On the Ball: AAA Extinction

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

On the Ball: AAA Extinction

EA's concept of "premium DLC" is yet another sign that AAA games are going the way of the dinosaurs.

Read Full Article

In a way, it's almost, almost a dream come true. I've been saying for a long time that games need to get cheaper until gamers can feel comfortably in the black again. With a 50 or 60 dollar game, a lot of people can't afford and won't buy it. The Internet and used game stores (not to mention digital distribution and Steam sales) make it a much more attractive option to spend between 5 and 25 dollars on a title instead, so it only makes sense EA have been losing big.

But as I said, it's almost the right thing, what EA is doing here. The problem is they are still thinking of taking big budget productions and reducing their length to reduce the price. What they should be doing is releasing full-length games at lower prices and just not packing them with as many fancy visual effects or big-name VAs. And I think eventually we'll get there.

Big-budget games can be great, but right now I don't know if the market can bear to have so many of them. It'll be sad to see some games never get proper sequels maybe, but you can only sell what people will buy. And I think when EA finds that most people aren't willing to pay full price for the "rest" of their game, they'll realize that.

Or not. This is EA, after all.

A very interesting prediction but I think it's a little early to believe that EA's premium DLC will become the industry standard. It's implementation more then anything will determine how successful it is, and even then there will almost certainly be hold outs.

Let's assume for a second that it does catch on like wildfire, I can see it creating a new cycle of when games are released, I.E. possibly many premium DLC's in early spring to test the waters, the ones that sell well going into full production hopefully in time for December. Or if that's too much of a crunch the DLC's in the fall of the year previous to the full games possible release.

It feels when they came out with the idea someone was way too far up there own backside...

I really dont see what they are doing catching on, or, been around too much...its just...so stupid

Meanwhile Nintendo is making unholy amounts of money by making their games much cheaper (dev cost wise) than the rest of the industry by stripping away the parts that aren't really necessary (like 50 million $ worth of graphics) while polishing the core parts to perfection. How much could Wii Sports have cost to make? Yet it was the biggest killer app this generation despite or possibly even because it is much less technically demanding than, say, God of War 3. The polished core allows the game to remain relevant even when the graphics and story are long obsolete and chewed to a tasteless mass, the peripheral elements impress once and then the game goes back to Game Stop, the core adds longevity. Mario Kart Wii still sells at full price, what super expensive AAA title can claim the same?

Other companies would do well to take note (and PROPERLY take it, not just scribble "cheap games = money" on a piece of TP, the quality is the central piece of the puzzle) and stop pretending that Nintendo exists in some alternate dimension that makes their games operate completely different in the market. Somebody needs to beat the notion that quality (which includes how much fun the game is a few hundred hours later, running out of steam after 10 doesn't qualify) is important into the brains of the publishers, preferably with a sledgehammer. Nintendo didn't become known as a high quality software developer by being appointed by some higher authority, they earned it and you, too, can earn it if you'd stop spreading sewage all over your company name by releasing quick cash grabs.

So the world is now gowing to be filled with micro transaction games where you are paying $300 or so just to unlock all the good stuff and get a complete game?

Glad I have a good PC, because it looks like pirating games is going to be the way to go...sadly.

LOL, I was literally thinking "Michael Pachter is that you?" while reading the title of the article, seeing as the only thing "AAA titles" ever did was increase in number, and I was surprised to see his name being mentioned xD

He's like a fortuneteller on crack, only with worse predictions and even less of an understanding of what they're doing :P

I couldn't really care less about having more blockbuster titles.

Each time dev throw away a game engine and art assets to reinvent the wheel at massive expense to create a few hours of gaming seems a waste to me. Something as old as oblivion doesn't look terrible whereas a few years ago playing a four or five year old game would be horrendous, I don't think there's a need to develope every game from scratch anymore.

Why not build a few big games and then polish and develop them. If the future is developing a game in instalments of expansions and episodes then I'm all for it. Buy one expensive game and keep buying mini sequels as soon as they get done. Without building a full sequel the costs are lower and the time taken to make a story is less.

More gaming at lower cost; It's not a bad bottom line.

ehh I have to take all of this with a grain of salt since whenever the industry does anything people are pretty quick to shout doom and gloom about it but somehow we are still going, I mean hell industry analists have been predicting the doom of the pc since the snes and strangly I was just playing games on mine. Spooooooky

KDR_11k:
Meanwhile Nintendo is making unholy amounts of money by making their games much cheaper (dev cost wise) than the rest of the industry by stripping away the parts that aren't really necessary (like 50 million $ worth of graphics) while polishing the core parts to perfection. How much could Wii Sports have cost to make? Yet it was the biggest killer app this generation despite or possibly even because it is much less technically demanding than, say, God of War 3. The polished core allows the game to remain relevant even when the graphics and story are long obsolete and chewed to a tasteless mass, the peripheral elements impress once and then the game goes back to Game Stop, the core adds longevity. Mario Kart Wii still sells at full price, what super expensive AAA title can claim the same?

