How Much Did Modern Warfare 2 Cost to Make?

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How Much Did Modern Warfare 2 Cost to Make?

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CoD: MW2 may have made staggering sums of money, but it wasn't cheap to make, either - not only did its development cost $40-50 million, but its marketing and launch budget was a whopping $200 million smackers.

In case you've been buried under a rock for the past month, you probably know that Cods Mew Too is a staggeringly massive game - not so much in terms of content as in terms of all the other numbers surrounding it. Activision has been triumphantly parading some of these numbers around like a peacock showing off his brightly-colored tail made entirely of money, but other numbers have been less celebrated - specifically, how much the game cost to make.

In the same LA Times piece that revealed that there would be a third studio announced to the Call of Duty franchise, it was revealed that the development budget for MewTwo was approximately $40 to $50 million dollars. That's not the most expensive game in the world - GTA IV cost double that, and WoW's yearly operational expenses are almost certainly many times that amount - but it's certainly not cheap, either.

The real kicker, though, is that beyond the ~$50m development, the game had a launch budget of $200m to spend on things "(i)ncluding marketing expenses and the cost of producing and distributing discs." Obviously, Activision was spending money to make money, and these high costs have been more than offset by astronomical sales of the game, but it's still a pretty staggering figure.

Honestly, it feels silly to point to MW2 as evidence for anything in the industry, since it's such a statistical aberration. But lately, it's becoming more and more clear that many gamers - and indeed, many gaming journalists - have no idea how much it costs to actually make a game, or that there are significant additional expenses such as marketing and shipping that aren't included in the development budget (as is evidenced by many of the comments to this article, actually).

It's hard to wrap one's head around these numbers. I can't even decide which is more flabbergasting, that MW2 cost four times as much to market and distribute as it did to make, or that it made twice that much money in just five days.

With any luck, hopefully we'll be running out of MewTwo news soon. It makes me kind of miss the Left 4 Dead 2 boycott, to be honest.

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I honestly am tired of hearing of MewTwo...it is a milestone, and it show's that games are in the realm of movie production in terms of cost and marketing.

Still, the dollar amounts are nothing to sneeze at.

never got behind the L4D2 Boycott. Never even understood y that happened anyways.

yes that is some crazy marketing expenditures. But hey it worked :P Good for them.

(still peeved about PC version tho ): )

Had they kept the dedicated servers and lots of MP player matches for the PC, they probably would have even more money, and recouped all their losses on launch day.

Still, kudos for them, their hard work and investments were worth it.

People were saying the same thing when GTA4 came out, and then Halo 3 before it. The amount of zeros just gets bigger.

I am really tired of hearing about MW2 now. It's only be out 8 days and already I'm sick of it.

Wow, imagine a game of that size bombing. No wonder big game companies are afraid of risk.

How did they manage to spend that much money on a glorified DLC?
Really, this amazes me.
What I found really amusing about this as well is what those 200M dollars got spent on. The only marketing I have seen so far here in Norway is that stupid commercial with Eminem in it. Yeah, that was money well spent.

ShadowKirby:
Wow, imagine a game of that size bombing. No wonder big game companies are afraid of risk.

Well, they could have, you know, NOT SPENT that much on it. Then the amount of cash being risked is less. But given MW2 was going to sell well regardless, it wasn't exactly a risk to begin with.

Teh_Doomage:
I honestly am tired of hearing of MewTwo...it is a milestone, and it show's that games are in the realm of movie production in terms of cost and marketing.

It's also approaching the same amount of time you get to spend enjoying a movie, if this poll is to be believed....

I've always said that quality beats quantity, but really- $50 million in development costs for this game? I would LOVE to see an actual breakdown of what was spent where. And TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS FOR MARKETING?! I must really be out of touch, because the first I ever heard of the game was on a news article right here on the Escapist, and I can count the number of times I've seen ads for the game (outside of the Internet) on one hand.

Well its saying nasty things about the hype-to-actual-game-merit ratio, but since Activision are ahead by a good 300 million dollars now, perhaps that's the way to go. Who wants great when you can get the dream of supernaturally lifechangeingly perfect...

Really?

They spent that much money to make a 5 hour game?

The advertising budget counts for commericials, trailers, in-store signage, billboards, etc. So while $200 million is a lot, they have a lot of ground to cover with it.

SantoUno:
recouped all their losses on launch day.

$310 Million > $250 Million.

OT: Not really all that surprising. With development costs on the rise these type of prices will eventually be the norm. I'd love to see how much cash was thrown at marketting for Halo 3 and ODST

P.S. It's funny to see all the troll worthy comments already hitting this thread. =p MewTwo hate is officially the new Halo hate.

