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AAA games: What lies ahead?
AAA games: What lies ahead? Exclusive
July 31, 2012 | By Colin Campbell

July 31, 2012 | By Colin Campbell
Comments
    40 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



Right now, the games industry is behaving like Breaking Bad's unbalanced protagonist Walter White. It represents a front of comfortable conformity and normality, but in reality, everything is chaos and fear and mind-crunching risk.

Games appear on the market with the regularity of school bells, predictable parcels of entertainment that, mostly, do their dual jobs of entertaining consumers and creating profits with as little fuss and drama as possible.

But the game industry also operates a secret meth lab. It's called the next generation consoles -- and in this hot environment, the industry is cooking the future survival of triple-A, "hardcore" games.

The risks are terrific. More than ever, the console game business is facing brutal competitors. The industry's growth relies on terms like "digital," "personal," "free." It's easy to see how all of these are in diametric opposition to games' core competence of highly priced, mass-market packaged goods.

And the cost of creating games for this older model becomes ever-more fearsome. Even the most conservative estimates, trotted out by games publishers for the ears of concerned investors, put average costs for the next generation at 25 percent higher than current costs.

And so, leaving DLC and subscriptions models aside for a moment, the console games of five years time will need to sell 25 percent more copies at current prices than they do presently. This puts a great deal of pressure on both the hardware companies, which must deliver an appropriately fertile installed base, and the games-makers, who must create ever-more spectacular experiences while confirming, like the Hollywood blockbuster model, to a fairly limited range of genres.

More than ever before, this jump to the next generation represents a risk that could destroy triple-A games as we know it.

"Bloated"

Ubisoft chief Yves Guillemot recently told Gamasutra that games companies are impatient for the next generation to begin. "It's a lot less risky for us to create new IPs and new products when we're in the beginning of a new generation," he said. "Our customers are very open to new things. Our customers are reopening their minds -- and they are really going after what's best. ... At the end of a console generation, they want new stuff, but they don't buy new stuff as much. They know their friends will play Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed so they go for that. So the end of a cycle is very difficult."

assassins creed 3.jpgBut while the "shiny new consoles = tasty new IP" models of the past offer a rosy promise, the costs involved today are vastly more impressive than they were in 2006 or 2000 or 1995. And the competition, cheap downloadable games or free adventures, are much more nimble, skilled and formidable.

Certainly, the people who are seeking to make inroads into triple-A packaged games see risk and expense as huge drags on the creativity of triple-A games.

Edmund McMillen, creator of The Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy said, "Triple-A games cost as much as studios want them to cost. It's all about how much money they want to waste on celebrity voice actors, over-the-top cut scenes and tons and tons of talent. It's very possible to make a small triple-A game that does amazing and costs very little, but I think most people view triple-A as bloated story-driven RPGs and crazy shooters with famous actors."

He added, "The consequences for game developers who aren't part of this group of people is simple, it's easier now for smaller teams to make more innovative projects and take bigger risks than these large budget games. It's becoming more and more polarized as more money is at risk."

Jenova Chen of thatgamecompany pulled a huge hit this year with PS3 downloadable short Journey. He points out that triple-A packaged games just don't offer up any commercial surprises. "I haven't worked on a real triple-A game from the beginning to finish. But my opinion is that if you look at the games that really became overnight successes in the past two years, almost none of them are original triple-A titles."

Richard Garriott has worked on big games -- namely Ultima -- but, following his 2008 journey to space and the failure of big-budget MMO Tabula Rasa, he's focused now on the free-to-play social market with Portalarium and its much-anticipated "Ultimate RPG."

He's not even convinced the next-generation hardware proposition is powerful enough to sustain an ecosystem big enough to support games that cost $30 million to $100 million to produce. "Personally I am a little worried about how consoles will survive when there's so much computational power either in the tablet or the screen or the cloud behind it. I'm not sure there's a need for a console in the middle."

