HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon will have a significantly smaller budget than some of its upcoming blockbuster rivals. While the fantasy epic’s final season left many fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series disappointed, expectations for House of the Dragon to evolve into something greater are high. The show will follow the Targaryen family that ruled Westeros for nearly three decades, particularly during a period known as the Dance of the Dragons.
Because the flagship Game of Thrones series concerned events some 200 years after the prequel’s civil war, long after the last dragons presumably died out, the mythical creatures rarely reared their heads until the final few seasons. House of the Dragon, on the other hand, revolves around the bloody war that features the beasts and their riders on the front lines. Because of the elaborate CGI, massive Shakespearean set pieces, and star-studded cast, the production design is likely as big — if not bigger — in scale as its predecessor.
With that in mind, Variety reports that the per-episode cost of House of the Dragon season 1 is just under $20 million. The figure is slightly higher than Game of Thrones season 8’s per-episode budget, around $15 million. According to the production insider from HBO that revealed the costs, HBO got away with the surprisingly low sums due to their experience navigating expansive world-building series like GoT, Westworld, and His Dark Materials. They said that “the team can make a high-quality series as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
Compared to rival Amazon’s roughly $465 million budget for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1, House of the Dragon’s near-$200 million total is practically trivial. Even Netflix’s Stranger Things season 4 is rumored to clock in at around $30 million per episode (though that figure is not confirmed) and doesn’t appear to feature nearly the same scale of the landscape, set pieces, or wardrobe and costume as HBO’s spinoff. On the other hand, Stranger Things’ mind-boggling CGI is arguably more widespread and complex than House of the Dragons, which could play a considerable role in the higher expenses, and the same holds true for The Rings of Power.
Speaking of CGI, much like its canonical successor, House of the Dragon may not even feature many Targaryen dragons whatsoever if promotional materials are any indication. If it doesn’t, the costs make more sense, but if it does, Variety’s production insider could be right on the money regarding HBO’s expertise. Their ability to easily create unbelievably sprawling cinematic worlds is probably the relevant factor in keeping expenses on the relatively lower end for such a cornerstone franchise. Perhaps deciding not to feature many dragons yet is a part of that efficiency, or they’re simply that good at circumventing burgeoning production costs, but the answer will become more apparent when House of the Dragon season 1 premieres this summer.