Recently, there have been a lot of comments on the price of games and the cost of their development. The biggest name to comment on this situation was Shawn Layden, an ex-Sony executive who knows what he’s talking about. He says that the average budget for a PS4 exclusive was $100 million, and that he predicts the cost for PS5 exclusives to rise to $200 million. He adds that as we get new platforms, the cost of development is going to double, and that’s just a fact of life. While the cost of games doesn’t double, it’s slowly increasing, but I don’t know if that necessarily needs to be the case.
Here’s the thing. Right now, developers need to make games for current and last-gen consoles. The added cost comes from making a good-looking version of a title designed for a superior machine that runs on an inferior one. It’s what cost Cyberpunk 2077 its launch, and it’s why we see so many PlayStation exclusives getting delayed. Developers are pushed too hard to make a fantastic game squeeze onto an older console, and it hurts the game’s development in so many ways. But we do have an example that avoids this entirely, a company that has made a pretty decent business of ignoring the consoles that came before.
The Nintendo Switch has ports of Wii and Wii U titles. We’re supposed to be getting Game Boy games, and there are even rumours of NES and older games coming to the platform. The device won’t play anything other than Switch games though. Nintendo is great at creating a console, making it sell well, then forgetting about it as it encourages fans to focus on the next big thing. In fairness, Game Boys and the Wii U played last-gen games. However, the Switch is the most successful console on sale right now, and no one is kicking off about being able to play Breath of the Wild on their Game Boy. Sony and Microsoft need to take a page out of Nintendo’s book and look at producing very different consoles in the future that don’t cause them to get into a situation where game development doubles every generation.