He added, "That being said, one of the things about all of this next-generation hardware is that there's more moving pieces on the inside. In other words, to grant more capabilities, they're all cramming more pieces of capability inside the box. And that requires fundamentally more specialists, more code base in order to take advantage of that power. And that's why, ultimately, the cost will continue to go up. Even with the advantages of engine development, game development is still going to cost more and more in time and personnel."

But he says that there will always be consumers who wants a graphically rich, adrenaline-pumping experiences, and they will keep coming back for more, in sufficient numbers and spending enough money to keep disaster at bay, and this offers some consolation to triple-A developers very much invested in the future of their particular sector of the business.

Live in our world

One of these games that promises a lush triple-A experience is Far Cry 3. Dan Hay, the game's producer explained, "The whole concept is to take you out of your personal life, take you out of your personal experience, and not only escape, but in some cases almost be forced to escape and spend some time with us. We want to make sure that you have the opportunity to live in our world. The natural evolution for us is to make sure that you can. That you're going to have that experience and live that adventure. That, for me, is the real focus of making sure that the game is calling to you and that experience is something you want to imbibe in all the time."

far-cry-3.jpgIn a sense, this is what games do, even when they are not apparently offering anything particularly new. Call of Duty is a game about shooting people, and yet it does just enough each year to persuade tens of millions of people to come back for more. Same with the sports franchises. Skyrim offers a grandeur and sweep that just cannot be replicated with anything other than large numbers of artists and coders working according to a grand plan for many years.

The future of triple-A games will likely be one of predictability and carefully considered choices made by cautious corporations. Like Walter White, chemistry teacher, the games industry will maintain an air of equilibrium. But the threat of imminent destruction will never quite disappear.

Colin Campbell is a games journalist living in Santa Cruz, CA. He writes mostly for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @colincampbellx


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Comments


Harlan Sumgui
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It boils down to this: how big is the potential audience for hardcore games? How many people have the time and the mental ability to sit down and concentrate on something for 2+ hours at one time and actually derive enjoyment out of it?

Part of the problem with people in the gaming industry is that they overestimate the potential size of the core audience insofar as they see everyone as a potential gamer. And when they are shown the numbers, the response is 'there is something wrong with the games, we need more accessiblity! more cinematic experiences! more marketing! we need to do more social! more f2p! more intergration! blah! glah!'
These other types of games are not going to support the weight of the industry.

The people running the shows need to understand a few things: 1) not everyone is a potential gamer, and by gamer I mean someone who spends >2 hours/day playing games 2) trying to make every game reach the broadest possible audience ruins games 3) trust and power must be given to the creative people 4) quality and customer satisfaction must be the focus.

I think this is part of the wii/facebook/ios effect. Execs saw a whole new demo start to purchase systems and games and thought that they would be able to make a stable long term market out of them. But the people who use those systems are not part of the core.

In the fast food and fizzy pop industries, they call their cores 'heavy users'. They are the segment that eats at a particular restaurant every day, or consume more than 8 servings of pop per day. They are a very profitable and reliable market to sell to. But the people who run those industries do not see everyone in the world as potential heavy users, and they do not piss off their heavy users by changing their products to appeal to the 95% who do not eat at fast food outlets everyday or drink >2L of pop/day.

What is the future of AAA games? Either the suits can understand that the audience is only so big, and that pleasing it requires game experiences that not everyone and their grandma will enjoy; or they can chase the chimera of massive mainstream success; ignoring the wants of the core because they believe they will always be there, and fail.

Sergey Nikolenko
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> how big is the potential audience for hardcore games?
> How many people have the time and the mental ability
> to sit down and concentrate on something for 2+ hours

Wow, now that's condescending! It's quite obvious that the great majority of people who are able to sit down and concentrate on something for 2+ hours use this ability for something other than computer games.

Daniel Gooding
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If AAA keeps getting more expensive then there will only be one genre on Consoles.

