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Cost of Game Development is 'Crazy' Says EA 321

Posted by Zonk
from the they-would-know dept.
GamesIndustry.biz has the word from Alan Tascan, general manager of EA's Montreal studio, who has gone on record saying that development costs are 'crazy' in this next-gen world. From the article: "When asked whether he'd agree that it's larger companies like EA which are driving bigger game budgets, Tascan replied, 'I think a lot of [other companies] are spending even more money. It's people who want that, it's not EA per se ... I said to some of the guys here, "The gamer is not buying lines of code; you have to promise him enough entertainment for him to put his hand in his pocket and buy the game." It's a lot of money, so you need to give him a show, and we're just here to deliver the show.'"
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Cost of Game Development is 'Crazy' Says EA

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  • No Problem (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:12AM (#17113216)
    Good thing EA only has to develop one Madden game per console.

    I kid, I kid...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by malsdavis (542216) *
      I really don't understand where the money goes for the annual sports game like FIFA ## & Madden ## (although I've not actually played Madden). The graphics and gameplay show only extremely minor improvements year on year, yet they claim development costs of many millions.

      So where does the money actually go?

      • Re:No Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eln (21727) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:30AM (#17113456) Homepage
        Licensing.
      • Re:No Problem (Score:4, Insightful)

        by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:31AM (#17113464) Homepage Journal

        I really don't understand where the money goes for the annual sports game like FIFA ## & Madden ## (although I've not actually played Madden). The graphics and gameplay show only extremely minor improvements year on year, yet they claim development costs of many millions.
         
        So where does the money actually go?
         
         
        the nfl didn't give them an exclusive contract for peanuts
      • Re:No Problem (Score:4, Informative)

        by hal2814 (725639) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:45AM (#17113710)
        "The graphics and gameplay show only extremely minor improvements year on year"

        Graphics are easy to see without playing. However, I don't see how you can deduce the gameplay characteristics of a game series you've never played. As a semi-regular Madden buyer, I'll address the issue anyways. Those improvements are incremental but if you look at how long it ususally takes to develop a sequel to a game (2-3 years) and what Madden has done in that amount of time, the changes are typically quite drastic. That would explain where the money went. I still maintain that I'd rather play Madden 07 than Madden 06 with 07's roster and that's been true every year except for IMHO some exceptionally poor showings from 2001 to 2003 (in Madden years).
      • Re:No Problem (Score:4, Insightful)

        by HeavenlyBankAcct (1024233) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @06:22PM (#17120478)
        Trust me, it takes just as long to re-factor and "fix" legacy code that's been hacked and re-hacked for years as it does to write it from scratch. Speaking from experience here, the iterative nature of titles like Madden and FIFA leads to a more difficult, bloated production cycle than you'd expect. Think about it -- You're a new developer working on a project and you get handed a library of code that's been 'resused' and 'modified' under 'tight time constraints' (aka "hacked") for YEARS. You have to spend time familiarizing yourself with this spaghetti mess, and as such, your productivity declines. Your managers see this occuring across the board and throw more people at the problem. Now you have four or five people who are unfamiliar with the project working on it, adding in their modifications, and making their own 'modifications' under 'tight time constraints' (aka "hacks"). What do you think ends up happening the next year when a whole new batch of people are thrown onto the project? I'd suggest turning to your dog-eared copies of The Mythical Man-Month [wikipedia.org] before you attempt to divy exactly what is going on behind the scenes at EA, and probably a lot more of the bigger developers out there. The cost of game development gets "crazy" because these huge companies are falling into the common trap where they've become convinced that the answer to any development problem is "MORE RESOURCES." The concept of working in a streamlined environment has long since been abandoned in favor of a "big business" mentality where the whole somehow is percieved as greater than the sum of the parts.
  • Cry me a river... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joe Snipe (224958) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:13AM (#17113224) Homepage Journal
    You think it's pricey to make games? I have to pay $699 for the console to play them!
    • by fistfullast33l (819270) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:31AM (#17113462) Homepage Journal
      I have no pity for EA. All they've been doing is complaining lately. Heck, two months ago EA was complaining that the PSP is a horrible [slashdot.org] platform [arstechnica.com]! They seem to be the only ones having an issue with it, however, as all their games have either been buggy [ign.com] on release [ign.com] or just plain slow and choppy (Sims 2 I'm looking at you). I say stop complaining about costs, shrink your development team sizes, get your products under control, and release some quality games and you'll see your costs decrease. EA really annoyed me with their support of the PSP to the point where I'm not buying any of their games at this point. The only exception I might make is Spore, but that's it.
      • Re:Cry me a river... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Bastian (66383) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:54AM (#17113824)
        I have to wonder how much EA's reputation for overworking their employees has to do with this. I'm not Brooks or anything, but I get the sense that the productivity of a developer increases more quickly than the pay that said developer will expect. With a bad reputation like that, they probably have a harder time securing as many really skilled employees, since good workers can more easily get a better job somewhere else. In short, they end up paying more money for less work by using more freshouts and fewer gurus.
        • ...and as such am fairly desperate for that first job. However, because of their reputation as a sweatship, EA is not somebody I'd want to work for.
          I can't see why any hotshot developer would work for them, either.

          Other outfits may be sweatshops, too, but EA is a known sweatshop.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stoolpigeon (454276) *
      right - you can only look at the cost of production in light of the revenue generated. pro athletes make 'crazy' money because fans pay 'crazy' money for tickets and merchandise. but i'm not sure he was complaining as just saying he didn't think the current situation was sustainable.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by erbbysam (964606)
      You think it's pricey to make games? I have to pay $699 for the console to play them!
      and even then the next-gen consoles are 'loss leaders'.

