The gaming industry, AAA production in particular, is a lot like the film industry of the 1920s, according to former Silicon Knights President.
“AAA is not fine,” former Silicon Knights president, Denis Dyack told Gamespot in a recent interview. The cream of the video game crop, AAA gaming, is in a tougher position to turn profit today than ever before, according to Dyack. This transitional phase, reminiscent of the 1920s film industry, will continue to affect AAA studios.
“I think our industry now is in a position exactly where Hollywood was in the early ’20s–the golden era of films. Making movies like Cleopatraor Ben Hur where everyone was employed and they had thousands of staff. And they made fantastic movies; those were great movies; I still watch them today; they’re amazing. But studios looked at it and said, ‘We’re not making money. This is not working,’” Dyack describes.
“And then those [film] studios didn’t disappear; and it’s not to say that it’s going to be over for EA or any of the studios. They’re still going to be around, I don’t think anyone should kid themselves about that,” he adds.
There is no denying video game production, AAA at least, is very much on par with blockbuster films – as far as cinematics and budget go. For games like COD, however, the monetary gain greatly surpasses the income films generate.
Triple-A studios, in a way, are always in some form of restructuring, more so in the past 5 years than ever before one could argue. EA in particular has been in lay-off mode for years – a normal form of business practice, yes, though a questionable constant theme for Electronic Arts, but let’s digress. Their restructuring of resources and second party acquisitions all point to better management and facilitation for the demand of AAA game production; that’s the goal anyways.
“But what did happen is they changed the way they worked and it went more towards the model that we have, which I would call…a micro-studio or a very focused studio that grows and expands but are not employees of this one group, where it’s basically not internal development. It’s much more efficient that way. I think that’s where AAA may go, or at least game development can go.”
Retro Studios comes to mind in this regard. Or in the EA’s case, Visceral Games, and DICE. Though, it’s not just the big boys who function like this, VG247 mentions more recent studios like Mjoang, Double Fine and Thatgamecompany.
The refined structure of smaller studios does yield more focused work, no argument there, but will AAA IP outsourcing become the new method for companies like EA, Ubisoft, Nintendo, and the like? In a way, they’re already practicing this regularly. However, this will not always be the answer for every big budget title.
AAA games tend to get a large chunk of the limelight with hollywood esque marketing and production to boot. And in order to preserve that standard and meet consumer expectations, in-house teams are still a relied upon source. Sometimes if you want to get something done, it’s better to do it yourself. Either way, gaming is in good hands.