You might not pay attention to that level of World of Warcraft you are going through. You might not notice the small scratches on your weapon in Metro 2033 and you might not realize that each sound you hear within the game came after the hard work of an entire team. A while back I was reading an article on how much the development of Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games costs and frankly I didn’t want to believe it myself but, hold on to your hats, it’s roughly in the 100 million dollar mark. You have seen it very well, we are talking big bucks here. So the question arises, did games used to cost this much to make in the past as well?
During the recent DICE Summit, Mark Cerny, a man with a history in the development of games which spans over almost 3 decades said that – “If I go back to 1994 and somebody says ‘here’s $20 million to spend’ I would have absolutely no idea what to do with that money.” This shows the way the “industry” changed in the last few years. Back then the development of the game was a job for a rather smaller team, but in these modern times we live in, we find that the roles have multiplied a lot. The industry is now pushing out 50 million dollar games like it’s nobody’s business but this also means that originality has slowly dimmed as with an investment that large you don’t wish to risk you money. If you invest 20 million dollars into a project, you will have to sell at least 1 million copies.
Last year, only about 50 or so games managed to sell over 1 million units and that’s on several platforms and in several countries. Half of those managed to reach over the 2 million units mark. The problem is that game companies seem to have forgotten how it is to develop a game with less money spent on the development. The same Mark Cerny continues that “We had no specialisation what-so-ever in 1994” while “In 2011 we have the creative director, the game director, the director of actors, stunt co-ordinator, the guy who makes the plywood props, the audio scripter, the lighting designer, and the most recent of creations – the combat designer.” This shows that the industry is spending far too many resources on the development of the game and because of the fear of failure, originality is pushed aside in order to create a mainstream content which will appeal to the masses in order to pass those critical sales figures.
The basis of managing titles better from a financial standpoint is here as technology has slowed down for a while as there are no new consoles being launched in the near future, thusly limiting the number of platforms studios need to adjust for. If the industry manages to use this breather given by the hardware market to refine its production process, we might see the development cost of a game to go lower and lower while the quality to increase. As Mark Cerny continue saying “To learn what is important to spend money on. And get out of the spiral where we spend 5 million dollars more every year making that next title. And at the same time bring back that diversity and excitement, because that’s what is going to keep the industry growing”.
Some of the elements might seem as harsh but once you analyze how an indie developer manages to release a title with some success without the need of a 50 million dollar budget, you’ll quickly understand the man’s point. Until next time, do you really need to keep the light on to read this post?
Full article on Gamesindustry.11