News Report Says Rising Development Costs "A Nightmare"

News Report Says Rising Development Costs "A Nightmare"

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A report by the BBC says that the rising costs of next-gen videogame development is creating a "nightmare" for many of the studios that produce them.

The development cost for Pacman in 1982 was $100,000, according to the report, while the average PlayStation 3 title today requires an investment estimated at $15 million, and revenue derived from game sales has remained largely unchanged despite a tripling of production costs brought about by the introduction of next-gen consoles. While releases like Halo 3 have no difficulty with the changing conditions, it does make things much more difficult for smaller developers.

Blitz Games CEO Philip Oliver says the increased complexity of the gaming platforms is driving the cost increases. "The costs have risen most sharply on the graphics side," he said. "We have entered a new era of high-definition videogaming. This has led to team sizes having to increase in this area, for new tools to be created for this and generally the costs are rocketing. This is actually having a severe hit on the industry."

But according to Professor Danny Quah at the London School of Economics, the trend is simply a reflection of the changing economy. "Because of these very high upfront fixed costs, the risks that these entrepreneurs have to undertake are likely expanded from before. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. The fact is that with risk comes reward and the two go hand in hand," he said.

"What we see is that the economy becomes much more in-your-face, much livelier, much more real for the people who are engaged in it."

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I believe Rock's Law is finally beginning to have its effect on the video game economy. It seems that hardware designers are so focused on pushing the power of their inventions to a next level that they forget to optimize in order it doesn't become so costly to make new games and consoles.

That was the good thing for a console taking about 10 years to get released in the semi-older days. The current gen would be used and abused, thus giving time for people to optimize the creation of software and hardware so well that they could make the transition to a newer generation in a comfortable manner. Now we went from PS2 to PS3 and X-Box to X-Box 360 that spanned with too little time between them, even more so they basically forced a new level of visual definition to appear.

Does anyone really think the previous generation gave all they had?

"But according to Professor Danny Quah at the London School of Economics, the trend is simply a reflection of the changing economy. "Because of these very high upfront fixed costs, the risks that these entrepreneurs have to undertake are likely expanded from before. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. The fact is that with risk comes reward and the two go hand in hand," he said.

"What we see is that the economy becomes much more in-your-face, much livelier, much more real for the people who are engaged in it.""

That right there is 100% bull. While yes things these days for the most part are more expensive than the early 90's; Saying that risk equals reward is ignorant. I'm pretty sure those "entrepreneurs" He's talking about are well established or funded companies who can take the blow if a game does sink. Think about Indie companies who have great or even groundbreaking ideas but can't afford that $15 million in development or afford the marketing companies like Microsoft can put out for games like... oh I don't know Halo3. Which is about as new and innovative as giving yourself a stranger; full well knowing it's your own hand.
So many games from the early days were in essence born in someones basement or garage, and look at the amazing amounts of innovation some not all contained on those 3.5 in. floppy disks. I for one would prefer to play a game that looked like it was made during the days of the PS1 but had such new and fresh ideas that i could lose myself in the innovation not the graphics. But anymore instead of getting a reward from the risks you've taken (even though I haven't seen any real innovation for god knows how long, and even games that I'm border line fanboi for aren't truly fresh.)you're more likely to go into major debt and sink into the oblivion of unaccepted new ideas, never to be heard from again.
While technology may be growing by leaps and bounds the true power of innovation is being discouraged, and that is bold new ideas from the human mind, not the corporate machine.

*Takes this opportunity to bash Nvidia*

Early on in this century, Nvidia had a problem, the release of a susequent video card to compete in the marketplace took them an extraordinary long period of time. It cost them an enormous amount of the marketshare, and in response instituted a policy to release a new product every six months. This is all well and good to some degree. The technology should probably be updated in order to make for updated and new graphical apis to work their magic on the consumer games market. And for other purposes as well. However, they have, in my opinion, saturated the market with newer and newer pieces of hardware far too often. The excitement and tension and nervousness, and fragility of egos makes for people buying, extremely pricey hardware, that is driving a side of the industry, that is far over-represented. What I'm saying here is that graphics cards, are so sought after in the PC gaming market, that it causes development specifically for this niche market. And the inverse is true as well, games get developed to take advantage of newer and newer hardware, and it in turn drives GPU makers to really crank it up.

This is an ethos that is failing in this market, and both sides of this need to chill out and think about the gamers not being the people who can afford the best hardware, but as the people who will go out and buy a mid-ranged card so they can play PC games. I think directx 8 looks great. And a card that will render that stuff is dirt cheap now. But the development of the really important releases for PC are almost always, in part, about the graphics that are being shown off.

Releases that come to mind in the last year include things like World in Conflict, Bioshock, The Orange Box games, Crysis, Unreal 3, Quake Wars. I think developers have, in places, made strides to keep the requirements down. UT3 requires a Radeon 9800 to run, The Orange Box is directx 8 compatible. I don't know the requirements for Quake Wars, so I'm not going to speculate. World in Conflict will run reasonably well on last years hardware. Crysis won't, Bioshock straddles the line a bit, But it was certainly a way to get directx 10 hardware sold, and Vista.

So you say, What does this have to do with the topic at hand? Well, everything. A handful of players are really driving a market far to hard, they're going to beat the horse to death, or at least within an inch of it's life. The developers of games Like FEAR and Crysis need to check themselves a little bit, and try not to be the be-all-end-all of games, and the hardware makers, while they probably should not stop making high end hardware, Should de-emphsize the high end, and really focus on the mid range. There are, 4-6 versions (depending on who you ask) of the Geforce 8800. And nearly all of the variations on the midrange Geforce products are left up to their board partners to produce. And one video card is enough, the value of SLI and Crossfire should be that adding a second older card to an existing rig should be able to get you through...perhaps an annum. It should not be neccesary for running anything. Technically it's not, but I think it is often closer to the truth than further away.

