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Old 08-16-2011, 11:50 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

One of the most disturbing trends in the video game industry is the ballooning budgets of games. We live in a time when the big AAA titles have budgets that match and sometimes surpass summer blockbuster films. To put this in perspective, take a look at the top ten most expensive games ever made (as of early 2010).
Keep in mind that this list does not include marketing or distributing costs, which add exponentially to the cost of the game. For example, Halo 3 may have cost $55 million to develop, but Microsoft spent about $200 million on the marketing budget, bringing the total cost closer to $300 million. Furthermore, this doesn't include game budgets that haven't been disclosed to the public. Heck, Final Fantasy XIII is said to have cost 50% more than its predecessor, but isn't on this list because those number aren't official.

( Click to show/hide )


Yeah, I don't know what they did with that $60 million either

Compare this to the $200,000 budget for Doom back in 1993, which was considered abnormally high for the time. Some people would point to inflation as the main culprit behind rising costs, but the percentage of inflation from 1993 to today is only 54.43 percent. That means that Doom's 200K budget would only increase to $308,860.00 today. Can you even imagine a game being made for that kind of money today?



200K just doesn't buy what it used to...

The truth is that technology has brought us to the place we are today. Doom was a simplistic game and could easily be recreated today for far less than its original budget. But we demand far more from our games today than the experience that the original Doom offers. These far more complex experiences require larger teams, more computers, larger work space and more money devoted to preproduction costs.

Take a close look at the list again. What do all of these games have in common? They are all either original titles or are first entries to a series on a new platform. New game engines, character models and art designed had to be developed for these titles – something that sequels on the same platform wouldn't have to worry about – which adds to the bottom line. That's why Halo 3 is on this list but Halo Reach isn't. Reach used the same engine that its predecessor did and thus cost far less to develop. This is one of the many reasons that developers and publishers enjoy pushing out sequels – they cost far less to produce than a brand new AAA title.



Not as expensive as Halo 3

Every new generation of consoles and computers brings new complexities to the table. There is so much more that can be accomplished, but these accomplishments all equate to dollars and cents when it comes to development. Developing for the PS2 cost more than it did on the PSOne and the PS3 cost more still. Given this logic, it only stands to reason that games will only continue to become more and more expensive as technology moves forward. Of course, this is a model that cannot sustain itself over time. Eventually the AAA model of game development will collapse in upon itself which is bad for both developers and consumers alike.

The question then turns to how costs can be cut without sacrificing game longevity or quality. Here are three solutions that I would offer towards that goal. Feel free to make your own in the comments section.

Making better tools

In a lot of ways, this is happening already with developers using already developed tool sets such as the Unreal Engine. A lot of times a studio makes the decision to unnecessarily develop a brand new game engine for their game. They would rather work with in house technology than pay a third party licensing fees for use of a tried and true engine.

( Click to show/hide )


Why try and reinvent the wheel?

While in theory this could save money, it often times doesn't. Development of an engine is an expensive task that requires planning, programming, debugging and optimization. And in the end they often times end up with an inferior product in comparison. Batman: Arkham Asylum would likely not have turned out as well if the folks at Rocksteady Studios decided to develop their own engine than using Epic's Unreal Engine – an engine that they were quite familiar with. The results speak for themselves and the cost was ultimately reduced.

Cutting frivolous costs

John Goodman's in Rage. Yup. Now, I love John Goodman, don't get me wrong, but I wonder how much he was paid to put his voice to a character in Id's upcoming post apocalyptic adventure. I hope it wasn't much because adding the expense of Hollywood voice talent to a video game is a completely unnecessary cost.



While it is important to have solid voice acting in game, the talent should come relatively cheap. Famous actors cost money and their voices don't do anything to enhance the gaming experience or sell the game. If anything it detracts from the experience. When Patrick Stuart's soothing voice ushers forth from my speakers during Castlevania: Lords of Shadow I can't help but think of it as Patrick Stuart, even though it's not supposed to be him. Recognizable voices are bad for games because it's hard to separate the actor from the character. So paying extra for this voice talent is akin to burning money.

Speaking of Hollywood, there is also no need to bring in professional screen writers for writing video games. Not only does this drive costs up (as opposed to hiring less famous writers) but it also detracts from the quality. Writing a script for a video game is not the same as writing a movie. It's about time the industry realized this.

