Monday, April 22, 2013

Jim Sterling on The Problem with Triple-A Developers

First off, if you haven't watched Jim Sterling's Jimquisition, here's a fair warning: he's a bit over the top, his persona can blind you to his wisdom if you are reactionary to arrogance and bawdiness in a gurgling mix of precociousness, and he swears a lot. But damn he's right every time, and I find him frickin'! The video (probably a bit NSFW due to swearing):

From the video game industry perspective he's spot on. I happen to be a hardcore fan of the survival horror genre. Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Dead Space and other less well known titles. From Cold Fear to Deadly Premonition, Penumbra to Alone in the Dark (when it was still good...I've played it all. But every survival horror franchise suffers and atrophies under the laborious grip of Triple-A developers who need to squeeze every last dime out of it. It is disappointing to see, for example, Dead Space 3 possibly being the last title in the franchise because they over-extended their reach on the title. It's a great game, even if it does move beyond its survival horror roots slightly (very slightly), but because it was ramped up as a Triple-A development title, it's far more costly than its two predecessors, and so even selling well it has failed. Jim Sterling's prior entry from a week ago was about how Dark Souls (a survival horror game in the fantasy vein....but one which DRIVES ME NUTS WITH ITS VIDEO-GAME LOGIC DIFFICULTY) has sold 2 million copies and made good money, while Tomb Raider sells three or four million is considered a failure. Hell, CDProjekt Red talks about selling 400,000 copies (not even close to the pirated copies) of The Witcher 2 and its still a success. If you can make a game like Witcher 2 and make a profit on 1 million or fewer sales, then there is no excuse for other, bigger publishers to not do the same.

There's a collapse of some sort brewing in the video game industry, but I think the Triple-A publishers are bringing it on themselves.

Anyway. I long for the days of "B"-rated games, or whatever you want to call them. There has got to be a fine line between "AAA game that cost the GDP of a small nation to make" and "indie title made by one man obsessed with 8-bit era adventure pixel-bitch titles." Seriously....we need more titles like Amnesia, or budget developers who make games like Killing Floor, but with an actual effort at plots and stories instead of endlessly recycled, eternally stagnant multiplayer. Like Penumbra, Amnesia, and Silent Hill 2.

As a complete aside, I wonder sometimes if the advice Jim doles out couldn't apply in some respects to the paper and pencil publishers. There aren't a lot of "triple A" devs, of course, but if you consider the three or four that still exist, I wonder how they stack up in terms of what they offer vs. what we, the consumers, really want right now. Hmmm.

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