      Games have always been hard to produce the only difference between then and now is that they have more pixels to work with which means more graphics to create, not necessarily more gameplay. Gamers, in general, have been spoiled by the great control of games like 'Halo' and 'God of War' and the length of games like 'DeusEx', I think that this is just EA crying about
      • by Osiris Ani (230116) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @12:09PM (#17114028)
        Games have always been hard to produce the only difference between then and now is that they have more pixels to work with which means more graphics to create, not necessarily more gameplay.

        So the physics model for Pong wasn't really all that different than that of, say, Quake 4? The greater complexity and raw power of more modern systems allow for more expansive gameplay beyond the pushing of pixels and shaders. The AI, the level of interaction with the environment, and the immersive qualities of the audio fields are only a few of the ways that games have evolved since the offerings available during my childhood.

        Relegating the changes to mere visual aesthetic modifications completely discounts the capabilities that the technology allows as well as the pure academic research that led to each of these advances. From a tech-geek standpoint, your assertion is almost offensive.

        • by jackbird (721605) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @01:35PM (#17115342)
          How about the difference between Quake 4 and Quake 1? Is that really a decade of progress?

          Does Dead Rising allow the same richness of interaction with the environment that any Infocom text adventure did?

          Great advancements are being made in gameplay today (the Wii controller being a very visible example among many), but there's a lot of rehashed shiny same-old as well. Sort of like how there are some great films being made today, but a surprising number of outright remakes of old B-movies with better VFX.

        • Re:Cry me a river... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by CommandNotFound (571326) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @02:19PM (#17115920)
          I understand your point, but don't discount the difficulty of writing the games of yesteryear. With those early systems (Atari 2600), you had to output your graphics by twiddling bits during each raster scan line, no mode19h bitmapped memory, no DirectX buffers, and definitely no glBegin(); glAddTriangle() type calls. No function calls at all, just pushing bytes with assembly (if you're lucky) around. And do it in 1K or less of memory.

          Games of today are much more complex, but the 'Invention of invention' was made decades ago, so we expect a lot more out of the industry today. Barnes & Noble or Amazon have shelves of books explaining how to write 2D/3D/board games, which is a huge benefit over the 'old days'. Pre-1990 you almost had to grow up in Silicon Valley so your dad could show you why you use "poke 3e, ff" to clear the screen on your Apple II. Now you can buy books showing you how to build your logic loop, collision detection, etc. And that's for the 'hardcore' coders who want to know the mechanics. Everyone else can just download/buy a game engine and make function calls.

      • by misleb (129952) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @03:02PM (#17116554)
        How far back are you going when you say "then?" Because I'm pretty sure that the AI in Space Invaders, for example, is trivial compared to most modern games. Games HAVE increased in complexity significantly over the years. There is so much that a game developer has to work on these days. AI, network mutiplayer issues, complex physics models, gameplay balancing, etc. The only really difficult part about developing games in the past was making them fit in very tight spaces because memory was always tight. Not that i am trivializing that process, but come on. What half decent programmer couldn't put together a "Pong" clone in less than a week? These days game development cycles measure in months and years with large teams of programmers and designers. There is much more than just extra "pixels" in there. It is like comparing a major motion picture to a photograph.

        -matthew
    • by ubuwalker31 (1009137) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @01:32PM (#17115310)
      Check out http://finance.google.com/finance?q=ERTS [google.com] and look at EA's financials. This is the real scandal here. They brought in about $3 Billion, yes, Billion with a B, dollars in 2006. $3,000,000,000. That is a cool pile of cash. And then they spent just under half of that to make their product. Thats a lot of dough!

  • Meh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) <dylanNO@SPAMdylanbrams.com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:20AM (#17113290) Homepage Journal
    There are always going to be two kinds of developers:

    The developers who are creative and try to build new, interesting games every time in the interest of having fun and helping others have fun.

    And the developers who are in an 'arms race' to make the most flashy eye candy possible in the name of capturing market share.

    Gosh, wonder where EA fits in? I have a lot of respect for the way Shiny produced a decade of great games. As did Microprose. Blizzard is arguably doing the same thing now. Nintendo has spent a decade being a developer of quality.

    EA, well, they're a good distributor. Sometimes........... erm. No. Never mind. Their games have gotten better implemented recently, but I've never played a groundbreaking EA game. So yeah, since they're just racing the competition to build the best game within the lines given to them, it's going to be expensive. And I have zero pity on them for high dev costs; that's the segment of the market they are going after...
    • Re:Meh. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by east coast (590680) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:35AM (#17113532)
      Gosh, wonder where EA fits in?

      Let's not try to be coy here because I'm having a problem interpreting exactly what you're saying. Infact statements like these are so non-committal that it makes me wonder if you're not sure of what you're trying to say or if you're just taking a cheap shot at EA.

      According to you there are two types of game developers: creative and eye candy.

      IMHO EA fits into both of these neat little categories that you've made. Sure, we all know the eye candy aspect of creating games like Maden. But EA also has gone out on a limb by publishing some fairly shaky (as in proven markets) titles like Alice and Undying. From my understanding EA took a bath on both of these games. I like both of them and own them but honestly if the game market is not buying these titles who can blame EA? They're not starving artists, they're a company that needs to pull a profit to keep people employed and to (hopefully) develop new and better products.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by 0xdeadbeef (28836)
        They're not starving artists, they're a company that needs to pull a profit to keep people employed and to (hopefully) develop new and better products.

        You do realize this attitude is antithetical to their whining about the conditions of the market? Oh noes! Making money has gotten hard now that our competition is emulating our successful strategy! It's not fair!

