An independent study claims that the average cost to develop a AAA multi-platform game is around $23 million.
M2 Research is an analyst group which specializes on reporting statistics for the videogame industry. According to Develop, M2 Research released information stating that the average budget for a multi-platform next-gen (meaning current generation) game is between $18 million and $28 million. A single platform game is reported to cost an average of $10 million, according to the same study.
Many high-profile titles cost more than that, with budgets as high as $60 million. Develop points to Gran Turismo 5 costing almost $60 million and Modern Warfare 2's budget of almost $50 million.
Taken by itself, this information is fairly innocuous to the regular gamer. What is important is how the rising cost of making games can ripple throughout the industry. With budgets soaring like this, it is clear why the price point for games is also rising. If the trend continues, we may see games costing $70 or even $80 in the near future.
Why are games costing more? Time is an important factor, which is connected to the rising cost of skilled labor. In the infancy of the gaming industry, coders, programmers and artists were happy to be working on games at all and so they were willing to accept low pay and/or incredibly long hours. Now that labor conditions have generally improved (Rockstar San Diego excluded), that means that labor costs have also gone up. Also, the amount of time and effort needed to make games look polished in this current generation has also gone up.
Not all of this is grim news. As different sources have pointed out, games are generally of higher quality than they were ten years ago. The rising budgets of games just proves that all of that quality is not cheap.