Other companies would do well to take note (and PROPERLY take it, not just scribble "cheap games = money" on a piece of TP, the quality is the central piece of the puzzle) and stop pretending that Nintendo exists in some alternate dimension that makes their games operate completely different in the market. Somebody needs to beat the notion that quality (which includes how much fun the game is a few hundred hours later, running out of steam after 10 doesn't qualify) is important into the brains of the publishers, preferably with a sledgehammer. Nintendo didn't become known as a high quality software developer by being appointed by some higher authority, they earned it and you, too, can earn it if you'd stop spreading sewage all over your company name by releasing quick cash grabs.

I'm gonna have to go with what this guy said.

I'm sick of all the "mainstream" sites babbaling on about graphics and such, when they don't matter that much. And I want to know how much money is spent into making the best graphics possible.

There's a reason I still pop in Timesplitters and Morrowind from time to time. And its not because of the graphics.

The $15 dollar "premium" DLC will work fine - for reviewers. Me, I'll still buy the games the way I always do - see what the consensus is on Metacritic, look at actual gameplay videos, then buy the full title. I'm not gonna pony up in advance for a stunted game, no thanks.

Make controllers cheaper please! Why does a used new game ie Heavy Rain cost as much as a controller.

I don't get how anyone "wins" here. FOr there to be this premium demo there has to be a game. For there to be a game there has to be a team working on said game. So said team needs to be paid regardless if the game sells 1 or a billion. So making games isn't going to get much cheaper if things stay the way they are now. And releasing a demo for a price is not going to help get a gauge on if the game will do well or not. Alot of people aren't going to be happy playing the same levels twice. Alot of people are going to say ehh I'll wait until the full game comes out (afterall why pay 10 bucks more for the same experience?). And what if the demo doesn't do well? I mean the game has already been worked on. Wages still need to be paid. So you intend on scrapping the whole project because a demo wasn't well recieved (which has little to do with the game itself) and this will save money?

I would take 8 hours of god of war over 50 hours of mirrors edge, dantes inferno, sims...whatever tripe EA could ever come out with

So... They're going to make us pay for demos now?

Edit: Okay, long demos.

Taking Pachter's advice is about the worse thing they could do.

This is the guy that stated: "there's no PC as as powerful as the PS3"

Watch http://www.gametrailers.com/video/episode-107-pach-attack/63344 and see all the foolish statements he makes towards PC gaming.

See what I mean? The guy is worse for the industry than Jack Thompson was when he was persuading the ban of violent games. I mean, if he's going to be an analyst for an industry, the least he could do is know something about the industry he's analyzing.

Good!

With lower overhead and development costs, games become a less risk-less reward venture, which will encourage a lower focus on graphics and a higher one on good gameplay. Companies, like indie developers today, are more likely to try new concepts and ideas...which should give us a greater variety in games, and some brand new IPs.

These days, AAA budgets demand that the title have a proven track record.

I have to say that I don't agree with the closing point - that this extinction has already occured. Given the enormous mass of AAA games released of late or slated to ship soon, we are at best looking at the final generation of such things and that's painting it in the worst reasonable light. What's more, the actions of a single publisher, even of EA's stature is hardly indicative of the trends of the industry as a whole. While the core logic holds up just fine (it does make sense to not invest tens of millions of dollars into a game if it can be avoided afterall, especially given the success rate of games in general), there is no evidence of a trend beyond a single entity in a sea of several equal players and as such, asserting that the extinction has occured when the evidence presented offers no support is simple hyperbole.

That said it did make a catchy closing sentence.

Isn't all this what demo's used to be?

I've gotta say, I totally called this.

And yet, my joking prediction that the gaming industry would find a way to fuck up an awesome idea has come to pass. God damn it.

KDR_11k:
Meanwhile Nintendo is making unholy amounts of money by making their games much cheaper (dev cost wise) than the rest of the industry by stripping away the parts that aren't really necessary (like 50 million $ worth of graphics) while polishing the core parts to perfection. How much could Wii Sports have cost to make? Yet it was the biggest killer app this generation despite or possibly even because it is much less technically demanding than, say, God of War 3. The polished core allows the game to remain relevant even when the graphics and story are long obsolete and chewed to a tasteless mass, the peripheral elements impress once and then the game goes back to Game Stop, the core adds longevity. Mario Kart Wii still sells at full price, what super expensive AAA title can claim the same?