"Oh you own a console" you must play "" type genre.

Sylvester O'Connor
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That's a good point that you raise. I find that everyone in this current generation have hopped on to the shooter seller. It' moves so it must be a shooter. There have been some exceptions of games that are not shooters that have done well but that is more due to either them being a new IP or a continuation of a franchise like Uncharted and Assassin's Creed or games like Journey and Limbo.

Ian Uniacke
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It gives your point even more credence that you classify uncharted as "not a shooter". ;) Only in this generation would that classification even make sense.

Thom Q
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What's happening to the gaming industry is also happening to music and films: Big commercial projects, that are funded with a lot of money, tend to be as conforming to their audience as possible, resulting in a tapestry of bland, 13 in a dozen, uninspired products, that are being pushed through every media outlet, backed by a stupendous amount of money..

If I was working on such a project, I'd do exactly the same.. (luckily, I'm not! ;) )

Most gamers don't care if big Game dev's, or even complete consoles, would go belly up. They'll just play games on something else. I personally think that the only way for consoles to stay contemporary, is of course better integration with other devices / social media etc, and Price Cuts! Who would want to pay 400$ to be able to play 1 or 2 games, when you can do the same for under 30$? Ouya will be closely watched by Sony & Microsoft, IMO..

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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I must say the non-stop repetition of "console/AAA development is doomed" content on Gamasutra is getting really stale and tiring. If thats Gamasutra's official editorial line, please tell us right away. If its not, you might want to vary your content a bit.

Kris Graft
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Hi Mathieu,

It's certainly not our editorial line. My takeaway from this article wasn't that "console/AAA development is doomed." It was that console/AAA development is under an immense amount of pressure to stand out and compete with all of these different, new emerging platforms and business models. One or two slip-ups can negatively affect a AAA-based business in a very serious way. I feel like that's the truth, and that the next-gen consoles need to directly address that pressure.

Fabio Macedo
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It isn't a Gamasutra-specific thing, it's happening pretty much across all of the gaming press.

The funny thing is that I don't remember seeing any other side of the entertainment industry being so fixated with its own doom, expecting things to shift to non-specialized devices. I mean, I don't see film critics expecting theaters to go away thanks to Netflix, music lovers expecting big concerts to be totally replaced by free live streaming supported by ads, or literature journalists hoping for the iPad to sweep all e-readers off the market (much to the contrary - they know Apple is a harsh mistress and has already been considered guilty of colluding with big publishers to artificially raise ebook prices).

But the gaming press? Gaming devices will die, elaborate games will die, all hail the $1 simple game in a device that's not built for it. It's maddening and self-defeating. I do believe that the AAA/$60 model needs to be way more flexible than it is, and in that regard I'm totally behind what Edmund McMillen said, but the truth is that gaming press never goes out of this way to actually support those middle-tier games even when they are good, preferring to cater to the known quantities as much as they accuse the big publishers of doing. Then it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and IGN can capitalize on all the doom and gloom.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Its wierd, isnt it? In fact I can't think of another field at all were the press is bent on promoting such a negative line. Maybe Emo music? Somehow its has become "cool" to hate on everything, especially if its popular, regardless of how well crafted it is. Here on Gamasutra, the tone of the content has gotten so negative that it sends many professionnals away while attracting a crowd of disgruntled people. Despite promises on better moderation, the level of respect has taken a big drop.

Kris, I'll believe you if you say its not your editorial line, but you might want to take a look back on the content you published. I've been reading Gamasutra for such a long time that it became a habit, but many of my coworkers stopped reading and commenting because they consider that for the last two years or so, Gamasutra has taken a line to constantly criticize AAA/console development in order to promote indie development. Eventually, talented people who make a living developing games enjoyed by millions get tired of hearing they should do something else.

