PlayStation games cost as much as movie blockbusters to make, exposed budgets show
Sony’s 2022 PS4 and PS5 blockbuster Horizon Forbidden West cost $212 million to develop over a five-year period, and its 2020 hit The Last Of Us Part II cost around $220 million to make.
What's happening: Those normally closely held figures came to light via a poorly redacted legal filing that’s part of the FTC’s lawsuit to block Microsoft’s bid for Activision.
Why it matters: Development budgets, which are typically industry secrets, are generally said to be skyrocketing for marquee games — and these numbers confirm the trend toward massive Hollywood-style spending.
The intrigue: The veil of secrecy applied to a declaration from Sony PlayStation chief Jim Ryan in the FTC case wasn’t sufficiently opaque.
- Some words and stats in the declaration were redacted by what appeared to be marker, leaving the underlying text somewhat readable.
Details: The Sony filing also included unsuccessful redactions of the Horizon game’s development timeframe (five years) and number of full-time staff (over 300).
- The Last of Us Part 2 had around 200 employees working on the game, according to the filing.
- Sony had previously touted huge sales for both games: 8.4 million for Horizon as of May, 10 million for Last of Us Part II as of last year.
Between the lines: Both games are sure to have been profitable, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter and Cowen’s Doug Creutz tell Axios.
- Pachter pegs Sony’s profit on each at close to $300 million.
- His math includes cuts for marketing and physical retailers.
- It also helps that these are Sony-made games for a Sony console, so the game maker here doesn’t need to give the standard 30% cut to the platform holder. Economics for blockbusters, in other words, favor first-party games.
The big picture: Blockbuster game budgets rival production costs for Hollywood films, which can run $200 million, both analysts say.
- Within gaming, the increasing costs have triggered some anxiety about the risks that surround such expensive projects.
- Former PlayStation studios chief Shawn Layden said in 2020 that rising development costs are not sustainable for the size of the market.
- Layden has called for, among other things, shorter big-budget games that cost less to make.
The intrigue: It’s not clear who to blame (or thank) for the poor redaction work that led to this rare moment of game industry transparency.
- While the declaration — and requests to the court to seal (read: redact) part of it — came from Sony, the file had been entered into the case by Microsoft.
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