The Last of Us Part 2 character Ellie

Image source: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Way too pricey.

The cost of game development has been spiralling upward for years, but even game developers can’t quite believe how much Sony is splashing out on recent titles, such as The Last of Us Part 2.

Recently, court documents accidentally revealed the budgets of two hallmark PlayStation games, Horizon Forbidden West and The Last of Us Part 2. These games required over five years and more than $200 million each to produce. Horizon Forbidden West involved a team of 300 employees working from 2017 to 2022, with a total cost of $212 million. Similarly, The Last of Us Part 2 involved 200 studio employees and incurred an expense of $220 million over a span of 70 months.

TLOU2 Budget Described as “Unsustainable”

Obtaining such detailed information about game development costs is rare, and the industry has responded to these figures with considerable interest. Earlier this year, players were surprised to learn that Forspoken had cost $100 million, especially as its critical reception had been so dire. The significantly higher budgets of Horizon Forbidden West and The Last of Us Part 2, exceeding twice that amount isn’t so much a surprise, but it does paint a rather grim picture of game development’s sustainability going forward.

AAA developers, in particular, have voiced their perspectives on these budgets. Lisette Titre-Montgomery, a former developer on Psychonauts 2, highlighted that Sony invested $220 million over six years in The Last of Us Part 2 before generating any revenue. She emphasized the challenges of sustaining game teams of this magnitude for such extended periods, stating, “game teams this size for this long are Not. Sustainable.” Shana, a former producer at Capcom and Xbox, further clarified that this budget translated to an average monthly expenditure of $15,000 per employee, encompassing overall headcount costs rather than individual salaries, resulting in a total expenditure of $3 million.

It’s easy to see why many games aren’t delayed even when they’re not fit for release give this information. The cost is simply too great. Not to mention, it’s highly likely that in addition to the figures above, the studios also spent substantial amounts on third-party services, raising costs even higher.

Sony is currently locked in a battle with Microsoft for supremacy over the console space, with the American company intent on wide-scale purchasing of major studios such as Sega.