The gold standard in the games industry is currentlyÂ the AAA blockbuster console title. An investment of perhaps $10-20 million or evenÂ moreÂ from a big publisher on a big team over a couple of years. And the global marketing costs run into the millions as well.Â The result is games like Grand Theft Auto, HaloÂ and Assassin’s Creed. Well crafted global best sellers. And they can make a lot of money. But often they don’t.
It could be argued that these games are actually a big part of what is wrong with the games industry:
- They use up a disproportionate amount of the available development talent and finance.
- They hold the focus of the media when, in fact, there is a lot more going on that doesn’t get the media attention it deserves.
- They usually only appeal to a narrow demographic,Â thwarting the wider acceptance of gaming.
- They are usuallyÂ difficult, inaccessible, for a non gamer to get into.
- Their genres and subject material are usuallyÂ limited and intellectually and emotionallyÂ stunted. Let’s make another alien shooting game.
- They are far, far too expensive for customers to buy. A factor of their high development costs, their limited appeal, their high risk and the large slice the platform holders take out of each one. Most games would still be too expensive at half the price.
- They use the limiting distribution model of cardboard and plastic.
- Usually they have no room for user generated and/or episodic content.
But now the winds of change are blowing through the industry. Nintendo, casual gaming, free MMOs, handhelds, social networking. All of these and more are changing the way the public look at games. And the industry, eventually, will have to follow the customer.
Quite simply a publisher will find that they can get a better return with less risk by not doing traditional AAA blockbusters. They will see that they can use their finance and development resources in ways that are better for their business.
The film industry learned this a long, long time ago. If you are going to invest a lot of money in a film make sure it appeals to a very wide audience. Don’t spend the big money on art house movies. We will follow suit and the current generation of AAA titles will be looked back at as an anomalous growing pain of the video gamingÂ industry.
And less aliens will be shot.
“The film industry learned this a long, long time ago. If you are going to invest a lot of money in a film make sure it appeals to a very wide audience” but hasnt this resulted in many MANY awful films being released over the last 5-10 years, meaning really good films are now hard to come by. If the games industry did do this wouldnt it result in alot of “middle of the road” shallow titles…and leave people crying out for that 1 diamond title in the rough anyway?
Think I have to agree with Mr Mizzle there – although aren’t we in that stage anyway? Look at Hollywood movies and the ‘indie’ scene. Now look at Need For Speed, Fifa and Halo compared with Ico, We Love Katamari and the like. The AAA games keep the media interested and the mainstream happy, but I feel there’ll always be a healthy stream of ‘indie’ games that all game publishers will want to keep pumping out, in the hope they’ll find the gaming equivalent of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ – costs very little but makes an absolute ton of cash.
“in the hope theyâ€™ll find the gaming equivalent of â€˜The Blair Witch Projectâ€™ – costs very little but makes an absolute ton of cash”
That’ll be Pop Cap games then.
If there was no classy Indie scene, with games like Rez, or Okami gaming would just die out. Guitar Hero would never have come about if it wasn’t for Frequency or Amplitude- both these titles failed to sell in any large number, but are equal to Guitar Hero as a game. They are even by the same dev team (Harmonix).
I would hate it if the games industry went more into a ‘film industry’ like structure.
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