As a child, there are numerous options available to you for the sake of entertainment. But, only a few of them truly stand out. Some are even entertaining enough to persist into adulthood. Some end up being valuable enough to attract collectors even when the initial intention was something else. However, every so often, the maker of such products decide that they want to create something great. To that end, they spend a large amount to bring their product to market. Some things like video games can have creation budgets in the hundreds of millions. Hence why we bring this list of the most expensive video games to you to showcase exactly how much resources are poured in the creation.
So, without further ado, let’s begin our journey through this interesting list of the most expensive video games to grace the market!
5. Halo 2
At the fifth position in our list of the most expensive video games comes the 2004 sensation Halo 2. This game single-handedly popularized multiplayer online gaming for the console crowd. Not only that, but this game was also quite pivotal in the establishment of X-Box Live.
Halo 2 is a first-person shooter game. A first-person shooter for those of you uninitiated refers to a style of game-play where you control the in-game character from a first-person perspective. Bungie was the developer of this game. The game was a sequel for the 2001’s highly successful Halo: Combat Evolved. It launched on November 9, 2004. However, the Windows fans of the fifth most expensive video game didn’t get to enjoy it until May 31, 2007.
The windows version wasn’t made only by Bungie though. A team known as Hired Gun from Microsoft Game Studios worked alongside them to ensure everything went smoothly. Despite spending a ton to make it one of the most expensive video games. They also brought a few nice updates as a reward for the fans’ patience in the PC port. A new game engine was introduced, and new weapons and vehicles were added. They even added the Havok physics engine and released new multiplayer maps.
This game was very highly anticipated due to the success of Combat Evolved when it hit the shelves. As stated by Bungie, the inspiration for this came from the various plot points and game-play elements that were left unused in the first game. The most kicker feature though was the ability to engage in multiplayer over the internet. Back then, X Box live was a twinkle in Microsoft’s eye. The fifth most expensive video game changed all that.
Not everything went smooth for the fifth most expensive video game though. While they had enough money to pump into this project, they sadly didn’t have enough time. That meant that there were a lot of cutbacks. Both the size and the scope of the game suffered as a result. The worst offender though was the campaign mode.
The campaign mode dared to commit the taboo. The developers decided that the fifth most expensive game should be paired with a cliffhanger ending. Now, I don’t know about you, but like many people, I really detest hanging from a cliff. Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when publications left and right bashed the game for this sin. Even people working in the studio were not too happy with it.
Despite all that, the fifth most expensive video game went on to become the most popular game on Xbox Live. Well, at least until Gears Of War was released two years later. In 2006, the game had been played more than 500 million times and the players had invested more than 710 million hours playing it on Xbox Live. May of 2007 saw the number of unique players rise up to more than five million.
Needless to say, with numbers like that, the fifth most expensive video game is also the best-selling first-gen Xbox game. The game sold like hotcakes in the US with over 6 million copies being sold only there. The game even garnered critical acclaim for its strong multiplayer component.
But people just could not get enough of this amazing game. Which is why the fifth most expensive video game was remastered in High Definition. It was released as a part of the Halo: The Master Chief Collection. It was titled Halo 2 Anniversary and was launched on November 11, 2014. The Windows folks, as usual, will get this delivered to them sometime this year i.e. 5 years later.
As for the money that was poured in the fifth most expensive video game, 40 million USD was spent on the development side of things. Meanwhile, marketing was given 80 million USD to ensure that everyone knew Master Chief was returning.
The honor of being fourth in this list of most expensive video games goes to Destiny. Like Halo, this game too was developed by Bungie. Unlike Halo though, this one is an online-only multiplayer FPS. It was birthed out of an agreement between Activision and Bungie. Though thankfully, they were given the rights to intellectual property. Meanwhile, Activision acquired the publishing rights to the game.
After Halo, Bungie went straight to developing Destiny as their next flagship game for consoles. With Destiny, the developers experimented with the multiplayer environment by introducing some RPG elements as well. The players of the fourth most expensive video game can choose to either fight among themselves or the environment.
Bungie also released four expansion packs for the fourth most expensive video game. This made the content that was available to play quite abundant. The third expansion pack, in particular, was the most important out of them all. Named The Taken King, it brought a lot of much-needed changes to the core game-play and helped the game attract new players.
