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The Almighty Buck The Military United States Games

America's Army Games Cost $33 Million Over 10 Years 192

Responding to a Freedom Of Information Act request, the US government has revealed the operating costs of the America's Army game series over the past decade. The total bill comes to $32.8 million, with yearly costs varying from $1.3 million to $5.6 million. "While operating America's Army 3 does involve ongoing expenses, paying the game's original development team isn't one of them. Days after the game launched in June, representatives with the Army confirmed that ties were severed with the Emeryville, California-based team behind the project, and future development efforts were being consolidated at the America's Army program office at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. A decade after its initial foray into the world of gaming, the Army doesn't appear to be withdrawing from the industry anytime soon. In denying other aspects of the FOIA request, the Army stated 'disclosure of this information is likely to cause substantial harm to the Department of the Army's competitive position in the gaming industry.'"
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America's Army Games Cost $33 Million Over 10 Years

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:38AM (#30385888)

    Or DARPA.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:44AM (#30385910)
    and the US army has managed how many releases over ten years for less money incl hosting?

    Methinks the industry is doing something wrong.
  • Re:Sad but true (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:24AM (#30386048) Homepage

    It wasn't exactly efficiency that got them the low cost game. Basically they got a team of developers and had them worked to the bone to produce a game that initially would hardly run.

  • by imunfair ( 877689 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:26AM (#30386058) Homepage

    I'd wager they're doing more with the game than just recruitment. I'm sure there are a lot of interesting studies you could run on a game like that. This doesn't mean it's tin foil nefarious stuff - a lot of academics would probably like to get their hands on that data set.

    Behavioral factors, navigation patterns, learning and adapting.. I'm not even a scientist and I can think of all kinds of interesting offshoots from the game - I'd be pretty surprised if there were no scientists with government grants pursuing some sort of research involving it.

  • Horrible thought (Score:0, Interesting)

    by warp_kez ( 711090 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:29AM (#30386080)

    This might not be a game. You, the player as it were, might be controlling a remote drone in some far off country.

  • by steve buttgereit ( 644315 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:13AM (#30386290) Homepage

    'In denying other aspects of the FOIA request, the Army stated 'disclosure of this information is likely to cause substantial harm to the Department of the Army's competitive position in the gaming industry.'

    I'll be the first to admit that I'm a fan of America's Army and like the games. But that the Federal Government, much less the Army, should be concerned with its ability to compete against private industry? Isn't that contrary to our beliefs regarding the purposes of Government and of our economic system (at least in the U.S.)? And to top it off, it's denying a FOIA request on the basis, not of national security, an on-going criminal investigation or violation of someone's privacy, but on the basis of what could be called a trade secret? And it's so bogus to boot, they can invest as much as they want into the program to out-compete their private industry competitors without fear as they don't have to recoup their expenses... the Army won't go out of business if they spend foolishly. Private companies on the other hand do go out of business when they fail to have excess revenues to costs... unless you're a car company or a well connected bank of course. I know it's not the first time this has happened (Amtrak, USPS), but still... aren't the existing game companies good enough?

    (Stepping off of soap box and taking big breath to facilitate big sigh)

  • America's Air Force (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:18AM (#30386560) Journal
    If I were the Air force, I would grab one of the OSS forms of a sim (flight gear comes to mind), and then enhance the daylight out of it, so that it can do dogfights. Finally, include both regular aircrafts AND the new drones on these.
  • by jocabergs ( 1688456 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:30AM (#30386598)
    I think it was both recruitment and a PR tool. Personally I really liked the honor system also the free part was very nice. I think that in the context of other FPS it was really much more pro teamwork and mission oriented in contrast to being pro carnage and destruction. When I played quite a few of my fellow players came from the military and really enjoyed the game because it was more like real combat, i.e mission based not carnage based. Also I enjoyed the no respawn feature, I hate respawns, but thats a personal preference.
  • by Tellarin ( 444097 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:47AM (#30386664) Homepage Journal

    From a conversation I had at GDC a couple years ago with an army guy involved in the project, the main goal was not recruitment, quite the opposite.

    He claimed that the army looses a lot of money and resources in training new people, who just give up somewhere along the training or right after it. So the game was originally developed to try to show that "real combat" is not what happens in FPSs and thus weed out some of the applicants.

    Of course, the PR impact was welcome.

  • by Cwix ( 1671282 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:50AM (#30386982)
    With a lot of new equipment the army is fielding, hand eye co-ordination was a major factor too. [] A lot of the army's vehicles are equipped with these now. Ive used one, it is almost exaclty like a video game screen. They also love the fact that they can start feeding you things like rank structure, acronyms, small unit tactics, and other assorted army tidbits, everybit you come in with on your own, the less they have to teach you.
  • by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:07AM (#30387094)

    Mandatory target practice is one thing, but virtual instruction that actually plays no part in gameplay is a bit idiotic.