Im not saying we should blind ourselves to the challenges we face today and tomorrow. Its *always* been a competitive industry and its not about to change! But maybe the tone and content could be more balanced? Isnt there anything exciting about a possible new generation of consoles, besides that it "represents a risk that could destroy triple-A games as we know it" and that "the threat of imminent destruction will never quite disappear" ?

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutraís Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Albert Meranda
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I wouldn't say it's one site, or even the gaming press in general; it's an internet-wide problem. Articles tend to play up controversy and conflict, rather than information or thoughtful commentary. It's especially noticeable when it happens here because many of us have been reading for so long, and the level of quality has generally been really high. The main page still has a really good signal to noise ratio.

I don't think even think Gamasutra is being unnecessarily harsh on AAA development (there *are* huge challenges ahead!), it's more of a tone thing. We read articles we like, or agree with, or are informed by, and we move on. But if articles are controversial, or make bold and ridiculous statements that people want to rebut, the comment section fills up and that turns into a draw for other readers. Someone mentioned this in a featured blog comment section about how no one comments on his featured blogs. That's probably because they're solid but non-controversial. It's unfortunate that we (and this applies to all of us) are valuing articles by how many comments they can generate, rather than by how informative they are to us as game developers.

Luke Quinn
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Actually, I must say that I have found Gamasutra to usually be the more balanced of the gaming news sites when it comes to this.
In general they seem to be mirroring the frustrations of the AAA companies in illuminating the problem with having to produce more and more content heavy games in order to sell enough to turn a reasonable profit whilst dealing with competition from free-to-play, piracy, and resellers like GameStop. (Oh, hey look - it's the focus of this article)
Indies deal with these problems too, but their smaller size and increased mobility dampens the affect of these stressors, so that's why it all seems slanted towards AAA=doomed, Indie = win.
I don't think it's any kind of bias (though I'm glad for the extra attention) so much as it is a reflection of the problems faced by the industry as a whole and of who stands to lose the most because of them.
Big studios collapse under their own weight all the time, but indies just starve for a while and keep on coding.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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@Christian

How about some content about why some studios succeed and other fail?
Tips and tools for managing cost? For managing risks?
Will costs really rise that much with a new gen?

Instead of the repetition of "here are some people who wants AAA to collapse telling you why AAA is going to collapse".

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Well Kris, I think Christian demonstrated quite well what I was explaining with his rethoric.

There was a time where intelligent, respectful discussions between game developpers was the norm on Gamasutra, not the exception.

Jorge Molinari
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There are so many unknowns with the next gen that itís going to be very interesting to watch. Here is what I am 100% certain about:
1. PC and mobile games may eat away at the console market, but they will never destroy it. The experience of playing at a desk or on a mobile device is too different to playing on a comfortable couch with a large TV and surround sound. There will always be demand for a living room console with cutting edge games.

Here is what Iím almost certain about:
1. No console manufacturer is going to come out of the gate selling consoles at a loss. The long time it took for SONY and MS to recoup their investment was scary to say the least. They were both blindsided; twice. First by the crazy sales of the Wii, then by the crazy sales of iOS and Android devices. They will not take that risk again. And yet due to a very difficult economic climate, a console costing $400 is a tougher sell today than it was in 2005 when the Xbox 360 came out. Never mind the $600 PS3 price point of 2006, that one will never cross the mind of console manufacturers again. And yet next gen systems will require very expensive components if there is to be any notable difference in the games. The standard way of purchasing the next Sony or MS console will be to buy their console with a 2 year plan with monthly payments and an online subscription. Non-standard way would be to pay the $600-800 cash. All consoles will have a hard disc of at least a 20 GB hard drive at launch.

Some more thoughts:
1. All motion controls for the big three have been exposed for being the one-trick ponies they are. Any manufacturer that shoots for a cheaper price point with a gimmicky console and only moderate improvement to graphics and performance will fail. The casual audience for these types of games now plays on mobile devices. If the big three go this route, the consoles will succumb to mobile and PC. (Only to be reborn again 4 years down the road, possibly by a new manufacturer). Like I said the demand for cutting edge games in the living room will never die out. Nintendo is possibly going this route already, but we will need to wait and see.

