Development budgets have soared so much over the past decade or so that we're sitting here surprised at the price tag that's been placed on Horizon: Zero Dawn's head. A report in a Dutch national newspaper claims that the PlayStation 4 exclusive cost over €45 million (~$47 million) to make, and while the exact figure is being kept under wraps, it honestly isn't looking as expensive as we were expecting. Grand Theft Auto V, for comparison, cost about $265 million to make, while The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt ran CD Projekt Red around $81 million.
At peak, Guerrilla Games had 250 people working on the game, and it also outsourced work to around 100 Chinese employees – presumably for art assets. The game was in development for a total of six years, but a bulk of that period was led by a small team of 20 who secretly worked on the project in pre-production while the remainder of the studio made games like Killzone: Shadow Fall.
To be honest, the game looks like it's on course to be a huge success, so all of that investment will seem worthwhile in a few months' time – but it's easy to see why publishers shy away from new intellectual property when the stakes are so astronomically high. The good news for Sony is that the hard work is done now; a sequel won't take anywhere near as long to make, and with the brand already on its way to being established, the rewards will be even greater second time around.