    Unless, as Tellarin stated, the goal is to provide a more realistic simulation of what being in the Army is all about without the whole "spend months and months in training" bit. Thus the required learning and tests make perfect sense.

    Honestly I think it's a smart approach. The last thing you want recruits to think is that you can join the Army and they just give you guns to play with. While I can't speak for other country's militaries, being a member of the American armed forces is actually quite difficult. Not merely on a physical level, but it is VERY mentally challenging.

    Thus you will find that a very large portion of the American armed forced are highly intelligent and more often than not from middle class families. Despite some politician's desire to paint the military as a bunch of dumb poor people, the truth is the exact opposite.

    (Note that I have never served in the American armed forces or any armed forces. Although I HAVE played the AA game and enjoyed it quite a bit. Hmmm.. Now I want to go download and play it again!)

  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:15AM (#30387138)

    . Despite some politician's desire to paint the military as a bunch of dumb poor people, the truth is the exact opposite.

    Which politician?

    And the exact opposite... the military is a bunch of smart, rich people?

  • by lobsterGun ( 415085 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:33AM (#30387268)

    In order for information to be considered exempt from release under the FOIA it must fit into one of the following categories AND there must be a legitimate Government purpose served by withholding it:

    1. Information which is currently and properly classified.
    2. Information that pertains solely to the internal rules and practices of the agency. (This exemption has two profiles, "high" and "low." The "high" profile permits withholding of a document that, if released, would allow circumvention of an agency rule, policy, or statute, thereby impeding the agency in the conduct of its mission. The "low" profile permits withholding if there is no public interest in the document, and it would be an administrative burden to process the request.)
    3. Information specifically exempted by a statute establishing particular criteria for withholding. The language of the statute must clearly state that the information will not be disclosed.
    4. Information such as trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a company on a privileged or confidential basis that, if released, would result in competitive harm to the company, impair the government's ability to obtain like information in the future, or protect the government's interest in compliance with program effectiveness.
    5. Inter-agency memoranda that are deliberative in nature; this exemption is appropriate for internal documents that are part of the decision making process and contain subjective evaluations, opinions and recommendations.
    6. Information the release of which could reasonably be expected to constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of individuals.
    7. Records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes that (a) could reasonably be expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings; (b) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication; (c) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of others, (d) disclose the identity of a confidential source, (e) disclose investigative techniques and procedures, or (f) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.
    8. Certain records of agencies responsible for supervision of financial institutions.
    9. Geological and geophysical information concerning wells.

    (Excerpted from: [])

  • by mdarksbane ( 587589 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @10:19AM (#30387674)

    Someone obviously hasn't looked at the games side by side.

    Most of the manpower cost of a video game is artist time. DoD games and military sim stuff looks like crap comparatively because they don't put millions of dollars into artists. When I played America's Army the visual quality was about the same as most fan mods to commercial games.

    Although what amazes me is that the army spends millions building their own game and engine, then still turns around and spends $10k/seat on meta-VR for all of their sim training. I mean, I get it for large scale sims - as someone who worked in this area, there is a big difference between building a military sim engine that can span hundreds or thousands of miles and a video game engine that will span two - but for a lot of the small-scale infantry work like the fort benning training, I really don't see the point.

    Supposedly they were looking at finally correcting that issue - I was at one point going to be the guy doing some of the work to make the game read mil-sim protocols, actually, before that part of the contract fell through. I wonder if they've made any progress since then.

  • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @10:39AM (#30387898)

    War is foolish...

    Speaking of foolish...

    more people die every year from just car accidents, and we don't declare war on Ford or Toyota."

    If Ford and Toyota willingly created devices that were meant solely to kill people for ideological reasons, we most certainly would and should declare war on them.

  • by samkass ( 174571 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @10:46AM (#30387942) Homepage Journal

    Great post, except the part where you ascribe untruths to the Democratic party. They (we) represent a majority of Americans right now, and are not "far left" and DEFINITELY don't "hate the military". In fact many leaders of the Democrats (including Murtha) are retired military. Heck even many leaders of the far left, including Kos of DailyKos, are retired military. We may disagree about what is best for the military and the country, but please don't assign motives where none exist.

  • by Hardhead_7 ( 987030 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @11:48AM (#30388658)
    The Air Force doesn't even really do dogfights. That's more of a navy/army thing. The Air Force flies AWACS, predator drones, and (wierdly) does cyber-security. They're more like the Computer Force these days.

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