*Ends his half coherent and topical rant here for feedback and other thought*

I believe that somewhere, somehow, someone got it into game developers heads that in order to sell an effectively profitable and enjoyable game that it needed to sport the latest and greatet graphics. To me it seems that PC gaming has taken that lie and run with it a little but more seriously than console developers, but even they have their flaws. I played through the three Halo games and walked away from it with a Mario Party sort of feeling; that it was fun to do it once, but that unless I had several other people playing with me I wouldnt pick the game up again. The series did not really bring anything new to the table that hasnt been done before, it just did it with a slightly better look to it. And I do agree that the time between ps2- ps2 and Xbox and the 360 was way too short. I am not certain, but did ps2 even get into generation 2/3 games?

PC games are the worst for overbudgeting their graphics development. My brother recently built a new machine that is Vista and DirectX 10 compatable almost expressly so that he could play Crysis and Bioshock. Both played fabulously and were story driven masterpieces(in my opinion), and did so with outstanding graphics and sound. However not everyone can afford to build a brand new 1,300$US computer just so they are not behind the gaming graphics curve! I know I sure as hell cant...

Um... so how is this any different than independent film makers and Hollywood's bloated budgets? Are smaller game developers honestly trying to create more realistic looking games than what the big development studios are cranking out? If they are, then they choose to suffer.

Heaven forbid if smaller game developers have to rely on intelligent, thought provoking games or focus on smooth, intuitive controls and innovative mechanics in order to sell games. As far as graphics are concerned... art direction and style are way more important than polygon count.

I don't know of any small development studios complaining about the cost of next-gen graphic development, but the BBC article makes it seem as if they are. That concerns me because I'd hope that those game developers would target their efforts in ways that don't depend on photorealistic 3D graphics.

That kind of low-budget independent game development may be feasible on the PC but the bulk of mainstream development has now swung to the consoles, where that sort of "garage" development just doesn't happen. As long as the console manufacturers have such stringent controls over what games are produced for their systems, it's not going to change. It's why the PC (in my ever-so-humble opinion) will continue to be the true leader when it comes to innovation in gameplay, despite it taking a back seat to the consoles in terms of sheer numbers.

It's quite appropriate that the BBC pointed this out.

I'm a freelance film-maker (amongst other things) in my spare time. If a person like me wished to create a feature film, as long as I had the plans and support, I could do easily with help of the government. That's right; the British government hands out grants of up to a million pounds a year up to three years to British-made films. The UK Film Council has heavily subsided flicks from St. Trianian's to The History Boys.

The videogame industry does not have this sort of support, of course.

How on Earth do design companies expect to fund their own projects nowadays?

Melaisis:
It's quite appropriate that the BBC pointed this out.

I'm a freelance film-maker (amongst other things) in my spare time. If a person like me wished to create a feature film, as long as I had the plans and support, I could do easily with help of the government. That's right; the British government hands out grants of up to a million pounds a year up to three years to British-made films. The UK Film Council has heavily subsided flicks from St. Trianian's to The History Boys.

The videogame industry does not have this sort of support, of course.

How on Earth do design companies expect to fund their own projects nowadays?

It isn't considered art in the way that film is. I wonder if it will ever, somehow it just doesn't have the mystique that filmmaking does.

Melaisis:
It's quite appropriate that the BBC pointed this out.

I'm a freelance film-maker (amongst other things) in my spare time. If a person like me wished to create a feature film, as long as I had the plans and support, I could do easily with help of the government. That's right; the British government hands out grants of up to a million pounds a year up to three years to British-made films. The UK Film Council has heavily subsided flicks from St. Trianian's to The History Boys.

The videogame industry does not have this sort of support, of course.

How on Earth do design companies expect to fund their own projects nowadays?

http://www.davis.ca/en/blog/Video-Game-Law/2006/07/31/Manitoba-Rolls-Out-Grants-For-Video-Game-Makers

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-127981731.html

The game industry isn't without government support, it's just that most governments would rather waste their time trying to ban them then to announce their support for them.

Divinegon:
Does anyone really think the previous generation gave all they had?

On graphics? Yes.
On ideas? Not much, you could always market bundles with more wiimotes.
But ideas are not dependant on the hardware. A player pushing a ball on a PS2 is the same as a guy pushing a ball on a Wii or PS3.

When I see God of War II, I see that with good management of ressources and clever thinking, you can have very beautiful levels and still good gameplay.
But technologies can't stagnate that long. There still are science minds to push it.

I don't know the requirements for Quake Wars, so I'm not going to speculate.

Surprisinly acceptable for a 2 years old PC, if you cut down the graphics.

PC games are the worst for overbudgeting their graphics development. My brother recently built a new machine that is Vista and DirectX 10 compatable almost expressly so that he could play Crysis and Bioshock. Both played fabulously and were story driven masterpieces(in my opinion), and did so with outstanding graphics and sound. However not everyone can afford to build a brand new 1,300$US computer just so they are not behind the gaming graphics curve! I know I sure as hell cant...

Precisely because there's no apparent generation, just a roof based on expensive material.
You don't have, for example, a Dreamcast/PS2 level PC niche. Or a Wii like segment.
It's all about the top of the top.
That said, there's the casual segment, but the gap between the two is just... wiiiiiiide.
But there's the other end, like Malygris pointed out. The Doujin stuff and all amateurs trying new ideas. Some of them make it into games for consoles, but on the small download services. Still better than nothing, but it surely takes even more time to bridge indie level and AAA level.

 

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