Less photo realism

Photo realistic games are expensive. Period. The level of detail that is necessary to achieve this affect is insane and the associated costs are likewise just as crazy. Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't be striving as an industry to create games with better graphics. What I'm saying is that we can achieve aesthetically wonderful game experiences through intelligent use of graphics. Games like Catherine and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet are graphically impressive games that don't require the processing power and resulting programming team behind it of a game like Crysis 2.

( Click to show/hide )


Just try and tell me this doesn't look great

To reiterate, I'm not saying that we need to get rid of photorealistic games, but we need to move away from the current notion in the industry that games need to have such a high level of graphical fidelity to be successful.

What do you guys think? Are ballooning budgets a cause for concern? Let your thoughts be known by sounding off in the comments below!

Happy Gaming.



Retronauts: 1UP's Classic Gaming Blog : Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

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  Good article. I agree.
  
  Nice find.

Last edited by Kong; 08-16-2011 at 01:48 PM..
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Old 08-16-2011, 01:04 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

You know what has cause for concern? GT5 cost $80 million too make and it was released UNFINISHED with less than half of what they promised. At least they patched in some of the things they left out.

Good thing I won it and didn't spend money on it or I'd be pissed.
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Old 08-16-2011, 02:09 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

APB cost a lot because it's a GTA style MMO. That fact should've been mentioned when comparing it to other games like Halo3 which are not. Btw it did terrible, switched management midstream and is now free to play. Not a great sign.

Too Human is widely considered to be crap. Despite that they're still making a sequel and probably spending even more money making it.

FFXII and XIII are bloated and overblown. They focus almost exclusively on visuals(bet that's where all the money went) and they sacrifice exploration and customization. The new game is gonna be more of the same but this time they promised to make it not linear as hell. The budget will probably double to compensate.

GT5 and GTA4 are both lackluster sequels. Not saying they didn't sell well but they don't enjoy the same respect previous versions receive.

LA Noire is very hit or miss with fans. The company folded but that appears unrelated to the game itself.

That all looks like a lot of wasted money to me.



They spelled Patrick Stewart wrong, awesome proofreading.

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Old 08-17-2011, 04:41 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

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Originally Posted by Dudebro View Post
FFXII and XIII are bloated and overblown. They focus almost exclusively on visuals(bet that's where all the money went) and they sacrifice exploration and customization. The new game is gonna be more of the same but this time they promised to make it not linear as hell. The budget will probably double to compensate.
I feel like you haven't played FFXII.
There was more customization possible in that game than any other in the series, and exploration wasn't lacking, save for the fact that some story-critical locations were locked until it became time for you to visit those areas.
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Old 08-17-2011, 04:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

I was mainly talking about FFXIII when I said the linear/lack of customization. I know 12 was more like a single player version of FFXI with better graphics. In other words, sucked.
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Old 08-17-2011, 04:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

Did you play XII? It really didn't suck.
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Old 08-17-2011, 04:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

Nope didn't play it. Watched videos and read about it though. I admit that means my opinion is meh. But I am a FF fan(or I used to be) so I did plenty of research on that game because I was thinking of buying it. Sadly they don't market to me anymore, I don't like ultra fem dudes and ridiculous female characters in a highly stylized setting. It's like a really expensive anime.
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Old 08-17-2011, 04:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

It has the same setting as Final Fantasy Tactics, which I liked.
You can also set your party how you want, so you can just have all of the cool characters. Like Balthier and Basch. But yeah, Final Fantasy has been going in the wrong direction for me as well.
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Old 08-17-2011, 04:56 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

They set it in Ivalice to try and draw in more people, I would bet money on that. If they wanted to do it real justice they would've made a new FFT or Vagrant Story.

Again haven't played it but, I've heard from friends that it's not a terrible game but the way it's designed you can pretty much auto battle without much problem. They have all this other flashy stuff going on but that just prolongs the fights. Does that sound accurate to you?

