A failed redaction leaks how much Horizon Forbidden West & TLOU Part 2 cost to make

Horizon Forbidden West Patch 1.17
Horizon Forbidden West Patch 1.17

An error while redacting documents for the FTC v. Microsoft trial has let slip a whole bunch of insider details for Sony’s business operations, including confirming profit margins shared with publishers, Call of Duty revenues, and the cost of developing some of PlayStation’s biggest first party games.

Documents supplied to go alongside PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan’s videoed testimony featured a whole bunch of privileged business details that were blacked out with some kind of black marker pen, but the problem was that once these documents were then put on the scanner, the subtle difference between pen and print allowed the underlying words and figures to be revealed. They’re heavily obscured, but years of completing Captcha tests has trained journalists well for this task!

The court quickly removed the documents, but reporters and Sony’s arch rivals were all able to download the documents while they were in the public, and pour over the details.

One particularly interesting area is to see what Sony spends on its first party game development. Horizon Forbidden West seemingly cost $212 million to develop across five years and with 300 employees, while The Last of Us Part 2 cost $220 million with around 200 employees, but spread over six years.

It’s a fascinating insight to have as we can now quantify just how much game development budgets have increased over the last few decades. In the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 era, games like COD Modern Warfare II had a budget of $40-50 million, Dead Space 2 of $60 million, thanks to smaller teams and shorter development windows of around two or three years. Now that games are routinely taking 5 or more years to make and development teams have ballooned in size, costs to make games have also grown significantly, and this in turns puts more pressure to sell tens of millions of copies.

Of course, there’s an awful lot of caveats to these figures. It’s not the case that an entire studio is always working full tilt on a project through its duration. Pre-production on Horizon Forbidden West will have dovetailed with the production of DLC for Horizon Zero Dawn, there’s also things like external contractors and the cost of living around the world that affects wages. Cyberpunk 2077 cost $174 million to make, but the cost of living in Warsaw is pretty different to California or Amsterdam.

via The Verge

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