We know big triple-A video games cost a lot to make, but it's rare for a video game developer to put a figure - even a roundabout figure - on it. But that's exactly what Eidos Montreal, maker of the upcoming Shadow of the Tomb Raider, has done.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Eidos Montreal boss David Anfossi said Shadow of the Tomb Raider cost $75 to $100m to develop, but that's just production. Slap another $35m on top of that for promotion. So, in total, Square Enix is looking at splashing out up to $135m on the new Tomb Raider.
Here's the quote:
"Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and other different triple-A single-player games, cost $75m to $100m. And that's production only; it's close to $35m on the promotion. So there's definitely a pressure. We cannot avoid it. But, at the same time, for us to have these incubation projects and to try small things... that gives us the opportunity to test, prepare and secure some stuff, and remove some risk.
"We also have a very strong process. It has been 10 years now at the studio, so we have our way to test things with the gamers, to prepare and do market analysis studies and user research... We don't receive all the answers, of course. We have to take some risk on the creative side, but in the end we have a pretty good idea of the quality we have in our hands."
If spending over $100m on the development of a video game sounds like a big risk to you, well, you'd be right. But this sort of figure is not unheard of. In fact, there are plenty of triple-A video games with much bigger budgets than Tomb Raider.
The Call of Duty games, for example, run up development costs in the tens of millions of dollars, but Activision forks out hundreds of millions marketing the shooter. Grand Theft Auto 5 reportedly cost a whopping $265m to develop and market. Remember MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic? EA reportedly spent nearly $200m making that. And who can forget Destiny? In the run up to the launch of the shared-world shooter, Activision boss Bobby Kotick said the company was spending $500m on the project - a figure later revealed to include everything from marketing to packaging, infrastructure support to royalties and more.
It's easy to see why triple-A video game development can run up into the hundreds of millions of dollars when you consider how many people are involved in the making of these games. Thousands of people contribute to Ubisoft's games, such as Assassin's Creed and Far Cry. Over 1000 people made Grand Theft Auto 5. Eidos Montreal itself has more than 500 staff, according to Anfossi, and development on Shadow of the Tomb Raider began at the end of 2015. That's a lot of people being paid to make a game for quite a while.
Softening the blow are Canadian tax breaks, which are particularly beneficial for big-budget development and the reason why there are so many studios set up in the likes of Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton.
Can Shadow of the Tomb Raider end up a profitable venture for Square Enix? Given the money the company is spending on the game, it'll need to sell millions of copies just to break even. No wonder the industry shoehorns microtransactions and loot boxes into its video games.
Eidos Montreal, meanwhile, is working on more than just Tomb Raider. (For more on the game, check out our Shadow of the Tomb Raider hands-on preview.) It's helping Crystal Dynamics out on the upcoming Avengers video game while building a Guardians of the Galaxy game.