Other companies would do well to take note (and PROPERLY take it, not just scribble "cheap games = money" on a piece of TP, the quality is the central piece of the puzzle) and stop pretending that Nintendo exists in some alternate dimension that makes their games operate completely different in the market. Somebody needs to beat the notion that quality (which includes how much fun the game is a few hundred hours later, running out of steam after 10 doesn't qualify) is important into the brains of the publishers, preferably with a sledgehammer. Nintendo didn't become known as a high quality software developer by being appointed by some higher authority, they earned it and you, too, can earn it if you'd stop spreading sewage all over your company name by releasing quick cash grabs.

True, but that is only one side of the industry.
I for one, have not taken a liking to just about anything Nintendo has made in quite some time. Yes, the core is polished, but there's not a whole lot there aside from the gameplay. If I just wanted gameplay, I can forgo the entire "buy the game" step and just stick to flash games. Hell, I've had just as much fun with a Matlab or Python program as I've had with games that are pure gameplay. When I drop 50~70 dollars on a game, I want to see the effect of that money; I want my money to provide me with an experience that I couldn't have obtained without buying that product. I rarely get that with Nintendo's small budget offerings (this problem isn't limited to Nintendo, it's just that it was used as an example).
The main thing is that the extra $$ devs throw into their AAA games (provided that the basics are done well) do show. It does present an experience different from that of the small budget games. The key thing for me is that it represents an experience that I cannot replicate from anywhere else. Where as the small budget games can easily be replaced by numerous other things, from free browser games to stuff that I whipped up in Python in the last 6 hours.

Both styles of gaming have their place. I, for one, would be very sad to see the AAA's go.

The day this becomes common, is the day I stop paying for games completely. The big publishers need to collapse and let people who actualy care about the games part of the games industry make them.

This crap just gets worse.

image

Maybe this is the dawn in another way of making games, maybe in the future we'll have both: low budget-episodic-short running-franchises, and big budget-one time every few years-AAA games.
Kinda like Tv series and Movies.

Eventually we could see a game that started with a very low budget, climb the steps by itīs own popularity to deliver a AAA game. Or a game being canceled like so many tv shows do.

One problem. Small games are competing with free flash games that just get better and better as the libraries and developers grow stronger in the technology.

The problem is a shorter game doesn't necessarily drastically cut costs. Don't the majority of development costs go into creating the engine, game mechanics, etc? Asset development (extra levels, voices, new characters) cost, of course, but as you can see with DLC add-on packs, they can (if they come out at $5-$15 a pop) be churned out relatively cheaply and at little extra cost to the consumer.

If so, EA will not really be saving themselves money by canceling projects early, as they would have to heavily invest just to get the "paid demo" out the door. Once you pushed out the demo, you might as well deliver more, unless it just refuses to sell.

Ugh.

This won't even work the way they want. Why? 'Cos nobody will play the fuckin' things. Who wants to spend $10-15 bucks for an incomplete game? I sure wouldn't. Screw that. I believe most sensible people wouldn't either.

You know what I would do instead? I'd look online and see what someone else who did buy the game though. I'd read a few reviews of the game. Then, I'd have an idea of whether or not I should get it. I don't think I'm the only person who would, either.

Really, everyone always seems to think one thing or another is the future of gaming. Me? I think gaming's going to stay relatively the same. Until things come along that are clearly superior, not much is going to change the way people game. There will always be small side-notes like these, but they'll die out.

Plus, I'm not sure other 3rd-party developers would be keen on the idea, but who knows?

KDR_11k:
Meanwhile Nintendo is making unholy amounts of money by making their games much cheaper (dev cost wise) than the rest of the industry by stripping away the parts that aren't really necessary (like 50 million $ worth of graphics) while polishing the core parts to perfection. How much could Wii Sports have cost to make? Yet it was the biggest killer app this generation despite or possibly even because it is much less technically demanding than, say, God of War 3. The polished core allows the game to remain relevant even when the graphics and story are long obsolete and chewed to a tasteless mass, the peripheral elements impress once and then the game goes back to Game Stop, the core adds longevity. Mario Kart Wii still sells at full price, what super expensive AAA title can claim the same?

Other companies would do well to take note (and PROPERLY take it, not just scribble "cheap games = money" on a piece of TP, the quality is the central piece of the puzzle) and stop pretending that Nintendo exists in some alternate dimension that makes their games operate completely different in the market. Somebody needs to beat the notion that quality (which includes how much fun the game is a few hundred hours later, running out of steam after 10 doesn't qualify) is important into the brains of the publishers, preferably with a sledgehammer. Nintendo didn't become known as a high quality software developer by being appointed by some higher authority, they earned it and you, too, can earn it if you'd stop spreading sewage all over your company name by releasing quick cash grabs.

People tend to shit on nintendo for their 'weak' system but frankly the most entertaining games for me of the last 4 years are using graphics that weren't 'in style' 6 years ago :P.

Fanatastic Gameplay tears the flesh off of great graphics. At least that's how I've always felt.