The initial estimates for the money being poured in the fourth most expensive video game hovered around half a billion dollars. Even Bobby Kotick went on record to say that. However, the actual contract published publicly by the LA Times revealed that the actual costing hovered somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 million. Though, even if Activision pumped in half a billion dollars, it wouldn’t be for the single release. Rather, that amount will be spent over the course of the decade that their partnership was supposed to last.
I say supposed because as of 2019 Activision and Bungie are no longer together. Apparently, the fourth most expensive video game just didn’t have the desired sales figure to please the Activision overlords. Whereas Bungie was dissatisfied with the direction Activision was planning to take. Hence, the couple broke up to pursue their very different goals. Fin.
3. Star Wars: The Old Republic
The third candidate in this list of the most expensive video games is Star Wars: The Old Republic. The game was developed by Bioware for Microsoft Windows. It was released in December of 2011 in North America and some parts of Europe. However, early access to the game was provided to the beta testers err… I mean pre-orderers.
The story of the third most expensive video game picks up after the faux peace between the Siths and the Galactic Republic. While the player can only choose one side at the start, they can still have skewed morality between the light/dark spectrum is they so desire. The game also offers a lot of customization so that you can be the hero that you have always wished to be. Even the dialogue in this series has much better voice acting. They didn’t even need the wizard that came from the moon to do that!
Unlike our other candidates for the most expensive video games, this game actually spent a good portion of its budget on development. While the exact breakdown is unknown, the total budget is reportedly more than 200 million. The game was also very popular. It managed to acquire a player base of more than a million within 3 days of its launch. Though, it lost a fair bit of that in the subsequent months. This forced the developers to adopt a freemium approach.
Since its release, the developers have continued to update the game to make it more enjoyable. The third most expensive video game not only made bank from its subscriptions. No sir, it has also managed to earn $139 million in additional revenues since release!
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The second position on our most expensive video games list goes to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. This is another game that had separate developers and publishers. It was published by Activision but developed by Infinity Ward. 10 November 2009 was chosen as the release date for this game. It graced Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 all at the same time. Even the Xbox one got officially supported in 2018.
The game is the sixth installment in the Call of Duty series and the direct sequel to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The game came with an expansive multiplayer mode and also included several new features and modes. The creation of the game began in 2008. The game utilizes the IW 4.0 engine. The campaign mode for the second most expensive video game drew inspiration from real-life conflicts. After its release, two DLCs were released alongside four new multiplayer maps to ensure that the players kept playing.
Apart from being one of the most expensive video games ever, the game is also widely regarded as one of the best first-person shooters of all time. All of that was achieved despite the development team receiving a mere 50 million USD from its 250 million USD budget. The remaining 200 million USD was promptly given to the marketing department.
1. GTA V
The definitive king of the most expensive video games to date is Grand Theft Auto Five. It was developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. The world witnessed its release on November 2014 for consoles and April 2015 for PC. It was a direct sequel to GTA 4 (duh). The game itself plays out in the fictional state of San Andreas.
With the new launch, Rockstar games decided to be innovative. In the past, the games were focused on the exploits of a single character but this time around, three characters were used to tell the game’s story. Along with that, there was also a significant push towards multiplayer, exactly like other most expensive video games.
The game was highly anticipated. So much so that it broke a ton of records to become the fastest-selling entertainment product in history. Yes, you read that right! Not just the fastest-selling video game but the fastest-selling entertainment product. That is one big pond with a lot of fish in it. Yet, on its first day, it had already earned $800 million and went on to earn $1 billion in the first 72 hours. Way more than the investment of $265 million that Rockstar Games made in the game. This is also the first game here to have a bigger development budget ($137 million) than its marketing team ($128 million).
As of now, the king of the most expensive video games has brought in more than $6 billion in revenue. Gotta say Rockstar hit the home-run with this one.
Bonus: Halo Infinite
Now, this game is not out yet. In fact, its development is in its infancy at the moment. That hasn’t stopped the folks at Microsoft from boasting about its half a billion dollar budget. That too is all intended for the development of the game itself and excludes marketing costs. At least that is what the rumor-mill states. However, only time will tell whether this game can join the ranks of the most expensive video games or not.