        I say pile on the cheap-shots. Only undeserving douchebags employ loser-talk while they're fucking the prom queen.
      • ea sucks (Score:5, Interesting)

        by crabpeople (720852) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @02:18PM (#17115906) Journal
        Everyone who doesn't have a negative opinion of EA doesnt know jack about games. They buy other companies, then throw out half cocked sequals that suck balls. They can't even get a good 2d UI right! Two examples. First, BF2. BF1942 was probably the best game released when it came out. It had everything, huge maps, all sorts of vehicles, it was revolutionary. Then out came the free Desert Combat mod, which improved it even further. Than DUM DUM DUM.. ea baught dice. The next game, much promise, was BF2. I baught this game from a store for about $60. It was shite. The ingame server browser didnt work, there were loads of unskippable cutscenes at the begining, and the forced GaySpy integration took forever to get working right. They even made you pay for more "advanced" weaponry, so if you wanted to be as good as otherpeople you had to pay again. Then, if you actually made it into the game, the maps were smaller than bf1942, more buggy, and the graphics didnt even scale properly. This past fall they released a new expansion intitled bf2142. They didnt even bother to fix all the problems in bf2, and I am willing to bet that bf2142 is just bf2 with some new shit tacked on.

        Another example is C&C generals. Command and Conquer was one of the oldest and best RTS games out there. Red Alert was crazy intelligent and well rounded. Then you got generals. That buggy piece of shit, with the crappiest (still years after release) netcode and a myrad of design changes and bugs. They totally broke the whole c&c franchise by developing a whole new story for the universe. That game should not even be called c&c. Here is an excerpt from the wikipedia entry:

        "There is also a glitch/cheat in the online play called the "SCUD bug" which allows the player of the GLA army to automatically reload their SCUD launcher shortly after it is fired. Many fans demanded Electronic Arts to fix this glitch so that online players wouldn't be given the opportunity to cheat so easily. But EA didn't respond to this call."

        I mean how fucking apathetic do you have to be to not even bother fixing MAJOR exploits in the game?

        EA is simply the worst about not fixing bugs. It seems as if they have a memory of 1 year. If a game is passed one year release, its time to either a) tack on an expansion b) make a sequel or c) bargain bin it and stop all development.

        Like I am having trouble believing that you are not some sort of shill for EA. They ruined so many good games. UO is another one, where they decided just realeasing new art every year or so and charging an extra $59.99 for it was a valid way to "improve" the game. Simcity too. The graphics on simcity 4000 are SO BUGGY, that I had to hunt around and try multiple point realeases of nvidia video drivers before I wouldnt get crazy random graphics corruption happening in that game. They had some good ideas with the whole multiple cities on a continent theme, but If I cant see it because of graphics bugs then wtf good is it?? This is also on multiple machines with both ATI and NVIDIA cards. You can get it running if you find the exact magic combination of drivers and details/resolutions but come on! EA is a huge company! Maybe thats why they make such shit now, too much beurocracy, not enough risk taking.

        I just remembered one last thing I absolutely hate about ea's business practices. Every time I logged into BF2, I would get an ad for some other stupid EA game or bf2 pay for mod. Showing ads to me in a game that I have PURCHASED is crossing the line.

        Now thats 4 games, and I didnt actually play the games you mentioned. Seems like alot of people (usually on consoles so what do they know?) forgive them for various UI bugs that I would consider unacceptable in a gold game. I don't play sports games but I have heard them roundly condemed by everyone who does. Fuck EA. They took their slogan too literally and "challenged" good gameplay, exsisting franchises and good quality code. From what I have read about the practices at that company re developers, I am not surprised in the slightest that they produce the most buggy unplayable games I have ever tried to play.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by east coast (590680)
          Everyone who doesn't have a negative opinion of EA doesnt know jack about games.

          Like I am having trouble believing that you are not some sort of shill for EA.

          I didnt actually play the games you mentioned.

          Thanks for the input. I can tell this is a fairly insightful set of remarks... You never played the games I mention but you know they have to suck (and I do to) simply because they're from EA? Fantastic. BTW: I never played most of the games you mentioned either, but I know enough to hold my tongue
    • Re:Meh. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by NewWorldDan (899800) <dan@gen-tracker.com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:40AM (#17113614) Homepage Journal
      The cost of development has also soared for Blizzard as well. 3D modeling gets expenisve very quickly. It takes more artists and more programmers. Expectations for sound have increased - both in terms of the sound track and the sound effects. This means hiring actual actors and sound effects guys instead of having a programmer spend 2 days recording a few odd sounds.

      Yes, Blizzard makes really awesome games, but they're spending as much as EA is on each title. When a game flops, or if they invest a lot of time and can't get it to market for whatever reason, they're in a world of hurt. Actually, blizzard is probably sitting on such a cash hoard at this point, they'll be ok for a very long time, but other developers could really get burned.
      • Re:Meh. (Score:4, Informative)

        by XorNand (517466) * on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @12:49PM (#17114652)

        Bah... it doesn't have to be that expensive. I've plugged them before here and I'll plug them again because I think that the company is amazing: Stardock [stardock.com]. They're a tiny, independent developer/publisher about 30 minutes from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their most notable game is Galactic Civilizations 2 [galciv2.com], which includes 3D modeling, professional music score and sound effects, an insane amount of detail, excellent replayability, challenging AI, and very balanced gameplay. When I think "independent game developer", lame little Flash-based games are what come to mind. However GalCiv2 *fully* competes with anything EA has ever put out. Stardock also has a very "pro-customer" stance [galciv2.com] on copy protection too.

