Cliff Bleszinski Warns That Triple-A Game Development Is "Nearly Unsustainable"

Megalith

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The Gears of War creator took the stage this week to remind everyone that few studios can afford to partake in the AAA development model and that the results are rarely great anyways, as imitation is safer than innovation when so much money is being tossed around. There is a suggestion here that the industry could collapse on itself due to its reliance on blockbuster titles that only the biggest companies can afford to make but are utterly unoriginal, but I am not sure whether Bleszinski's urging for digital-only and/or free-to-play titles holds any weight.

His advice to developers still looking to make their mark is to aim for what he referred to as "Double A", which he considers to be "games that look and play great but pick their battles in terms of budget and marketing". Examples he offered included Warframe, Rocket League and Rust, with Bleszinski noting that most successful 'Double A' games are digital and/or free-to-play. In terms of finding funding for such games, he pointed out that "there's a lot of money in Asia" - his own studio, Boss Key Productions, has partnered with Nexon for its debut game, LawBreakers. This title is also designed to be 'Double A', and won't have a full $60 price tag.
 

leeleatherwood

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There will always be millions of idiots to buy Call of Duty Remake #20, Battlefield Remake #12, Morrowind Remake #6 and Scifi Morrowind Remake #4. AAA games are going nowhere.

Just look at the Fast and Furious movie franchise, ROFL.
 

NickJames

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There will always be millions of idiots to buy Call of Duty Remake #20, Battlefield Remake #12, Morrowind Remake #6 and Scifi Morrowind Remake #4. AAA games are going nowhere.

Just look at the Fast and Furious movie franchise, ROFL.

I think it's starting to catch up with them. I haven't even seen the number of sales for Infinite Warfare which usually means things are going down hill.
 

Semantics

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Witcher 3
What about Witcher 3?
It was a AAA game in terms of money which is what AAA means.
It was a good game?
It's not exactly bucking any trends. It's a part in a series just like most AAA games
 

Spidey329

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I dont believe the call of duty remakes cost that much. They use the same engines and everything. Different maps and boom, game finished

Dev? Not a whole lot when they recycle so much. They spend an insane amount of money on marketing though. I think COD is in the hundreds of millions of dollars per title.

According to Wikipedia, CODMW2 cost $50mil to make and $200mil to market. Compare that with GTAV which was $140mil to make and $128mil to market. One is clearly a better more thought out game.

EA/Activision/Ubi put a ton of money into their marketing - they're essentially marketing companies with a division that happens to make games. Whereas Rockstar seems to put more money into their development and it shows in the quality of their titles.
 
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vegeta535

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Dev? Not a whole lot when they recycle so much. They spend an insane amount of money on marketing though. I think COD is in the hundreds of millions of dollars per title.

According to Wikipedia, CODMW2 cost $50mil to make and $200mil to market. Compare that with GTAV which was $140mil to make and $128mil to market. One is clearly a better more thought out game.

EA/Activision/Ubi put a ton of money into their marketing - they're essentially marketing companies with a division that happens to make games. Whereas Rockstar seems to put more money into their development and it shows in the quality of their titles.
I never understood why they spend so much on marketing. Everyone knows a new cod comes out every year. Do they really need to spend millions on dollar on a 2 second cameo from Robert Downey Jr. Is there even and ROI for having him in a commercial? It just boggles my mind does spending 250 mil on advertising brings in more then a 250 mil ROI for them just cause of the advertising.
 

mjz_5

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agreed. Spend the money on the game and if its good, everyone will talk about it. Self promotion.
 

Zinn

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Cliff Blezinski is a major blowhard, but I agree with him on this one.
 

M76

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Free to play is the straight to video equivalent of the games industry. Churn out shit in high enough quantity that lower sales and micro-transactions are enough to make profit.

If he thinks free to play is the saviour of gaming and the way to go he's even bigger of an idiot than I already thought him to be.

Even the worst COD game has 1000 times better production quality than any free to play game. Not to mention that FTP games are always MMOs or MOBAs. Those are not games to me.
 

Logan321

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Digital only makes sense though, a good selection of video games have nearly half their size as a 0day patch anyway... so why bother with physical packaging? I haven't bought a game's physical packaging since ... LOTRO, probably? Steam and other content distribution systems make more sense to me, plus manage updates better than every publisher having their own.
 