CantFaketheFunk:
...lately, it's becoming more and more clear that many gamers - and indeed, many gaming journalists - have no idea how much it costs to actually make a game, or that there are significant additional expenses such as marketing and shipping that aren't included in the development budget (as is evidenced by many of the comments to this article, actually)

Only "lately"?

Information and statistics available for movies are readily available. But for videogames, we are all clueless. Why?

I've always been curious about this information, but Its all so scarce. Vgchartz is essentially making educated guesses as to units shipped...

1) Not a statistical aberration: you mentioned GTA IV yourself, and just look at the statements Gearbox made about dropping the chance to make a Blade Runner game.

2) Development costs need to be detailed and validated: I could code a Tetris clone in two weeks and state that my dev costs were 1 million dollars because I hired myself in my company for 500.000$ a week.

3) Who could ever need 200 millions for marketing?

Well the money went into making the game was well spent, the end product is masterful, with some of the best fps game play yet in my opinion. Now marketing, really, 200 million. All the news I heard about it was on news sites, sure I saw the launch trailer on tv, but honestly, does it cost that much to put that on every tv in the western world.

The whole argument of "it would have cost too much to make the PC version good" just went flying out the fucking window. On fire.

Nimbus:
The whole argument of "it would have cost too much to make the PC version good" just went flying out the fucking window. On fire.

Exactly, my friend. They spend 50 mil to make it, 200 mil to hype it... couldn't they just hire two hundred extra programmers to make dedicated servers in a week?

But seriously, if making games is that expensive, industry may well be in danger. Well, we still have indie developers.

Kollega:

Nimbus:
The whole argument of "it would have cost too much to make the PC version good" just went flying out the fucking window. On fire.

Exactly, my friend. They spend 50 mil to make it, 200 mil to hype it... couldn't they just hire two hundred extra programmers to make dedicated servers in a week?

But seriously, if making games is that expensive, industry may well be in danger. Well, we still have indie developers.

200 Programmers? A week? I hear a small group of hackers got it working a a couple of days.

It's a sad thing that they're willing to spend four times as much on marketing the game than on actually making the game. I'm sure they could've made a great campaign with just half that money (try hiring less celebrities for your ads, it's stupid anyway), and spent the other half on actually make the game last longer than 5 freaking hours, and give it decent multiplayer support.

I had already decided a while ago not to pay for this game so this news doesn't really affect me, but it still pisses me off.

This is utterly ridiculous.

Someone at activision needs to be fired for WASTING so much money on marketing a game which already had inherently has so much hype. I mean did anybody remember seeing any TV ads? Was it played during the super-bowl? I saw a 15 second add on TV once... but that was advertising the Xbox 360 bundle, I assumed Microsoft would pay for that one. Hell it had the Xbox logo at the end of the ad.

Most of what sold this game was for free, on the internet and by professional journalists. This game was popular by word of mouth.

$40 million (i'm taking the lower estimate) is not a lot for actually making such a big entertainment product, especially one that is going for so much realism it likely needed a lot of research and physical costs. I mean the voice talent alone mustn't have been cheap.

But disk distribution should not cost so much. If DVDs are being sold for £3 each - new - then distribution costs cannot be that severe, especially given the economies of scale. I think they are just lumping in the insignificant distribution with their overblown marketing budget so that it doesn't seem quite so bad.

You know something is DEEPLY wrong with a publisher if they spend an 5 times as much on marketing as development.

Hey Activison! How's this for a marketing scheme:

Take $180m of that $200m and just keep it in your fucking pocket, then maybe you won't be so desperate to monetise everything with crazy idea of subscriptions and unfair pricing.

Nimbus:
The whole argument of "it would have cost too much to make the PC version good" just went flying out the fucking window. On fire.

Comment of the week!

Nimbus:

200 Programmers? A week? I hear a small group of hackers got it working a a couple of days.

First, beta-testing. Second, you know what they say. There is no kill like overkill.

Treblaine:
This is utterly ridiculous.

Someone at activision needs to be fired for WASTING so much money on marketing a game which already had inherently has so much hype. I mean did anybody remember seeing any TV ads? Was it played during the super-bowl? I saw a 15 second add on TV once... but that was advertising the Xbox 360 bundle, I assumed Microsoft would pay for that one. Hell it had the Xbox logo at the end of the ad.

Most of what sold this game was for free, on the internet and by professional journalists. This game was popular by word of mouth.

