The Last Guardian has been in development for around 10 years. It is reported that right after Fumito Ueda and Team Ico finished Shadow of Colossus, they started initial development of The Last Guardian. Shadow of the Colossus launched way back in 2005, so if this is true then it has actually been 11 years in the making.
I am not going to comment too much on the incredibly troubled development journey that The Last Guardian has been on. This tale of woe has been told into the ground and it is truly incredible that the finished game is nearly ready for release. But it is coming, in October and it has actually become a very strong part of Sony’s fall release lineup.
I heard someone comment on a podcast recently that The Last Guardian would never shift enough copies to justify it’s long development. They said that it being such a niche game and tied to only one console that it could never make enough money to cover it’s losses and Sony were now treating it as a loss leader, sacrificing money over the awareness of the brand. But is that truly the case? I’ve done some very crude maths to put it to the test.
Warning – these figures are wild estimates at best! Not to be taken too seriously.
So, Team Ico employs around 90 people (according to Google). I’ve decided to do my maths on the side of caution, so I’ve rounded that total up to 100 employees. Now, lets look at the average salary of a game designer. In the US this is $60k (£45k), so lets go with that figure. So 100 employees earning $60k each for 10 years works out at $60,000,000 (£45,000,000). There will also be office and equipment costs. I’ve worked this out at another $120,000,000 based on business allocation of cost ratios.
In total The Last Guardian cost around $180 million (£135 million) to produce.
So based on the game selling for $60 a copy. Sony needs to sell 3 million copies to break even. There are over 40 million PlayStation owners out there now. So they only need 14% of the user-base to purchase the game to break even. Uncharted 4 managed to sell 2.7 million units in it’s first week alone, so there is hope for The Last Guardian.
Whether it sells or not, The Last Guardian looks like a truly magical game that will hopefully stand the test of time like its Ico and Shadow of Colossus big brothers.