AAA games are big-budget games that have a huge scope and a million-dollar budget. These games have realistic graphics, complicated game mechanics, and expansive game worlds to provide an immersive gaming experience to the players.
When you take AAA games, they mostly fall under genres such as action-adventure, real-time strategy, fighting games, shooting games, and narrative games. It takes nearly 2 to 5 years to develop a AAA game. Some games can even exceed more than that.
Cyberpunk 2077 is one the most expensive AAA game ever made which spent a whopping $313 million in game development.
The cost to make a AAA video game can be anywhere from $50 million to $300 million dollars. It depends on various factors from production to post-production stages of game development.
Here are the factors that influence AAA game development costs.
AAA games have impressive high-quality graphics. Most AAA games use 3D graphics. There are some very successful game franchises that used 2D graphics such as Super Mario, and Sonic. But nowadays, 3D graphics are highly preferred over 2D due to their high-picture quality.
The game developers use various 3D modeling and rendering techniques like ray tracing, rasterization, photogrammetry, etc., to create immersive game worlds.
In order to perform advanced 3D modeling and rendering they need suitable hardware and infrastructure. The minimum cost to develop and deploy hardware and infrastructure is roughly around $20,000 and it can exceed more than $5,00,000 based on the game.
Furthermore, most AAA Games have an expansive open world which otherwise means they have huge content requirements. They will have many characters, NPCs, game assets, and a wide game world.
Also, the characters should be able to perform various activities like shooting, jumping, crouching, getting hit, running, attacking, etc. simultaneously making sure they are in accordance with the physics.
In order to create so much content you will need more advanced GPU, processors, and storage. Apart from that, game developers use multiple GPUs to create high-resolution 3D models.
Voice artists are hired to create unique and personalized voices for game characters. $451 (per hour, per voice) is the standard minimum rate for a video game voice actor.
Famous actors like Kristen Bell, Mathew Perry, and Keanu Reeves have given voices to some of the very famous video game characters. Hiring famous voice actors and celebrities will cost much more than the standard rate.
Despite character voices, there are so many sound effects such as weapons, vehicle sounds, wind, and firing. Additionally, there is background music and theme music for the game.
The game developers take to the studio to record unique soundtracks for their games. This is a time-consuming and cost-effective process.
And if they are using the music of other artists, they need to get proper authorization and sort out the licensing issues.
Epic Games used its own unreal engine to build their popular game Fortnite. It is coded with C++ language and comes with extraordinary game development features.
Likewise, some games develop their own game engines. This will add to a huge development cost for the game developers. But they are very beneficial and cost-effective for them in the long run.
Whereas some game developers use game engines like Unity, and Unreal to build their games. These game engines are free to use, but if you are earning revenue in millions then you are required to pay a certain amount as service charge for using this game development platform.
Apart from that, there are many game development tools like Maya, 3DS Max, Perforce Helix Core, and Houdini which come with a significant cost.
Besides that, some of the tools used to build mobile games are different from PCs and consoles. So, the mobile game development cost can vary considerably from the development cost of PC and console games.
Typically AAA games take nearly 2 to 5 years to be made. And most AAA games have more than 100 game developers including game artists, designers, modelers, animators, concept artists, programmers, testers, and project managers.
The game Fortnite had 700 game developers to make the game which took 7 years to complete. For AAA games, when we calculate the employee wage alone, it will be around millions.
Let us take GTA V as an example. The game GTA V employed 1000+ employees and it took one year to develop the game. It is estimated that the average wage of an employee when we calculate will be $10,000 per month, which equals nearly 5 to 10 million per month.
The cost also varies depending on the location of the game studio. If it is a very well-developed city, with the high inflation the cost goes high.
Apart from wages, the company also covers various employee benefits like health insurance, and many other perks.
So far we have seen the factors that influence the game production cost. The post-production costs account for more than half of the game development cost.
Testing is one of the very important processes in game development. When you take AAA games, a large number of tests are done to ensure the game runs smoothly.
As these games have many game assets and an open-game world, there is a risk of unforeseen bugs and technical glitches.
The game goes through alpha and beta testing to test the performance and functionality of the game. Consider the game is cleared in both alpha and beta stages. Only then it will move towards the game launch.
The localization and internationalization are very important processes in game development. It includes translation, making changes to go with the local trend and culture, and other technical changes.
This process should be handled by very experienced professionals, if not it might spoil a good gameplay experience for the players. It consumes a huge chunk of money from your game budget.
Last minute brushing up costs a significant amount because all the arrangements and changes such as ad campaigns, distribution platforms, release date, etc., that need to be done should be done before the game launch.
The game developers would be actively analyzing user data and collecting feedback from the beta testers and the audience. If there are any concerns, they will need to address them quickly.
Let us consider a last minute scenario where the game release was set on the wrong date without properly analyzing the data. It might create a massive impact on their sales.
Alexander Sliwinski, the COO of Bithell Games asks game developers to set aside 20 to 30 percent of their game development budget to tackle unforeseen expenses. Because time and again, you cannot avoid these expenses.
Licensing and Insurance are one of the important factors that influence the game development cost. Legal fees, game licensing fees, IP licensing, and compliance with laws and regulations are some of the cost factors.
Another cost factor includes the game insurance. There are many types of insurance such as general liability insurance, cyber security insurance, employee insurance, errors and omissions, public and product liability, and many more.
Game developers need to ensure that the legal and compliance fees and game insurance are sorted out before the game release to avoid any legal charges in the future course.
You might not actually believe it, but many AAA game development studios spend half of the video game development cost in marketing. Experts point out that on average 30% of the total game development cost is spent on marketing the game.
As much as it is important to make successful games, it is also important to bring them to the right audience.
In order to take the game to the targeted audience, they follow multiple marketing strategies such as in-game marketing, influencer marketing, advertising, and social media marketing.
Additionally, they also conduct marketing campaigns from time to time. There are many successful campaigns that helped to improve player engagement and overall gaming experience in video games.
To name a few of them, we have mentioned Fortnite’s “Travis Scott Virtual Music Event”, and Assassins Creed’s “My Life as an NPC”. They have contributed to the increased user engagement with the game due to their clever strategy.
We have provided a detailed breakdown of AAA game development costs spent by game studios. These costs can vary for a mobile game development company and a PC game development company.
Content Creation Cost: $1 million — $10 million+
Software Development Cost: $5 million — $50 million+
(includes game engines, tools, testing, UI/UX, etc.,)
Hardware and Infrastructure Development Cost: $500,000 — $2 million+
Staffing Cost: $ 5 million — $20 million+ (per year)
Server and Hosting Cost: $50,000 — $500,000+ (per month)
Legal and Compliance Cost: $100,000 — $500,000+
Game Insurance Cost: $50,000 — $300,000+
To sum up, the AAA game development costs can range between $50 million to $300 million. It can even extend up to 1 billion dollars. There are various factors such as the graphics, audio and sound effects, game development tools, staffing, post-production costs, and marketing that influence the game development costs.
The game development cost also depends on the game development company you want to hire. If you do not have a budget constraint, you can hire an established game development company or otherwise you can hire a startup which when compared will cost much less than big studios.
Juego Studios is a game development company that has many years of experience in developing AAA games in various genres such as metaverse games, AR/VR games, blockchain games, and many more. We have a talented team of game developers who have hands-on experience in creating games for multiple platforms.
Yes. AAA games are made for mobile platforms too. In recent years, many PC and console devices have optimized their games to be released on mobile devices.
There are three main stages in AAA game development. Those are the pre-production/ conceptualization stage, production stage, and post-production stage.
Star Citizen is the most expensive game to date. It spent $415 million so far in game development.