$40 million (i'm taking the lower estimate) is not a lot for actually making such a big entertainment product, especially one that is going for so much realism it likely needed a lot of research and physical costs. I mean the voice talent alone mustn't have been cheap.

But disk distribution should not cost so much. If DVDs are being sold for £3 each - new - then distribution costs cannot be that severe, especially given the economies of scale. I think they are just lumping in the insignificant distribution with their overblown marketing budget so that it doesn't seem quite so bad.

You know something is DEEPLY wrong with a publisher if they spend an 5 times as much on marketing as development.

Hey Activison! How's this for a marketing scheme:

Take $180m of that $200m and just keep it in your fucking pocket, then maybe you won't be so desperate to monetise everything with crazy idea of subscriptions and unfair pricing.

You have to remember that there's a lot of stuff that goes into a "launch budget." Production, distribution, marketing - and not just in the States, or in the UK, but worldwide. For a followup to one of the biggest games of 2007 (or indeed in recent memory) Activision clearly wanted to take no chances here, and as we've seen, it paid off hugely.

To be honest, I don't think you know nearly as much about how much it costs to make a game - and market it - as you think you do (this judging from some of the other comments I've seen, not so much these here). Especially given that it's a followup to a very popular game, and the expectation that it will be an improvement.

For all we have core gamers crowing in other threads that "oh, graphics don't matter why do you spend so much money on them," if MW2 came out looking like the first CoD, do you really think it wouldn't have been eviscerated by press and gamers alike?

Now sometime ask yourself how much of that money they actually needed to make, promote, and distribute the game, and what some of the people involved were getting paid, and how ridiculous that was. :P

See, I'm not really sure that gamers and people in the industry are ignorant about how much it costs to make a game. I think they are ignorant as to how much the industry is spending tomake a game which is something else entirely when you get down to it.

It's sort of like how people compared the gaming industry to Hollywood, but then again consider how Hollywood is pretty much a poster child for excess in everything from production budgets, to the way people live. :P

There are also stories about what some of that money is used for. For example how so and so star demands a new trailer for every production which has to have all these things, and then they never use it. Chalk up like a million dollars loss to something like that, and then go hunting for other stories and conflicts between producers and movie makers and well it can paint some interesting pictures. There are entire books and stuff full of nothing but endless lists of Cr@p those budgets have been used for.

For example, lets look at Valve, which is one of my favorite companies despite not being a huge shooter fan (which is why I pick on them, it's a sign of jaded love). Due to the Left 4 Dead contreversy they decided to fly a random gamer-dude critic who started a boycott to their HQ and give him the grand tour, apparently deciding to blow him away with a helicopter ride in the process. I doubt that was cheap, but now consider where that money came from, and chances are it's being included in the price of production for Left4Dead 2.

I guess the big point is that I don't much care what Hollywood does since I'm still only paying $7 for a matinee ticket. But after the industry raised prices $10, and is demanding $60 a pop for admission to a product with a similar "budget" I've become a lot more critical of the industry, how it operates, and where all of these lavish budgets are likely to be going. Especially given plans by companies like Sony to include premium content in their online to try and gouge gamers for even more money... as if we weren't paying enough.

L4D2 boycott was a brief fanboy rant that passed as quickly as it came. L4D2 has done us (PC gamers) well. Everybody who has it loves it, and agrees it was money well spent. It's looking to be my next game, and I don't even like zombies NOR fps's.

Interesting when the cost of marketing is 4x the cost of production.

CantFaketheFunk:

Treblaine:
This is utterly ridiculous.

Someone at activision needs to be fired for WASTING so much money on marketing a game which already had inherently has so much hype. I mean did anybody remember seeing any TV ads? Was it played during the super-bowl? I saw a 15 second add on TV once... but that was advertising the Xbox 360 bundle, I assumed Microsoft would pay for that one. Hell it had the Xbox logo at the end of the ad.

Most of what sold this game was for free, on the internet and by professional journalists. This game was popular by word of mouth.

$40 million (i'm taking the lower estimate) is not a lot for actually making such a big entertainment product, especially one that is going for so much realism it likely needed a lot of research and physical costs. I mean the voice talent alone mustn't have been cheap.

But disk distribution should not cost so much. If DVDs are being sold for £3 each - new - then distribution costs cannot be that severe, especially given the economies of scale. I think they are just lumping in the insignificant distribution with their overblown marketing budget so that it doesn't seem quite so bad.

You know something is DEEPLY wrong with a publisher if they spend an 5 times as much on marketing as development.

