualified professionals to work with you for several years. A great coder may earn up to $100,000. That does not include management. Then there’s art, sound, actors, writers, money people, product management – the art team may be enormous.

A novel is nothing more than words. A game is nothing more than code and digital data. Technically, so is the entire universe if we talk hypothetically. A game may reflect all of the complexities of any profession.

Years have passed, and employees get promoted to new roles as they get to assign more and more people around. New roles imply new salaries and new bonuses. By the end of the early 2000s, the average salary for a production director was between $100,000 and $200,000. The lowest-paid member of the team was around $35,000. The few well-known directors in companies with more than eight years of expertise earn an average compensation of $500k to $800k.

When you hear X costs $120 million to produce, that amount generally includes the initial PR spend. Every AAA game made by a significant publisher currently devotes at least 40% of its budget to public relations.

For example, avoid Google Ads from the start if you do not intend to pay at least $2 million in Google advertisements for a video game release. And you pay about $0.30 every click. That is the truth.

Do you want a game trailer? You must pay for that trailer, frequently prepared under contract by a third-party company. Do you want to be a participant in major gaming events like E3? That was also quite pricey. A tiny two-chair + one-table lot at E3 costs $50,000. If you want that enormous screen, even with a theater, it will cost you between $500K and $8M, depending on whether you share it.

All of this combines up into big money grinding machine that requires continual fuelling (money). It returns either more or less money, but if you stop fuelling it, it’s always at a loss, and the companies keep going at it to avoid a loss, and it keeps growing and growing.

So we’ve explained why AAA games cost so much from various POVs. Our team works closely with the world’s AAA studios. It is ready to fulfill your needs due to our extensive AAA art outsourcing service.

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