        • Re:Meh. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @01:22PM (#17115128) Homepage Journal
          That game probably has zero models over 300 polys. I can do that kind of modeling. Newer systems are allowing models with thousands of polys, from which lower-resolution meshes can be automatically generated when needed. This technology is becoming more common as we get more CPU to throw at things like that. And what do you mean by a "professional" music score? All that means is that someone did it for money. Every time I play a video game any more (except for a few rare exceptions) when I hear the music I'm left thinking "I've heard .MOD files better than this." And people have 16 channel sound and CD-quality audio these days, back in THOSE days it was four channels, two to each stereo channel, and 22khz audio. I'm glad that some independent developers made a nice game that you like a lot, but I don't think the multimedia properties are the valuable part of that game. It's the program behind them that makes the whole thing valuable. A strategy game is just as fun with crap graphics, so long as you can see WTF is going on. (Not that I don't like eye candy.)
        • When I think "independent game developer", lame little Flash-based games are what come to mind.

          But Trogdor [homestarrunner.com] is my favorate game.
        • Malfador Machinations has made some amazing games, but they may no longer be independent; I saw Space Empires V in Best Buy....
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      he developers who are creative and try to build new, interesting games every time in the interest of having fun and helping others have fun.

      And the developers who are in an 'arms race' to make the most flashy eye candy possible in the name of capturing market share.

      Gosh, wonder where EA fits in?


      EA fits both categories, they have highly experimental games coming from studios they own like Maxis. Don't forget Spore as well.

      But a big business can't run their entire operation, for years, based no the premise "h
      • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Moofie (22272) <leeNO@SPAMringofsaturn.com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @12:56PM (#17114754) Homepage
        "EA fits both categories, they have highly experimental games coming from studios they own like Maxis."

        That's a pretty serious oversimplification. EA bought Maxis, and then tried to kill The Sims. Any "highly experimental" game that comes out of EA is an accident, not an experiment.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by suv4x4 (956391)
          That's a pretty serious oversimplification. EA bought Maxis, and then tried to kill The Sims. Any "highly experimental" game that comes out of EA is an accident, not an experiment.

          Actually mine was the right oversimplification, and your is putting a human face on a corporation, which we know it's not.

          The momet Maxis was purchased by EA, it's part of EA corporation and that's all. From that point on, it's business as usual. If EA's strategy is wrong, they won't profit, won't be on the market. They don't cut
          • by Firehed (942385)
            They profit in only one way: people like and buy their games.

            Well, two ways for BF2142. Better not about the spyware for in-game advertising on that one. They make money even if you pirate the game.
    • by lymond01 (314120)
      EA might be huge and unwieldy, but they do make some good games. Battle for Middle-Earth comes to mind. In the over-populated RTS world, they broke new ground in a few areas. I still consider the individual unit physics and the ability for horses to ride through and over troops a mandatory feature in any medieval-type RTS I play, and I haven't seen another game that has this, so I still play BFME.
  • by Canthros (5769) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:21AM (#17113298)
    The cost of game development has skyrocketed over the last thirty years. In the last ten years or so (the period during which I have actually been paying attention), I'd say that it's arguable just how much benefit this has produced for the game industry or their customers.

    Maybe they should be focusing on making the games fun to play, instead of entertaining to watch?
    • by Phydeaux314 (866996) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:30AM (#17113454) Homepage
      Why do they have to be mutually exclusive? It's possible to make games that have an entertaining plotline and decent graphics quality. I mean, Half-Life was by no means "groundbreaking" as far as graphics go, but it was still pretty - and fun to play. Hell, it was based off of a modified quake 1 engine! I think the problem lies in the development time. When a game is rushed to the door to meet an arbitrary deadline, quality suffers. 8 years ago, a normal game development cycle was about 2-3 years, tops. We all laughed at dakitana for taking 4 and a half, saying that's what killed it. Now, it seems, all the "insightful" or "groundbreaking" games spend at least that long in development. Oblivion, Half-Life 2, etc. are all good examples of this. It boils down to this: If you have enough time, you can work on eye candy AND on playability. Save the $500,000 on licensed technology for whatever and do it in-house. Not only is it easier to suit it to your needs, but it's more unique.
      • by Canthros (5769) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @01:27PM (#17115230)
        For heaven's sake, I never said they were mutually exclusive. I said that the effort poured into graphics is producing diminishing returns. (Half-Life 1 being an excellent example of why I'm right.)

        1. I would wager, the use of licensed code probably contributes to better games, overall, than the practice of writing the engine in house. Unless you need that next-generation engine that nobody else can offer, it's probably cheaper to license the engine from somebody else. The dev time saved alone is probably worth the cost, and time not spent developing the engine can be put to better use solving other conundrums.
        2. Daikatana died less because of how long it took, and more because, by the time it finally was released, it did nothing that other games hadn't already done better. The problem was not the farcically long development time, but that the development time hadn't produced a good enough game to warrant the time spent, let alone the ludicrous hype.
        3. There's almost never enough time. Unless you have a guaranteed seller on your hands (instead of just the latest iteration in the race for totally immersive graphics), you simply can't take as long as you like. Games have competitors, and the audience is fickle beside.
    • Civilization 4 has an amazing soundtrack. The movements are epic, masterfully performed, and with wonderfully diverse instrumentation.

      That had to be much more expensive than programmer-inspired beeping in earlier games. And it is well worth it. The whole game costs less than one seat at a symphony.
      • by Canthros (5769)
        But is it a fun game? More fun, or less fun than the same game without the fancy music? (In any case, the per-unit cost of including a nice soundtrack is probably infinitesimal most of the time.

        Seriously, folks. I'm not saying 'ZOMG! ATARI WUZ TEH KOOLIST!' I'm saying that the fancy sound, graphics, and so forth that go with current-gen games have not significantly enhanced most of the games being produced, except for their price tags.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Maybe they should be focusing on making the games fun to play, instead of entertaining to watch?