EA Owns SPORE, SPORE was initially produced by making a bunch of cheap ass concept games over a weekend.

You know how you test an idea cheaply? Make a bunch of graphically simple concept games and release them to customers and ask them if they'd get a boner for something using those concepts on a grand beautiful scale.

But that would just be taking the fiscally responsible and earnest to consumers way out...that's icky.

As a consumer I have no desire to buy games a piece of a time or a chapter at a time that way. Seems like it's ultimatly a scam to get people to pay yet more money for the same amount of overall content, hoping that by dividing it up people will be less likely to notice what they are spending.

I am quite clear about what I want. I want a disc in hand, and I want to be able to install my game as many times as I want, with no controls, DRM, or any mandatory internet access. I do not mind DLC providing it's a properly weighty addition to a successful game. I feel DLC should also properly be released in disc form as an alternative at the same time it hits online. I kind of look towards the old "Forge Of Virtue" and "Silver Seed" expansions for "Ultima 7" as examples of what additional paid content should be like. Bethesda has sort of gotten it right, since their "Point Lookout" expansion is what I'd consider a worthy expansion for the price. Some of their other DLCs for Fallout 3 like Operation Anchorage on the other hand were less than impressive, and I felt greatly overpriced for what they did.

It's a bit presumptuous to assume that one company's as-yet-untested experiment is proof that the industry is going to completely reshape itself.

Am I the only one who sees this as business as usual? I think it's called "expanding revenue streams", or separating you from more of your hard-earned with little extra effort, or nothing extra at all. It almost seems like the MST3K skit about Johnny Longtorso, the man who comes in pieces.

Yeah, I really hope this doesn't go through, because I can see the following happening.
1. Premium is released.
2. Gamers don't buy a lot (Why spent 15 bucks on a 4 hour demo when you can buy a full game that's out for the same price (used) or get a lot more than 4 times the content for 4 times the price?)
3. EA deems it a failure
4. Full game is never made.
5. All people who bought and liked the premium are upset that the game they demoed is never coming out, and decide to just buy the full version.
6. Lather, rinse, repeat until EA decides no-one wants games anymore.

Of course, it won't be that bad...
Hopefully.

I'd just like to point out that there's a 99% chance that "Premium DLC" will end up selling you the same amount of content for a larger price. Just like current content DLC is vastly overpriced when we look at actual playtime compared to the full game, Premium DLC will likely do the same, bleeding you dry and giving you as little as possible in return.

This isn't a change in the way games are made, it's a change in the way the publisher parts you from your money. I agree that the current AAA model is unsustainable and will likely collapse under its own weight soon, but Premium DLC isn't something new - it's just repackaged AAA philosophy meant to draw out more money.

What the industry SHOULD be doing is looking into ways to cut costs without sarcificing quality too much, but that might require actual work beyond one guy thinking up a new marketing strategy...

Jandau:
I'd just like to point out that there's a 99% chance that "Premium DLC" will end up selling you the same amount of content for a larger price. Just like current content DLC is vastly overpriced when we look at actual playtime compared to the full game, Premium DLC will likely do the same, bleeding you dry and giving you as little as possible in return.

This isn't a change in the way games are made, it's a change in the way the publisher parts you from your money. I agree that the current AAA model is unsustainable and will likely collapse under its own weight soon, but Premium DLC isn't something new - it's just repackaged AAA philosophy meant to draw out more money.

What the industry SHOULD be doing is looking into ways to cut costs without sarcificing quality too much, but that might require actual work beyond one guy thinking up a new marketing strategy...

A good way to cut costs is to hire unknown (but still competent) actors and VAs, tone down the extremely pretty graphics to a mere "respectable" level, go with synthesized music/local musicians instead of using an orchestra and avoid using any licensed material or likenesses.

None of these things will drastically decrease the quality of your game, so you can sell essentially the same (full size) game at a lower prize and come out money ahead because of reduced costs.

More than anything, I have faith that people who play games just want them to be fun to play. Give them that and they'll be happy even if Hugh Jackman's likeness isn't in it and it doesn't use the latest Crysis-topping graphics engine.

I just wish that publishers made many cheaper, shorter, and more varied games instead of churning out a mega-blockbusters every now and then. Sure, some will fail - but others will be tremendously successful, and could be expanded upon. I don't want that stupid "premium DLC" bullshit, i want "single-A" games. They can still make something grandiose once in a while if the public really demands. For example, i'd certainly buy a game based entirely around jetpack and rocket weapons, even if gameplay and graphics were rough around the edges. Or "Gears of War meets Railroad Tycoon" that was mentioned in previous article. I don't require more polish, i require more variety!

Unfortunately, the game industry is run by "those guys from Aliens" who think their only flaw is not being evil and stupid enough.

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Registered for a free account here