2. Timing of hardware will be less important this gen than the previous one. If anything, I think the advantage will go to the console releasing last, because they will be able to have better specs at the same price point as their competitors. (Sony will not make the same mistake again of going with the Cell processors that made it difficult for developers to code).

3. Like always, it will take a mammoth title that clearly blows away current games to sell a next gen console. Trying to sell a new console without that mammoth title will hurt the console, more so than it has in the past. The race should not be to release the hardware, it should be to finish that first must-have next-gen title. The hardcore players (early console adopters) have such a large pool of good games to play this gen that they will not commit the huge $$$ for tech demos and a new controller.

Kevin Alexander
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Ever read any PS3 documentation before? I'm sure if you have you'd agree it all reads like a friggin TV manual.

I'm not so sure even if they do go for a more conventional architecture they can make a more "Development friendly" environment than Microsoft, who know software development so much more intimately than Sony, the traditional hardware company ever could.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutraís Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Eric Schwarz
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I don't get it. There really aren't any 100 hour games made any more, with the obvious exception of something like Elder Scrolls/Fallout. There are titles like Dragon's Dogma, Risen, Divinity II, etc. but I would not consider them mainstream or triple-A projects, nor do they have anywhere near 100 hours of gameplay (unless you play them 3-4 times).

Most so-called triple-A games are in the 5-15 hour range, and those that are longer tend to rely on sandbox-type mechanics in order to keep players going, or even actively work to bloat their play time by using tactics like "making the player travel as far as possible from A to B and back again." I mean, the entire shooter market already revolves around 5-hour experiences, and those games tend to be insanely detailed and "tight" already.

William Johnson
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I don't buy the idea that new IP's are too high risk to launch at the end of a console. What it sounds like to me is that publishers are looking for any scapegoat to blame low sales on.

Honestly, some of the best games are made at the end of a console's life. Things like Chronotrigger, Valkyrie Profile, or Perfect Dark I'd think would be good examples of success. And I assume the Last of Us will be another stand out case when it launches.

Kevin Alexander
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You can cut a corner off my nerd card if you want, but i've never heard of valkyrie profile before.... Perfect Dark, i've heard of but know absolutely nothing about.

While Chronotrigger is legendary regardless, what were the sales like on those two other titles?

I don't think anyone would argue against the superiority of games at the end of a lifecycle due to sheer proficiency with the tech, but overall sales of new IP's, or even establishing a brand, i do believe are harder to get at the end.

Eric Schwarz
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It's not about quality, it's about interest. After 5-6 years, consumers get fatigued and tired of the same old, same old, as do developers. A new console generation shakes things up and gets people to pay more attention to games again due to the novelty of prettier graphics, a new box to buy, etc.

John Gordon
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@William
I 100% agree. Remember Pokemon would have come out at the end of the Gameboy's cycle, but two things happened. 1) Virtual Boy was a bust and 2) Pokemon revitalized the Gameboy market so much that it stayed on the market much longer than most successful consoles do.

Cary Chichester
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Like Walter White they don't seem keen on leaving the business that's been making them lots of money, even with all the risks involved. Features like subscription services (CoD Elite), DLC, and Online Passes help make up for the increased costs of AAA development, and there will likely be similar features introduced in the next generation. People have been saying for a while that the console business is done (or near to), while their retort has been "We're done when I say we're done".

Chris Dickerson
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What with the gaming industry expanding out into handheld (phones, tablets) far more than it did with past handheld gaming devices, and pulling a hollywood (rehashing old games) -- why is a new generation of consoles important at this point?

Also, who requires something more than we have right now? I thought at some point the PS3's processor was barely being used... I'm sure the XBOX 360 could use a revamp of it's architecture. The Wii needs a graphics chip .