      I can't believe cynical overgeneralizations still get modded up around here. There's a lot of noise out there, but also some killer fun games. The emerging cinematic elements aren't a substitution for fun, but a huge addition to the ones which do it right.
  • Nintendo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by frederec (911880) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:21AM (#17113302)

    Statements like these give me hope for the success of Nintendo. From what I've heard, it is far easier and cheaper to code for the Wii (and similarly the DS/GBA) than for the "true" next-gen systems. Perhaps while the large companies are making the blockbuster big-budget games, Nintendo will attract the more indy, affordable games. Then when people get more accustomed to the PS3 and 360, (perhaps) costs will come down enough to make it more reasonable.

    Or maybe Xbox Live and the equivalent for the PS3 will just get an explosion of smaller games, and there will be just a small number of blockbusters coming out on the system proper.

  • define 'crazy' (Score:3, Interesting)

    by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerte@drunksnipe r s .com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:22AM (#17113330) Homepage
    What are we talking about? $10m, $50m, $100m, $150m?
    According to Mark Rein Gears of War had a $10m pricetag.
    And what would be even more interesting was a breakdown of the costs. For example, is it less expensive to use original music or licensed music.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      Okay - 30 developers, 100K each, 2 years would be $6 million. These are fairly typical ballpark figues but there other costs as well. Dev teams range from half that size to about 3 times that size, employee costs are probably fairly variable and depend a lot on location. Development times are usually at least a year and rarely more than 3 (BOCTAOE). So lets say between $3 million and $60 million.
  • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:22AM (#17113332) Journal
    The average blockbuster (meaning one that is intended to sell lots of tickets vs a niche market) movie budget is $100-$200 million. Game development cost are in the $10-$20 million dollar range. Game profits sometimes dwarf movie profits. Though I don't think game developers are going to be spending $200 million anytime soon (except for DNF) they will continue to make a profit regardless. The real interesting thing that is going to happen soon will be a break from the idea that every game has to be a blockbuster. More and more game studios are understanding a niche hit can be just as profitable as a blockbuster. Expect to see more small budget games even ones developed for the next gen consoles.
    • by fistfullast33l (819270) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:37AM (#17113554) Homepage Journal
      I agree with you. Most movies do cost more to produce. Some would say that movies are mass-marketed to a wider audience. However, everyone has heard that the games industry is second in sales only to porn. They beat the music and the movie industries. Such is the cost of stardom - if your business is big it's going to cost more to play. People know you're making money hand over fist and they're going to want a piece of that pie. And once you're required to meet and exceed expectations, quality is going to have to increase as well, which costs money. I say shut up and make a decent game. They finally reduced the size of packaging and digital distribution is on the horizon - hell it's already here. That will save them a boatload of money.
    • by Fozzyuw (950608)

      The average blockbuster (meaning one that is intended to sell lots of tickets vs a niche market) movie budget is $100-$200 million. Game development cost are in the $10-$20 million dollar range. Game profits sometimes dwarf movie profits.

      I agree with you. However, one thing to note, these types of movies also have a different life cycle.

      1. Theaters
      2. 'Direct TV' rentals
      3. DVD sales/Rentals
      4. 'Exclusive first time network showing'

      I'm sure there are other parts of this cycle they make money off a movie's produc

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Duds (100634) *
      There is a different though.

      A blockbuster film has a cinema run, then a PPV TV run, then a DVD run, then a network TV run and a really big movie will have tickover DVD sales for many years and will continue to sell at a reasonable trickle on Hd-DVD and then whatever future formats we have. For instance, Blade Runner is STILL selling on DVD now, 20 years after release, it's still making money. The original dev costs of these films when moved to HD-DVD from DVD will be minimal.

      A game comes out, it sells for
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Chyeld (713439)
        Actualy your point concerning the 'half-life' (pun intended) of a movie is even more ammo as to why EA has made it's own bed.

        Half-Life 1 came out how many years ago? How much support has Valve dumped into it? Into it's expansions, mods, and successors?

        Now take almost any of EA's major franchises. Need for Speed, The Sims, C&C, etc.

        After the intial sale, how much effort has put into maintaining and supporting any of the games in any of their franchises?

        When Half-Life 2 was released, you could (and can st
  • Blah (Score:2, Insightful)

    What is EA doing? Paying each football player to come into their motion capture studios to perfectly imitate the way each runs? Taking hi res photos of their faces to perfectly texture them?

    There's a cost for HD games, and it isn't cheap. However, I think EA is calling sour grapes because companies like Capcom, Team Ninja and Square-Enix are able to make games that are stunning, fun, and wildly profitable while EA doesn't make the grade in any of those.

    The sad truth of Spore is that it will be a great game,
  • by Skevin (16048) * on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:26AM (#17113390) Journal
    "It's people who want that, it's not EA per say..."

    Umm, it's "per se".

    I realize this is how different flavours of languages propagate over the ages, but I'm all in favor of keeping English as unified as possible.

    Solomon
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by itsdapead (734413)
      Umm, it's "per se". I realize this is how different flavours of languages propagate over the ages, but I'm all in favor of keeping English as unified as possible.

      I think you'll find per se is Latin :-)

    • by vertinox (846076)
      I realize this is how different flavours of languages propagate over the ages, but I'm all in favor of keeping English as unified as possible.

      Thou dost mock mine native tongue with banterings of a barbrian! Have at thee with bulbous and troubedore pestilence!
  • Says who? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by antek9 (305362) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:27AM (#17113404)
    I'm sure EA can cut down on development costs like they did for some years by releasing sequel after sequel, not counting spin-offs.

    EA might just be whining because they have to start from somewhere near scratch with a new architecture like the CELL within the PS3 (which unlike the Wii is not just an update of a former system); something that more respectable developers do for any new game that tries to make a new idea become reality.