Hey Activison! How's this for a marketing scheme:

Take $180m of that $200m and just keep it in your fucking pocket, then maybe you won't be so desperate to monetise everything with crazy idea of subscriptions and unfair pricing.

You have to remember that there's a lot of stuff that goes into a "launch budget." Production, distribution, marketing - and not just in the States, or in the UK, but worldwide. For a followup to one of the biggest games of 2007 (or indeed in recent memory) Activision clearly wanted to take no chances here, and as we've seen, it paid off hugely.

To be honest, I don't think you know nearly as much about how much it costs to make a game - and market it - as you think you do (this judging from some of the other comments I've seen, not so much these here). Especially given that it's a followup to a very popular game, and the expectation that it will be an improvement.

For all we have core gamers crowing in other threads that "oh, graphics don't matter why do you spend so much money on them," if MW2 came out looking like the first CoD, do you really think it wouldn't have been eviscerated by press and gamers alike?

I know but remember $200 million was the same as the budget for Transformers 2... one of the most expensive films in recent years.

And $200 million is still FIVE TIMES the development costs. If the actual game dev costs are high then how about spend more on the game and less on advertising which honestly I have felt virtually diddly squat all presence over here.

I mean... how... the... fffuuuu.... HOW do you spend THAT much money on marketing when it has had so little to show for it?!??? Most of the hype for this game has been generated by its prequels and has spread like crazy from there. I mean what do you remember about the MW2 ad campaign? It's not like Killzone 2 where it was advertised like the second coming of Christ, and by the way, Killzone 2 sold fairly poorly to spite having the best ad campaign I've seen for a video game

What has sold this game is the Buzz, the Hype, the Reputation! So much free advertising in internet rumour and stories circulating.

Have YOU any idea how much money Two Hundred Million Dollars is?

I would like to know an example of another game that has spent that much on marketing, or more appropriately, what game spend FIVE TIMES its development budget on convincing people to buy it.

And then after that complain that they need to monetise their games even more.

CantFaketheFunk:
With any luck, hopefully we'll be running out of MewTwo news soon. It makes me kind of miss the Left 4 Dead 2 boycott, to be honest.

You and me both, man. Seriously.

they seriously didn't need to throw that money out.....unless they really need more "uneducated" people, the sort that can't be self-informed, to rope into. Still 200m$ into advertising, that explains the price hike some but seemed...so unnecessary.

Warstratigier:
they seriously didn't need to throw that money out.....unless they really need more "uneducated" people, the sort that can't be self-informed, to rope into. Still 200m$ into advertising, that explains the price hike some but seemed...so unnecessary.

The irony is that a whole lot of that advertising may have been used to counter the negative effect of the price hike.

Wah wah waaaaaaaa

I honestly can't recall seeing any advertising for MW2 besides Steam and reading about it on tech/gaming websites where they would have written about it even if they were paid not to.

$200m is insanity for a game that already had a tonne of hype. Isn't that the point of series, they self-generate hype so no one has to spend this kind of money? Or does Activision have some kind of marketing machine that needs to be fed gold bars to run?

The $40-50 million is what floors me. It's a 5-6 hour single player game, with multiplayer added on. A lot of the MP code was likely rehashed form older games in the series.

So just WTF were they doing with there time? Or paying people?

The post-production budget, while also completely bonkers, is at least in the hands of an executive who decides that the game needs it. Fine. They want to spend a ton of cash to market the game, that's their call.

But dumping that kind of money into a game that has the SP length of a decent expansion? That makes me wonder how many ex-3D Realms employees are working over there...

Jaqen Hghar:
How did they manage to spend that much money on a glorified DLC?
Really, this amazes me.

I don't think judging a game you haven't even played a demo of is very smart, and "glorified DLC"? The only game I would call glorified DLC would be L4D.

OT: Thats pretty insane, at least it wasn't like the 400(?) million spent on Transformers 2 and then the final product sucking.

Srkkl:

I don't think judging a game you haven't even played a demo of is very smart, and "glorified DLC"? The only game I would call glorified DLC would be L4D.

OT: Thats pretty insane, at least it wasn't like the 400(?) million spent on Transformers 2 and then the final product sucking.

Ok lemme just put my 2 cents in and officially close the gates of hell before any other fanboys attack you. L4D has been heralded as one of the best zombie fps of all times and often said to be a game where multiplayer feels necessary. Unless you meant L4d2, i don't think a game can be called a DLC, hell even an expansion to another game when it is BIGGER then the original. I've been playing l4d2 and some campaigns feel like endurance battles they're so freaking long.

Which makes it all the more depressing that they nerfed the PC version, when they spent so much money to make it.

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