Recently, there have been several articles and discussions in the press regarding the rising cost of video game development as platforms become more advanced. Prominent names in the industry have also spoken out about this issue.
A recent report from Bloomberg included comments from ex-Sony executive Shawn Layden in which he said that the cost of game development doubles with every new platform. He added that the budget for most big PS4 triple-A titles was $100 million. He predicts that the cost of PS5 exclusives will be $200 million, and from there it’s only going to grow and cause a higher price for the consumer as a result.
It seems that most agree that the cost of games is going up with each generation, but it would be easier to track if you could split the development costs between the PS4 and PS5 versions of Horizon Forbidden West for example. Since developers are under more pressure to produce multiple versions of a game, the cost is going up as a result.
However, there’s a counterpoint to this in that most of the tools developers use are now more advanced than ever. Unreal Engine 5 is capable of creating beautiful games, and the actual development time is dramatically reduced because it’s so capable.
The other aspect is that the triple A games coming out for consoles today are far more advanced than those seen in previous generations. No one is complaining about the lack of quality or ingenuity in triple A games. In fact, most are applauded for how inventive they are, retaining a fan base far longer than would traditionally have been seen.
The thing that will bring down the cost of game development, particularly for PS5, is the point when games are too advanced to have a PS4 version. Being required to produce a last-gen version of a game is what costs more time and money. Developers have to create a downgraded version of a game that looks as good as possible, meaning various methods to optimize the contents must be found.
We’ve seen before how the public reacts to poor optimization in last-gen versions of games with Cyberpunk 2077. Until the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S shortage has leveled out, then there will be a need for last-gen versions, and development costs will continue to be high.