Want to revamp the industry? Get rid of the high level management that steps on the toes of design and ingenuity of the game shops they've acquired and let them go back to being creative. Before some of my favorite game companies were acquired... they made great games, not the hermetically-sealed crap they're putting out now.

Heinz Schuller
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As long as the break-even on AAA games continues to be 2M+ units, I'm not sure how the next consoles will produce a sustainable business. I think most of us who have worked in the industry a long time believe development can be done much more efficiently utilizing methods such as solid planning and thorough pre-production.

The end of console life cycles also represents the greatest installed user base. It is a time of opportunity for those who differentiate through creative expression and interpretation (e.g. Journey on PS3). These intangibles are rarely achieved solely through focus-group driven designs. I think it was Miyamoto who said, "If you give the audience what they expect, they can never be surprised."

Simon Ludgate
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I wonder if there's any potential for "AA" games then. Slash the media budgets (graphics, animation, video, audio) and focus on the gameplay. Produce games with half, a quarter, a tenth the budget but still produce games people want to play, just maybe not as pretty-looking. Or is the whole point of AAA games the audiovisual experience, and gameplay is a distant tertiary concern?

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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I believe there is, in certain niche genres.

Find a genre where you can easily (and cheaply) produce different content while re-using the same engine. Instead focux on deep, very deep gameplay and aim to please a limited but conoisseur crowd that will buy every game and expansion you make because there is nothing else appealing to their tastes.

Grand strategy games would be one example. The trick is to avoid falling into a design that always requires more&better assets (models, animation, levels), to keep costs low.

Jason Withrow
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I wish this were more viable, as it's more the level I'm comfortable with in the first place. But I worry about your last sentence, as I think the audiovisual is what makes a AAA game. Well, if that's the case, I'd gladly support otherwise. In fact, I do, via Kickstarter, which has probably gotten more money from me than the studios in the past six months. Long live the <$1M budget! May it look and sound only as well as it needs.

John Gordon
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@Simon

I believe that is what Nintendo did with the Wii, and it seemed to work out for them pretty well until they stopped making games for it. It's a shame that Nintendo kind of abandoned that direction to make games in Hi-Def. It's also a shame more third parties didn't make games for the Wii while they had a chance.

Duong Nguyen
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AAA will survive because the proliferation of computing devices which can run them. Why can't GTA 5 be on the iPad, PC and current gen consoles? Why can't the next Skyrim be on a all those platforms and the next gen console platforms as well? Different control mechanics sure.. but designers have been dealing with that when they worked on PC / Console games before. It's not a unsovlable problem. The main reason why the PC platform declined was due to piracy, but digital distributions and digital ownership offsets piracy enough now so that it is once again a viable platform for AAA games. More so for the mobile and pad devices since they have walled off OS.

Much like how PC development work, AAA games if they are going to take advantage of the available platforms needs to have scalable engines, which PC developers have been doing since the beginning, thus the success of Epic Games crossing into the mobile space.

Why are people thinking that once the new consoles are released the old consoles suddenly explode? There will still be a significant market for cross platform games running on both console generation, imo. Unlike the previous console generations this console and next cost significantly more thus a slower migration rate than previous generations. Then there is the whole concept of live streaming games, aka Onlive, which will complete decouple the device from the hardware requirements.

Nick Putnam
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I feel like the success of next-gen consoles will also rely on the cost of the consoles when it first enters the market place and will be mostly determined by price competition and the type of experiences MS, Sony, and Nintendo are attempting to offer.

If one of the main reasons for purchasing the next gen console is for more realistic graphics, due to the ability to process more data quicker and thanks to innovative software engineers, and it cost me about the same price to just buy a semi high end pc, that already has twice the amount of processing power, and usually more realistic graphics. Then why should someone spend their money on these consoles, unless it offers a uniquely new experience that can appeal to a mass audience of people.