M76

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Digital only makes sense though, a good selection of video games have nearly half their size as a 0day patch anyway... so why bother with physical packaging? I haven't bought a game's physical packaging since ... LOTRO, probably? Steam and other content distribution systems make more sense to me, plus manage updates better than every publisher having their own.
Digital only is already happening. There are much less physical copies of games sold than ever.
But I suspect an online distribution platform costs a comparable amount to maintain and upkeep than what it costs to distribute physical copies of games.
 

tetris42

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I never understood why they spend so much on marketing. Everyone knows a new cod comes out every year. Do they really need to spend millions on dollar on a 2 second cameo from Robert Downey Jr. Is there even and ROI for having him in a commercial? It just boggles my mind does spending 250 mil on advertising brings in more then a 250 mil ROI for them just cause of the advertising.
There have been studies on this in the past. When even a well known company stops advertising, it can start to really eat into their returns. It pays off to have "we're still here" ads in the long run. It's the reason you still see Coke and Pepsi commercials today even though everyone on the planet knows about them.
 

ChadD

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Its going to get less and less sustainable. So he isn't wrong, unless something changes anyway.

What MAY save it is true cross platform shipping games over the next few years. Right now most AAAs are PS4/Xbox/PC at best, and many are locked into exclusives. I do believe MS will bow out of the console wars if their Scorpio doesn't sell like hot cakes. If that happens Sony will go back to charging developers royalties instead of paying them money to lock in exclusives. It will reduce the number of developers that can afford to be in the AAA game even more. However over the next few years as mobile hardware improves even more it should help reduce the cost of development for games with Full console versions and very slightly modified versions to sell on mobile platforms. That may increase the potential market for AAA games and help justify the larger budgets to investors.
 

sfsuphysics

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but pick their battles in terms of budget and marketing
Yeah I'd rather a developer reduce the amount of marketing of a game and put more of that budget money into making that game great. I think there's more than enough "lets play" type of Youtube channels that can more market their games, if they are in fact something good and assuming they don't get all butthurt and send DMCA notices when they get a bad review, then I don't need to see Super Bowl ads for it, I don't need to see a major retailer change it's shopping carts to represent the game, I don't need glossy high priced ads in magazines (people still read magazines?). Make the game great and word of mouth will advertise it.
 

Ocellaris

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New headline: Man who hasn't made relevant AAA game in years has problem with AAA game development.
 

vegeta535

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There have been studies on this in the past. When even a well known company stops advertising, it can start to really eat into their returns. It pays off to have "we're still here" ads in the long run. It's the reason you still see Coke and Pepsi commercials today even though everyone on the planet knows about them.
I understand that but do they really need to drop 250 mil to advertise a game?
 

Logan321

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Digital only is already happening. There are much less physical copies of games sold than ever.
But I suspect an online distribution platform costs a comparable amount to maintain and upkeep than what it costs to distribute physical copies of games.

Doesn't every company already have an online distribution platform for their 0-day and subsequent patches and paid addons? Seems like eliminating the boxed distribution would be a cost savings in that case.
 

XenIneX

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I understand that but do they really need to drop 250 mil to advertise a game?
Yes?

Whole lot of people here not getting that marketing pays for itself. If they drop $250m on marketing, it's because they expect that to bring in more than $250m in sales. And they've got a stupid number of overpaid suits whose sole job is to figure out exactly what the magic cutoff point is for how much is too much.

Yes, yes; blah blah lets-plays, blah blah word of mouth. But, for all that we might love to circlejerk over the power of social media and enthusiast press, it does not hold a candle to a well-engineered prime time TV campaign. They don't want to gamble on how stoked you can get your six Twitter followers; they'll get much better return out of dropping $4m for 110m pairs of captive eyeballs at the Superbowl.

Social media engagement nets you people who are already interested in your product. Mass marketing nets you people who didn't know your product existed.
 

Krazy925

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Just sell fake ships

Savage.

Digital only is already happening. There are much less physical copies of games sold than ever.
But I suspect an online distribution platform costs a comparable amount to maintain and upkeep than what it costs to distribute physical copies of games.
While true, as a fan of gaming and owning products the death of physical games for systems will probably be when I stop buying any games for the first year as I like spending $20-30 on a console game.
All my Xbox one games are retail and many used. I know people want to destroy that model but they'll have to discount older games then otherwise people will be pushed to a cheaper distribution method. It has never made sense to me how digital games are the same price as packaged games. I wouldn't pay a premium for them.
 

Sonicks

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Cliff Blezinski is a major blowhard, but I agree with him on this one.

He really isn't. I think there's a false reputation that people seem to project onto him but the dude seriously seems pretty grounded all things considered.

And this case I would have to agree with him.
 

Zinn

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He really isn't. I think there's a false reputation that people seem to project onto him but the dude seriously seems pretty grounded all things considered.

And this case I would have to agree with him.
Well that's just like your opinion, man. I lost a lot of respect for him when he started blaming PC gamers for his poor sales while he was too busy building console games and it was super inconvenient catering to anyone else.
 