    EA also has more fixed costs in the licensing department, I guess. It won't be so cheap incorporating all those sports celebrities, real team & player names, car brands and technical specs and what have you. But that's up to their own conceptual decision, crazy as it may be.
  • by karrde (853) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:29AM (#17113434) Homepage Journal
    I'll go watch a movie.

    When I pay for gaming entertainment, I want a game, something fun. This is why I bought a Wii. Companys can focus on the fun factor and not have to blow me away with showy graphics.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by xtmno4 (1035416)
      Agreed.

      A gaming console is a specific computer made for the sole purpose of playing games / enjoying yourself. To that end, they should provide things that a standard PC is not really made to do, which is why I like the Wii. Yes, you can make the Wiimote work on a PC, but no game developer is going to try and market a PC game towards that. By creating one standard and interactive device for gamers to play with, Nintendo has given the Wii a good amount of backing for developers to market to. To that en

      • by Omestes (471991)
        You've been hanging out in the local hardware shop / /. too much, the average gamer has clearly stated that they don't want to play games on the PC, for understandable reasons. PC games didn't go into decline because the game developers decided to stop supporting them as much, but because the consumers decided to buy less games for them, and more on the consoles. Welcome to the market. Granted I did enjoy my PC as a gaming platform, and stuck with it through from the NES until about when Doom 3 came out,
    • Cry me a wiiver (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cybrthng (22291) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @12:39PM (#17114518) Journal
      This article has absolutely nothing to do with the Wii. Madden for the wii is still madden and people are obsessed over it graphically just as much as the other consoles and it wasn't like it was cheaper to produce the wii version than the other versions.

      The simple truth of the matter is developers need to make games. That is all. Some people like wii games, some people don't. The wii is a new product in nintendos linup and i'm sure it will do good but it isn't the be all end all that people preach around here.

      I like my graphics, i don't mind some cutscenes as games are sometimes stories that need some telling as well. You can preach the wii all you want, but the wii is a console, not a game.

      The real problem with the media market in general (not just games) is public companies having to increase there bottom line as if we are just a product consumer. Most gamers don't play games because we need to, but because we want to and if EA doesn't make games we want to play it won't matter which console they prefer to support, how much money they dump into or whos name they get on it.. It will still suck.

      EA is like the motor giants of detroit, they had some good linups but thought Americans would buy crap just because of name alone. Forget quality, forget character, forget slick design, feedback and personality. Its about profit. It costs money to make money and if you don't like that, then leave. Maybe EA needs some new management, someone who understands what a gamer feels when he/she is in the passion of the moment.

      I like the small shops because they do one thing and do it well. Epic turns out one hit after another because they stick to what they're good at and they sell the technology to others so they can build what they're good at as well.

      The problem with EA is they're a company who believes that buying up markets creates demand and that is where they will fail. You don't own me EA and thus i don't own anything from you.

  • Cost != quality (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grave (8234) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .88treblawa.> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:31AM (#17113472)
    If EA is worried about the cost of game development, then maybe they should start focusing on producing quality games. They are repeatedly getting slammed in reviews with drivel like NBA Live 2007. If they didn't push out another iteration of every franchise each year, development could focus on building a truly blockbuster title, rather than a few updates with each release.

    Ubisoft has thrown their weight behind the Wii, and embraced the much cheaper development costs there. They aren't ignoring the PS3 and 360, but those Wii titles will help cushion their bottom line a bit. EA doesn't seem to have paid as much attention to the Wii when it comes to unique IP.
  • I thought these were the guys who make tweaks to the same games and release new ones every year with a new year number.* That's gotta be the least expensive way to make a new game (unless you go Burger King's route).

    Maybe they're upset about new control schemes by Sony and especially Nintendo causing them to actually have to code something INNOVATIVE.

    * - Yeah, if you can't tell, I'm not a fan of the sports genre... I haven't bought even one sports title, unless you count Tony Hawk.

  • Cost reduction? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The-Bus (138060) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:33AM (#17113502)
    Is there the equivalent of "clip-art" for game studios? If I'm buying a racing game, I don't need to know that the makers personally did the buildings or the trees. Buildings are buildings, trees are trees. In film, there's a lot of specialization that exists: for example, you can buy pre-rendered explosions to put in your movie. A better example might be companies that specialize in making CGI oceans and water. A lot of movies with CGI oceans rely on them to deliver that look.

    Could game companies do something like this? Every game is going to have proprietary assets like the protagonist, specific types of giant robots, monsters, vampires, what have you. But does some of this info get shared even between sub-studios? How many times is AI code re-written? (That may be a bad example, as AI code may or may not be part of the engine). Can we just use the same Enzo Ferrari model in each racing game? Do we really need 7 different companies perfecting how the car looks?

    I don't think this will lead to homogeny in games. If anything, it will free up designers to be more creative and think about the important things in the game (gameplay, control, fun) as opposed to how accurate Scenery Team 3's rendition of this waterfall is.
    • by cyxxon (773198)
      Yeah, that is what I have always been wondering about as well. But I guess we are geting to this point, for example trees are already done with SpeedTree in a lot of games (Oblivion, NWN2, Unreal 2007?). I also think that some houses should just push this business model onto the market: create e.g. high quality human models or car models, in a generic 3d format, and sell them to studios. Change the head and clothing, and voila - new NPC for your game. Sure, locusts in GoW can't really be sold like that beca
    • I don't think it necessitates homogeneity. If you make these objects highly customizable, it will be easy to make yours different without spending much time on it.

      What I want to see is a generalization of your idea to games as a whole. What if someone made a kind of game toolbox with an easy-to-use interface for adding graphical objects, AI, dialogue, etc? Ditto for CGI movies. Like Red vs Blue with Halo, but make the game centered around making movie scenes rather than have to make do with what's possi
      • by The-Bus (138060)
        This isn't really a development tool, but for machinima enthusiasts (that term still irks me), there's Lionhead's The Movies [lionhead.com]. It starts out as a Rollescoaster Tycoon-esque resource management game and eventually lets you make your own films. Some of these are even shared online.

