Video games cost money to make. Obviously. But how much money they take to make is oftentimes lost on people. We all remember hearing Destiny being rumored to have cost almost half a BILLION dollars to produce. That number was later denied by Bungie, but even so, if we were to guesstimate…that’s a word right? Fuck it, it is now. The actual number would still be around the hundred million mark, possibly more. That’s about the same, if not more than some of the highest budget Hollywood movies.
But it makes sense. When you take into factor the hundreds of programmers, artists, 3D moddelers, designers, writers, and so on, that work on a game, then consider each of their annual salaries, and then multiply it by the number of years it takes to make a triple A game; you end up with a number that’s somewhere in the 7 to 8 digit mark. And that’s not including all the resource and equipment budget, alongside studio rent and maintenance. Then it is said that marketing costs nearly triple the development budget, so tack that on and you have yourself a budget for a triple A title.
So how is the “Triple A” games model sustainable?
Well, according to former Gears of War developer, and developer of the upcoming multiplayer shooter Lawbreakers, Cliff Bleszinski…it’s not.
While speaking to attendees at Reboot Develop, he mentioned how blockbuster games are in a,
“really, really weird spot”
He goes on to say that:
“AAA is starting to feel like the American restaurant scene. They’re not bad, they’re not great, they’re just there.”
When talking about the types of games that the triple A market is producing, Cliff says:
“[There is a] category of eight games that are getting repeated over and over again”
He mentions that a game like Uncharted 4 are “great games” but cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce and market. And says that these big name games are now “too scared to take risks”
Bleszinski continues on to say:
“$60 is still a lot of money to ask people for. And to ask them to make that bet multiple times per year? Gamers are picky. They’re smart…This is a nearly unsustainable model, unless you’re an Activision, 2K, or a sony”
So what’s the solution, Cliffy? Can I call ya Cliffy? No? Big Cliff? Okay I’ll stop.
The advice he suggested was for developers, even big name ones, to instead focus on developing “Double A” titles. Now I know what you’re thinking, “why should game developers start making batteries?” Ha, ha, get it? Cause double A…batteries. No?
Terrible jokes aside I can actually see this to be a step that developers should take. It seems to be a trend in both movies and games that we no longer have a middle-ground. There are the big budget blockbusters, and then the indies. But this model is simply not sustainable. Unless we raise the price on games to $80-$90, to which honestly, I’d personally be completely fine with. And no not because my bank account looks like a phone number, but because I understand how the industry works, and I understand inflation, and I pick and choose my games and wouldn’t mind paying that price for a game I know I’ll love. But regardless, I realize that I am in the minority and that isn’t the case for many.
So Bleszinski’s advice seems to be the right move. But what is a “Double A” game? Well he considers it to be, “games that look and play great but pick their battles in terms of budget and marketing.”
Previous generations up until the PS3/360 cycle had clear examples of successful double A titles. Games like Borderlands, Crysis, inFamous, Prototype, Bayonetta are all games that sure had fairly large studio’s behind them, and had a good amount of money invested. But it wasn’t in the hundreds of millions. Some of them not even half that. And that is where these big companies need to transition to in order to both be sustainable, but also be willing to try something new.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!