Off the top of our heads, the most expensive games to create, publish and market so far is the Grand Theft Auto series. The fifth game utilised between US$200 million to US$250 million overall in development and marketing costs. Now there’s a new king in that high-cost arena: the upcoming sci-fi first-person shooter Destiny, the next game from Halo series developer Bungie that will be out in Asia this September 9.
Worldwide game publisher Activision Blizzard estimated on Reuters that its launch and post-launch costs for PlayStation and Xbox consoles will reach US$500 million, which is a really huge amount for a single video game release. The figure was revealed by Activision CEO Bobby Kotick. “If you’re making a US$500 million bet, you can’t take that chance with someone else’s IP. The stakes for us are getting bigger.” It plans to make the new shooter a billion dollar franchise like its Call of Duty and Skylanders series.
The cost was confirmed to include ‘marketing, packaging, infrastructure support, royalties and other costs’ in addition to development costs. Activision stated that Bungie’s plan was designed to unfold over a 10-year period. Analysts stated that Destiny needs to sell 16 million units worldwide to break even, with some of them predicting that the numbers will be hard to reach given that Destiny is a new franchise.
You can even argue that Destiny is even more expensive than most Hollywood films created at this point in time. Warner Bros. film The Dark Knight Rises cost US$237 million to make and market, while Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End cost US$300 million.
Given Bungie’s track record with games, it may have a hit on its hands and it’s nice that Activision is fully confident with the IP. Then again, games like Clash of Clans cost a fraction of Destiny’s amount to make and earns even more than usual throughout the years. We do hope that Destiny’s total cost is an outlier and that no other company attempts to pour that amount of money on any game.
On a related note, Activision Blizzard’s first quarter 2014 revenues dropped from US$4.9 billion last year to US$4.6 billion.