        I've never used it, so I don't know how easy or difficult it is.
    • by EvilIdler (21087)
      Yes, there are content packs you can buy, some even affordable by regular joes making games for fun.

      See Garage Games for a start; there are model and texture packs available for a fistful of dollars.

      Licensees get access to all sorts of neat code, too.
    • I think we're already seeing something like this to a much higher extreme. In the past, game engines have been reused and licenced quite a bit, but now-a-days (especially in the FPS genre) I'm seeing game engines that specifically tout their easy of development for licenced products; like Source, The Doom3 Engine, Unreal Engine 3.0 In the future, I could see all kinds of genre's picking up on this method. I don't really see it as a bad thing, merely an natural outgrowth of the vigorous mod community. Which
    • by cliffski (65094)
      There are tehnical reasons why there isn't more of this. Not all rendering engines work the same way, and some are very fussy about how the polygons are arranged, and in what way special extra (no-geometry) data is added, such as placement of sound and particle emmiters, cues for AI, etc etc. Theres's a lot more to a model in a modern game than just static mesh data that can be universally implemented.

      Things are different when you go lower tech. I use nothing but stock sounds and music in my stuff, and I've
    • What i find interesting is that a lot of games attempt to take place in real environments, take a racing game, such as the MSR/PGR series. there must be a lot of money spent on, for example, sending a bunch of people to New york to accuratley map the area around central park and take a gerzillion GPS readings and photos in the process before physical in-game modelling exists. throw in Nurburgring, germany. Edinburgh, scotland. Sydney, australia and you can see where the money is going.

      Now, not every game ca
    • They have things like that- and for about every thing imaginable. Engines. Models. Textures. Music.

      The biggest problem with all of this stuff is that it tends to make things cookie-cutter unless you're grabbing
      things like trees, mood music, or sound effects from them. It shortens the cycle at least some- but, depending
      on the game, it makes it seem cheap if you get carried away with the use of off the shelf content. But, they
      COULD be using the stuff a little more, I think, without causing problems with
  • by tansey (238786) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:35AM (#17113530) Journal
    I think a lot of [other companies] are spending even more money.

    Yeah, but the other companies pay their employees overtime.
  • by LiquidHAL (801263) <LiquidHAL.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:40AM (#17113610)
    Generic comment about how games should be fun and developers "aren't getting it"
  • This is a bit of a catch 22. It's been a big push since the Atari/NES days to keep improving graphics, which comes at developing more sophisticated machines, which increases development time, which increases the cost of games. Also, as games continue to morph into an interactive story/movie, more time will need to be spent in much the same way it takes time to create film or write a book.

    Of course, I'm putting my money on the Wii for one of these reasons. Given that the actual technological specs aren'

  • by solidh2o (951957) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:59AM (#17113880)
    I've dabbled in game development a little, but I could never take the plunge and do it full time. Something about being able to go home and see my family every night and being able to go to sleep without so much eye strain that I have a migraine.

    But I do have a theory about the games industry...

    Let's forget about all the hype of next generation blah blah blah. Look at the differences between game generations. Between SNES and PSX, between PSX and PS2/Xbox, etc. The graphical jump has been undeniably great. Now we're getting closer and closer to reall life. And it's taking longer and longer to make games more realistic. But here's the catch: in 5-10 years, that will probably go the other direction, making it easier ot make really good looking games. Think about the advances in 3D Modeling in the last 10 years. I worked with Max and Maya when they were both in infancy and I'm blown away at hte ease of some of the things that you can do now. How long is it goig to be before it just CAN'T look any better that what you have? I can't see any reason why within 5 years you won't be able to tell the difference between the real world and a game.

    My theory is that in no more then 10 years, making something look like real life will be easy enough that it won't take a team of people with art degrees to do it. That's what the industry demands, and that's what's driving the technology. Soon you should be able to pick from a library of cars and buildings and people that can interact and get destroyed in a realistic fasion and will be pluggable into any environment. People will start whole businesses providing content like this and it will bring costs down for everyone for once LOL

    Anyway, maybe it's the ramblings of a madman, but maybe there's a little hint of the future there. :)

    I'm gonna go back to coding my own Final Fantasy VI clone now :)

    -Jason
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phorm (591458)
      I'm gonna go back to coding my own Final Fantasy VI clone

      Got it posted anywhere? :-)

      If you think that commercial renderers are amazing, what I've found is that the free software world is even more-so. For example, projects such as Blender [blender3d.org] and Cinelerra [heroinewarrior.com] are amazing in their capabilities. Even with such software as the GIMP [gimp.org] you can do rather wicked things.

      Now stepping into the arena of game creation, I'm becoming increasingly impressed with projects such as OGRE 3d [ogre3d.org], which unfortunately lacks somewhat i
    • by Chris Burke (6130)
      I can't see any reason why within 5 years you won't be able to tell the difference between the real world and a game.

      How's this for a reason: Toy Story was released in 1995, and while it looked great it didn't come close to looking like the real world -- in fact, it made it blatantly clear just how far computer rendering was from making a believable human being. Today's gaming hardware couldn't possibly render Toy Story in real-time, and probably won't be able to in five years either. Five more years of
  • by Assmasher (456699) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:59AM (#17113884) Journal
    ...to the leagues, team names, and players EVERY YEAR so that nobody else can use the player's actual name or the team's name in their games is maybe one of the reasons their games cost so much? Hmmmm? ;)
    • by British (51765)
      I thought the crazy costs for EA was changing their sports title year from $CURRENTYEAR to + $CURRENTYEAR+1, adding a few players to the database, changing the box graphic, and sending 'er out.