I'm at the point now where I won't even consider a FF game. They would have to wow me with something and totally shift the design of their characters. Since that's not gonna happen and I'm certainly not in their target demographic, I give up on them. Bethesda makes better RPGs anyways.
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Old 08-17-2011, 05:01 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

I feel like it did Ivalice justice, it could have been better but, it could have been much, much worse.
Setting it to auto-battle for you is an option, not a requirement. Sometimes, the fights can be prolonged by flashy things, summons aren't all that useful, and quickening-chains aren't exactly fun. Good thing you don't need to do any of those things.
I think it has a rather nice plot though, it is about war and political tensions, something FF hasn't dealt with much, aside from Tactics.

To me, XII was the last appealing FF game. They should move back to character design in the style of IV, V and VI, instead of taking the designs from VII and VIII and making them even less masculine.
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Old 08-17-2011, 10:31 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dudebro View Post
FFXII and XIII are bloated and overblown. They focus almost exclusively on visuals(bet that's where all the money went) and they sacrifice exploration and customization. The new game is gonna be more of the same but this time they promised to make it not linear as hell. The budget will probably double to compensate.
FF12 is linear? Man, I hope you skipped FF10.
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Old 08-18-2011, 12:21 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

I have no problem admitting I'm wrong about FF12 since I've never played it. But from what I've seen and read I don't think I'd like it. 13 seems worse and 14 is more of the same.

Yeah SH I skipped 10 and 10 x2 because it just looked awful.
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Old 08-18-2011, 07:55 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

Thank god for the Enix side of Square-Enix.

Back on topic: I imagine a good chunk of GT5's cost was licensing. Over 1,000 cars if I recall. That franchise is basically just car porn.
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Old 08-18-2011, 08:01 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

I agree that the current model is not sustainable.

The most profitable games right now are Farmville and Angry Birds. Something needs to change.
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Old 08-18-2011, 09:35 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

@Tenser- Another good chunk of money probably went to licensing music. Each version has pretty mainstream popular songs of that era.
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Old 08-19-2011, 12:15 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

Quote:
I have no problem admitting I'm wrong about FF12 since I've never played it. But from what I've seen and read I don't think I'd like it. 13 seems worse and 14 is more of the same.
FFXII has been described as FFXI offline, I thought you liked FFXI, or was that just because it was multiplayer.
Quote:
Yeah SH I skipped 10 and 10 x2 because it just looked awful.
You didn't miss all that much. Jecht and Auron were kind of cool but, otherwise nothing of value.
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Old 08-19-2011, 12:25 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

Yeah it was mainly the MMO part that I loved about FFXI. The combat itself was pretty boring up until end game(even then it wasn't that great). Plus I only started playing because of friends, after that I was kinda hooked.
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Old 08-19-2011, 12:25 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

Ah, then FFXII may not be the way for you to go.
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Old 08-19-2011, 12:46 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

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Originally Posted by Tenser View Post
I imagine a good chunk of GT5's cost was licensing. Over 1,000 cars if I recall. That franchise is basically just car porn.
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@Tenser- Another good chunk of money probably went to licensing music. Each version has pretty mainstream popular songs of that era.
Forza Motorsport is the same thing, I wonder why the latest game didn't show up on the list alongside Gran Turismo 5.
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Old 08-19-2011, 03:18 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

I dunno about licensing. They just reused a ton of cars from GT4, prologue, and the ones on PSP. Not sure they have to pony up the cash again for the licenses

It's pretty sad there are 1,000+ cars in GT5 and only ~200 are "premium" meaning they have a cockpit view. Everything else is standard so no in car view at all.

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Old 08-19-2011, 03:30 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

I could be wrong but I believe the company gets paid for every use of their product, including sequels and such.
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Old 08-19-2011, 06:47 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

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I dunno about licensing. They just reused a ton of cars from GT4, prologue, and the ones on PSP. Not sure they have to pony up the cash again for the licenses.
It depends on the license contract, but usually licenses are for one-time use only.
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Old 08-19-2011, 07:07 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

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I was mainly talking about FFXIII when I said the linear/lack of customization.
It should probably be taken to another topic, but, how does Final Fantasy XIII give you less customization than any previous Final Fantasy game except for II, VII, and X?

I will agree that most of the money most likely went to cosmetic features, though.
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Old 08-19-2011, 07:17 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Re: Holy Ballooning Budgets Batman!

I'm not an expert on the game I'm just going by what I've heard. Either way it might not be bad when it comes to customization but even SE admits they made a mistake with how linear it was. But I honestly have no motivation to discuss these bad FF games.
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