TC Weidner
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be careful for what you wish for. AAA designers are impatient for a new generation of consoles, but in reality doesnt a new console generation cut your audience and player/customer base by 60-70% initially if not more? Again Im always fascinated by the bubble this industry seems to be in as well. We are about to double dip into a global recession, and personally I dont see a new console system and some $60 games being high on the discretionary list of many families, yet so many seem oblivious to this. We are frightfully close to another major sell off and credit squeeze. Personally, if it was me, I would much rather stay at the end of the cycle now, concentrating on good well placed and priced games, rather than gamble in the shadow of a world recession or worse.

Jeff Degginger
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Here's my response, and miniature opinion article on AAA games.

http://expositoryconundrum.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/article-respo
nse-aaa-games-and-the-game-industry/

wes bogdan
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Before disruptive things like the internet,ios and wii the hardcore led other gamers where to go. First we bought mario kart,halo or little big planet and eventually others followed but with adhd games like angry birds somehow the AAA market of 2-5% of gamers is expected to be cheap,fast turnaround and everybody is supposed to want it.

In real life AAA games designed to apeal to the hardcore -remember 2-5% tops will draw a crowd but the croud will be intimidated by the complex controls...and overwheled by the expierence.

I'm a hardcore gamer but being classiclly trained on n64 shooters and very southpaw dominant i designed my own control scheme using a gamester phoenix revolution and refined it with a thrustmaster 3-1 dual trigger pad.

If you want the most people playing cast the biggest net-ALLOW FULL CUSTOMIZATION @ THE PSN /XBLM LEVEL as part of our profiles.

Tron had a Master Control Program well i call my idea a Master Control Profile.

If i can't play it what's the point?!!

I have a vita but am unable to play:uncharted,unit 13,gravity rush or other dual analog game however on the other hand delta smartly allows full customization so i can disable the stupid touch controls and set up southpaw so i bought it.

Disgaea 3 on vita has touch load game options...repeat after me if just press x works better than touch is a waste of time.

Somehow while typeing this on my nook a line of text was forced down and i couldn't delete it.

As for next gen sony and ms might be better off streaming older generations of software netflix style or up scaling them to HD because with a world ready to fall apart around us hearlding the return of the $79 base game digital or not Double dragon 2 style won't go over well.

I'd advise full customization,streaming games like netflix and allowing a 360 or ps3 gamesave to be used so we can finish things we may have not and going even further back than ps2 for HD remakes because 2-5% of the gaming public will not support innovative new idea's but doom xxxxxiiivvvv might look good enough for awile.

True next gen gaming should be as groundbreaking as lbp,uncharted or heavy rain...but instead we get cod reconsttuted year after year when sequels should be 2.5 years apart at the least.

Will wii u be a gcn 2 or another runaway success and will nintendo pack the killer app in the box ,myself i believe all eyes are on nintendo and sony/ms will wait n see copy what they can before ps4 and 720.

Good luck to everyone .


Disgaea 3 onvita

Mike Griffin
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AAA games must continue to exist, else we wouldn't have anything to contrast "not AAA" with.
For better or worse, variety across all interest/price ranges will sustain the industry's growth.

Christopher Engler
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The industry is stratifying, and AAA games (like big movie studios) need to learn how to diversify their risk by finding alternative revenue streams. Film has various distributions channels: after it hits theaters, it cycles down to DVD/Bluray, to On Demand, rental, then to Netflix, then to pay cable and eventually to advertiser driven television. Each step of the way, the studio recovers a little bit more of their investment regardless if their film made money in the first couple of weeks of release. This industry needs to barrow some of these ideas, not depending solely on a price drop in eight months to recoup some costs. Films studios often take on several micro-budget low-risk/high-reward ventures that cost nearly nothing to make in comparison to a AAA title (think Our Idiot Brother to The Dark Knight Returns vis-a-vis Angry Birds to Mass Effect 3) knowing that occasionally one these small films will make a great return on investment every once in a while. They also embrace cross-promotion and product placement. Games sometimes exploit some of these tactics, but there's still plenty more they could be doing to recoup their investment. For example, how much would Square Enix "lose" if they re-released an older Tomb Raider title for free on PSN or Xbox Live (courtesy of some paid sponsor) as a lead up promotion for this year's release? It would give older fans a chance to get excited about the new release and give a new audience a taste of the franchise. Both would lead to higher sales, and the developer has risked very little.

