Video games are nearing a point where it becomes prohibitively expensive for all but the major studios to develop AAA titles. Making a console game is an astronomically costly business, far more so today than even just ten years ago. That’s often why sequels to critically acclaimed games don’t always get made. A good example of this is the long rumored, much asked for Psychonauts 2 from Double Fine and Tim Schafer, which has yet to materialize because it would cost around $18 million to make.
That figure comes from Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson. In 2012, Persson made a casual offer to fund the development of Psychonauts 2 in February 2012, after Tim Schafer said that he’d had trouble generating publisher interest in the project. “Tim and Markus are talking,” Double Fine confirmed later on, “Who knows what might happen?”
The answer to that question is: not much. Persson backed away from the game just one week later, claiming that the necessary budget for Psychonauts 2 is “three times higher than my initial impression.”
On Saturday, Notch gave a more specific number while doing a question and answer session on Reddit. “I somewhat naively thought ‘a couple of million’ was $2 million,” said Persson, “I had no doubt in my mind that a Psychonauts 2 would earn that money back easily. Turns out they wanted $18 million. I don’t have the time at the moment to make an $18 million deal. I’ve made one private investment into a game so far at $100,000, and it’s frankly a lot more work than I thought.”
Even at $18 million, Psychonauts 2 would be on the lower end of console game development cost. To put console game budgets in perspective, it cost approximately $800,000 to $1.7 million to develop a game for the PlayStation in the mid-‘90s. During the PlayStation 2 era, development costs ballooned to between $5 and $10 million. In 2008 as development was ramping up for the PlayStation 3, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said that the average game for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC cost between $18.8 million and $28.2 million to create.
Perhaps this will change in the future. Tim Schafer implied in December that Double Fine may give up on the console business in the near future, developing PC-only titles. Perhaps that would lower the cost on Psychonauts 2.