Krenum

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Witcher 3

Bam!

Also, Cliff is just butthurt because he's not relevant anymore and couldn't make a decent game nowdays to save his life. Maybe he should try harder than "a fat kid likes eating cake". And give us something to look forward to. Doubtful.
 

Krenum

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What about Witcher 3?
It was a AAA game in terms of money which is what AAA means.
It was a good game?
It's not exactly bucking any trends. It's a part in a series just like most AAA games

Bruh, do you even Witcher 3?
 

tybert7

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My ultimate dream, is for a dedicated RPG lover to create a free to play game like league of legends that prints money, and with this private game company, 75% of the profits are put towards triple A and quadruple A rpg titles.
 

M76

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Doesn't every company already have an online distribution platform for their 0-day and subsequent patches and paid addons? Seems like eliminating the boxed distribution would be a cost savings in that case.
Yes it would save them some money. And also loose them some money. It would probably loose them more money than it would save. Even today many are still getting their games retail. Mostly the casual players, and those who not buy it for themselves but still I have to admit browsing the games stand in an actual store has a feeling to it. Even I do it occasionally and if I find something interesting on the cheap I buy it.
 

SamuraiInBlack

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Free to play is the straight to video equivalent of the games industry. Churn out shit in high enough quantity that lower sales and micro-transactions are enough to make profit.

If he thinks free to play is the saviour of gaming and the way to go he's even bigger of an idiot than I already thought him to be.

Even the worst COD game has 1000 times better production quality than any free to play game. Not to mention that FTP games are always MMOs or MOBAs. Those are not games to me.

As much as I hate COD because it's just utterly garbage as a game, I have to agree with you on the F2P part. Another caveat of the F2P genre is that it becomes Pay-2-Win very quickly, unless you are willing to turn grinding into a second job. Some games that are F2P are that way from the get go.
 

M76

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As much as I hate COD because it's just utterly garbage as a game, I have to agree with you on the F2P part. Another caveat of the F2P genre is that it becomes Pay-2-Win very quickly, unless you are willing to turn grinding into a second job. Some games that are F2P are that way from the get go.
Yes, free to play was always pay to win from the get go. Even if some would argue that if you can get the same gear in the game as you can by paying, then it's not p2w. But it is, isn't it? It's basically paying for a cheat to get you ahead in the game.
 

NeoNemesis

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I don't see how it's 'becoming' unsustainable. It either is unsustainable or it isn't.

Game production + marketing costs don't seem to be (on average) any more expensive now then they were in 2007, so if it was going to implode, it probably should have done so already.

Maybe he's just pissed because he hasn't put out a AAA games since GoW 3?
 

SamuraiInBlack

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Yes, free to play was always pay to win from the get go. Even if some would argue that if you can get the same gear in the game as you can by paying, then it's not p2w. But it is, isn't it? It's basically paying for a cheat to get you ahead in the game.

There are a few that are, or at least were truly free to play, and paying money was only for character fashion and junk that ultimately didn't provide any real in-game advantage. Those games I consider F2P. P2W to me, is when you can buy exclusive gear that gives you an advantage that non-paying people will never get, or having perks that non-paying players will never have. Being able to get the same gear or get to max level faster than someone else is just a matter of willing to grind vs. willing to pay. Sure you can buy your way to max level, or you can grind it out for free. But being max level doesn't mean anything if your gear is garbage. Likewise, having great gear doesn't mean anything if you have no idea how to play your character's class. I've seen max level top geared wallet warriors struggle or even get stomped on by free-players who aren't geared as well or lower level.
 

Comixbooks

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Lawbreakers was pretty weak they could of done better......

You have to be pretty imaginative just to break the ice with the clogged down Steam Crowd.
There are some pretty good games out there that don't even get any play time that are not AAA games.
 

Rizen

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What about Witcher 3?
It was a AAA game in terms of money which is what AAA means.
It was a good game?
It's not exactly bucking any trends. It's a part in a series just like most AAA games
It cost less to develop than the majority of AAA titles. I realize that a good reason for that is they are based in Poland, but the point remains - many other AAA developers have studios worldwide and in cheaper countries. And it was a very good game, that really raised the bar in a number of areas for open world games, especially in quest design, writing, and scale. I had never before played a game that actually felt like I was in a city, but Novigrad in Witcher 3 is enormous. Compare it to a "city" in a game like Skyrim and there is no comparison. It felt like they still took some risks with the game and gave it the attention it needed, whereas most of the big name AAA franchises are more concerned with churning out a new title every year or two.
 
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