ryan jackson
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W/ the state of the economy how can you justify Next Gen hardware when people may not want to spend 400-600 dollars on a brand new system when systems like the PS3 aren't fully utilizing there current generations hardware seems like giant to bank on the next gen to solve the problem...

Yikuno Barnaby
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I agree with the cost of AAA games being as much as they want it to be. I work on teams making really good games that are not nearly the cost that AAA titles came to be. Plus, I've been thinking of recruiting talent of local colleges. There are plenty of students in numerous fields looking to put their name on something... I was.

Brent Gulanowski
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I think that most media and entertainment industries need new business ideas, and to some extent new technology (across their entire production line), in order to achieve better stability.

Stability is important. Not just to any particular industry, but to society. Physical and social capital lost is everyone's loss, directly or indirectly. When companies go bankrupt, when people get laid off, when products costing hundreds of millions aren't wanted by the buying public (think John Carter), that's all terrible waste.

Because we all have a sense that this waste is bad, it generates a lot of emotions, a lot of discussion and a lot of press.

I wouldn't be so radical as to argue that the sense that waste is a result of risk is wrong. But the assumption that seems to get around that waste increases with risk of any kind is probably wrong. There are lots of ways to mitigate risk, and people running businesses need to get better acquainted with them. Maybe more importantly, a lot more research and thinking needs to be done to come up with new ways to mitigate risk.

It still amazes me that new properties in the game and entertainment industry don't take a more drawn out path from low-cost to high-cost investments. There has always been a very large market for story- and character-driven properties in low-cost media: books, TV series, comics, casual and social games. The success of movies and TV based on popular books is certainly pretty impressive.

I may be ignoring the failures I haven't heard about, but Harry Potter, Twilight, and Game of Thrones suggest a slightly different model. Maybe the creation of new properties in novel form hinges too crucially on individual creative talent in the form of authors, but collaborative writing is the norm on television. Countless AAA games could have started as lower-cost products in different media. Perhaps the history of attempts to translate novels to games isn't good (I haven't done a survey), but I wonder how many novels were written with the intent of preparing or testing a game setting and characters in advance, as opposed to trying to leverage a pre-existing property? I'd guess almost none.

As for the technology, maybe procedural content generation is as close as fusion to being a reliable reality. Or maybe it just needs more people to think about it. But I don't think I'm being radical when I say that automation has been the cure to a lot of cost problems in a lot of industries.

Granted, it doesn't solve the deeper problem of how to employ people. Readers of this site are probably the ones most acutely aware of the basic issue in the games industry: are there enough jobs to employ all the people who want to work in this industry? Well, if most of them are in AAA, and AAA is eating the vast majority of the revenues in the industry, then probably not. Because AAA means corporations, investors and the funnelling of profits into a very small minority of people who don't live or die by the success of the industry.

I'll go on record with a personal point of view: corporations are bad for society--when they overstay their welcome, and when they get too big -- too big to fail or otherwise. Industries dominated by large corporations are unstable, very slow to react to change and extremely vulnerable to risk. Whereas those dominated by smaller businesses, especially privately-owned businesses, are more adaptable. They are run and staffed by people with more of a vested interest, and more of an awareness of what's happening on the ground. They employ more people, and changes in the economy and market lead to fewer massive layoff events. This is the chief problem and danger of AAA games (and movies and anything else).


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