      That must be an expensive graphic design company they have for their box covers. You know, going into the text edit tool changing a digit and all that. //sarcasm.
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @12:07PM (#17113992)
    I worked for several years on mods for Neverwinter Nights [adamandjamie.com], getting my games on some magazine DVDs, winning awards, and so on. The graphics were not the best aspect, even when released, but it was fun to play and it made for an interesting hobby.

    For the last couple years, I've been planning a campaign [adamandjamie.com] for the sequel. Neverwinter Nights 2 has far better graphics and tremendous flexibility when it comes to designing areas. Such advances have a cost, however. File sizes are much larger, area creation can take ten times as long, and creating custom models is much more complicated.

    Don't get me wrong - I love the new features and style. Improved graphics can make for a better gaming experience and a greater emotional impact for players. As with all things, though, there are trade-offs. I suspect we'll see more divisions between the "fun, simple, and cheap" games like Bejeweled versus the big budget games like Gears of War. There will be audiences for both.
  • by creimer (824291) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @12:23PM (#17114266) Homepage
    After working in the video game industry for six years at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company), developing games are more expensive because the same mistakes are made every time.
    • Unrealistic schedules: A marketing dweeb decides when a game should be released without taking into consideration the developer's experience level, console manufacturing requirements, and whether enough QA will be available to adequately test the title. As a lead QA tester, I routinely add two months to the schedule and my time estimates are usually 90% correct.
    • Bonus Structure: The producer's bonus is tied to the unrealistic schedule and a lot of decisions are made to compromises the game so the producer can get his bonus. As a lead QA tester, I was routinely accused of denying a producer his "hard earned" bonus.
    • Unrestrained QA Overtime: If a game is not properly scheduled and managed, a tremendous amount of QA overtime will go into trying to save the game and, almost always, is shipped regardless of the final quality. As a lead QA tester, I worked 28 days straight on my last project because the schedule was cut by one-third and I was not notified until half-way through the project.
    I'm not holding my breath that the video game industry will one day figure out that there's a saner method for developing a video game that doesn't blow the schedule and the budget like a bad lunch at Taco Bell.
    • The incentives were bad for a while.

      Programmers were viewed as exempt and so those unrealistic schedules allowed the companies to force unpaid overtime on to them.

      I highly value our QA team. They save us from putting hideous bugs into production all the time.

      OTH. I manage relations between them and programmers all the time. They can develop a "GOTCHA" attitude that is irritating. And programmers can become defensive when valid bugs are found in their code. You constantly have to sell "QA is your friend
  • I don't know if anyone knows the exact figures (as such I can't give them away) but EA pays multi million dollars contracts for licensing. The Godfather license they KNEW they were never going to make back (it's so large you wouldn't believe it) yet they bought it any way. They are the Sony/microsoft of game development, so caught up in the war and the fighting that they just dig themselves into holes they can't get out of.

    The Madden franchise will save them of course, and be well worth all the money they
  • Introversion just released it's third hit in a row (Defcon) and their games are better than most of the high-budget ones I've tried.
    • by AusIV (950840)
      My favorite game of all times is probably Legends of Zelda, A Link to the Past. While I don't know how much it cost to produce back in the early 90's (and reproduce for Gameboy a couple years ago), its mechanics are simple enough that I could probably crank out a similar engine in a month (two weeks if I didn't do anything else) - then the rest is developing maps and a storyline.

      Game developers (and many gamers) seem to think that the only way to improve a game system is to remake the same games with bette

  • Most of what everyone here says is true, but we neglecting something about EA. First, the people that buy EA games are what we would call the general public, which is a market far far larger than are market, being elitist hardcore gamers. While we may know more about this and that, when it comes to EA, they care about the vote that it attached to every dollar people have to spend. At the end of the day, they are making money hand over fist. We may say they barely innovate at all with "Madden" just getting a
  • While MSFT's XNA initiative is still in early stages they're starting to deliver stuff that could help address the high cost of video game development. Right now the platforms and tools for game development are complex and immature. The goal of XNA is to provide a framework and toolset that will greatly speed development and...ultimately...provide a common framework for video games across both XBOX and Playstation. They have a tool available now for hobbyhists but I think they're eventually planning on rele
  • by tenzig_112 (213387) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @01:58PM (#17115660) Homepage
    The gentleman from EA is right to blame consumers for the cost problem. We like to buy expensive-looking games even if they turn out to be not all that fun. Game design has taken a back seat to shelf appeal, and we've done it to ourselves. Meanwhile, high profile games are becoming less and less fun to play. How many FPS games do we really need? You might as well slap a "100% recycled content" sticker on every game sold in the US.

    How much money does it actually cost to develop a fun game? Contrast that with costs of licensing movie characters or (worse) putting your entire production staff on the task of reworking animations for yet another Madden sequel. I'd argue that the real cost here is risk. Rather than assemble a number of small teams to make a bizarre game that could turn into a franchise, EA opts (more and more often) to play it safe by spending scads of cash on a sure thing.

    Then again, maybe he's pining for the old days when he could order up a cash cow sequel much cheaper.

    Either way, the next time you throw down your controler in dusgust at that $50 worth of deja vu you just purchased, we have only ourselves to blame.
  • by bryanbrunton (262081) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @02:44PM (#17116254)
    I recently developed a web-based version of the board game Risk.  Let's tally up the final costs:

    Programming             zero
    Project management      zero
    Graphic artist          zero
    Advertising             zero
    Publishing              500.00 (this is how much is cost to rent the web server)

    Total                   500.00

    You can play it here:  www.denizengames.com

    And yes the above does mean that my time for this project was free.

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