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The Almighty Buck Games

Game Industry Fights Rising Development Costs 111

An anonymous reader writes "Video game development budgets have been rising for years, and the recent launch of a new generation of consoles has only made it worse. Developers of AAA titles are now fighting to keep costs manageable while providing the technological advances gamers have come to expect. Just a few years ago, budgets ranging above $100 million were considered absurd, but now Activision is committing $500 million to a new IP from the studio that created Halo. Alan Roberts, technical director for Playground Games, says development teams keep expanding: 'Our in-house development team is roughly 20 per cent bigger than it was on last-gen, but we're doing even more with outsourcers this time in order to create content to the level of detail required by new generation games.' He adds that one way studios are trying to defray costs is to put more effort into building great tools for content creators."
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Game Industry Fights Rising Development Costs

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  • by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @06:08PM (#47004071)

    It seems a lot of the budgets goes into more shiny graphics, not necessarily into more sophisticated game play. Perhaps it is time to try something new, such as procedural generation of more game assets.

    A good example would be Limit Theory, a space game currently in development where only the user interface is designed the traditional way. Ship models and asteroids are created by procedural generation. Here is the latest development update: []

    Still looks a bit blocky, but considering the game had a $50.000 dollar goal on Kickstarter and the developer feels more than comfortable with the $187,865 that were pledged, the value for money is going to be impressive.

    A slightly larger team with a budget of perhaps a few million should be able to do amazing things with that approach. Assuming the team members are as talented as Josh Parnell ;-)

  • by exomondo ( 1725132 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @06:16PM (#47004149)

    It seems a lot of the budgets goes into more shiny graphics, not necessarily into more sophisticated game play.

    I don't know about "shiny" but when you can include more detail and larger levels then obviously that is far more taxing on artists and developers. Then if you give artists the freedom to specify the sort of highend effects that new generations of hardware are capable of you need extra development resources to make that happen. Increasing the power of the hardware is only one part of having next-gen titles, figuring out how to apply that power to bring game concepts to reality is another. Sure you could employ people to work at getting character animation right or you could hire a motion capture studio and actors to get it close to perfect and if you have the budget for that sort of thing then why not?

    The high end of those budgets does include marketing as well - not just development - and I would say most of that is the marketing budget given the sort of campaigns that are being run to promote AAA titles these days.

  • by Necreia ( 954727 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @06:19PM (#47004179)

    Ridiculous summary with regards to the $500 million dollar figure. It includes the development AND MARKETING budgets!

    Basically this. Destiny spent an estimate $360 million in Marketing and $140 million in Development, which is over a 2:1 ratio. CoD2:Modern Warfare 2 has a respective $150:$50 million or 3:1 split (Source []). When game companies are spending a small relative fraction on the actual development, there's a problem.

  • Minecraft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @06:28PM (#47004281)

    The best part about Minecraft's success is that in this period of neverending one-upmanship of glitz and glam in video games, Notch delivers a great game on practically gameplay alone.

    Of course, there are plenty of other indie successes out there (Torchlight I/II), but Minecraft's target demographics is archetypal for gamers while it is the third most successful [] game in the world (the top two target a wider range of demographics).

  • by jayveekay ( 735967 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @07:21PM (#47004735)

    Games are about interactive gameplay, not hi-def graphics.
    Good games challenge the player with interesting choices, and do not attempt to cover up a void of interesting choices with reams of meaningless dialog in very pretty non-interactive cutscenes and the like.

  • by Camael ( 1048726 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:49PM (#47006187)

    It is however a strong indication of misplacement of priorities.

    If you overspend on great marketing but produce a turd of a game, it will still fail. Case in point- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (video game) [].

    OTOH if you produce a great game but spend minimally on marketing, it can still succeed through word of mouth, etc. Case in point- Minecraft [].

    On January 12, 2011, Minecraft passed 1 million purchases, less than a month after entering its beta phase. At the same time, the game had no publisher backing and has never been commercially advertised except through word of mouth, and various unpaid references in popular media such as the Penny Arcade webcomic.

    I rather doubt that any game falling into the category of "greatest game ever" or even a great game will fail without paid marketing so long as its accessible to players. Gamers tend to be quite vocal in sharing about games they're in love with.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2014 @03:28AM (#47006841)

    Indeed. The problem is determinism. You can't find a team which guarantees delivery of AAA+ titles without fail and on schedule. But you can easily patch a so so game into selling millions with the right propaganda.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.