In a recent interview with the gaming magazine “Edge,” Alex Hutchinson, Ubisoft’s creative director for the upcoming “Assassin’s Creed III”, stated his belief that big budget games, like the Assassin’s Creed franchise, are beginning to fade from the industry.
He was quoted as saying, “We are the last of the dinosaurs. We’re still the monster triple-A game with very large teams and multiple studios helping out on different bits. There are fewer and fewer of these games being made, especially as the middle has fallen out.”
Immediately following the release of this interview, there was backlash by fans and industry analysts. This was not the first time he spoke about triple-A games fading out. Despite his conviction, the question still remains: are triple-A games really fading out?
The short answer to this question is no. Triple-A games are essentially the equivalent of a summer blockbuster film like “The Avengers.” These are games that have development teams of over 100 people with a budget of several million dollars. Two examples of triple-A-games are “Assassin’s Creed ” and “Call of Duty,” two of the biggest game franchises today. The release calendar for the next 12 months is rather crowded with triple-A releases, but the game industry is in a state of flux because of the explosion in different and cheaper forms of gaming, and the life-cycle of current-gen game consoles. This fact has been confirmed through consumer market research, along with industry analysts like Michael Pachter, leaked specs on next-gen consoles and upcoming hardware releases.
The aforementioned first factor that has led to the current state of the gaming industry is the growth of cheaper gaming. This comes in the forms of mobile, app-based gaming for ioS and Android devices like “Angry Birds” and “Cut the Rope.” This free/cheap form of gaming has become more and more popular due to the simplicity of these games, along with the convenience of having these addictive games right on your phone or tablet. The second cheap option is new free-to-play games being released on Xbox Live, PSN and PC that include popular titles like “Hawken” and “Planetside 2.” These games are quickly growing in quality, quantity and popularity with both developers and fans because they can offer fun and engrossing experiences that is affordable and profitable for both sides.
The second reason why the games industry is in the state it is in is due to the extended life-cycles of this generation’s consoles. This is, in part, due to the massive success of the Nintendo Wii in its first few years, and also the expanding hardware and online features that have been added to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This has caused the current generation of consoles to remain viable for nearly eight years three years longer than any previous generation of consoles. This, in turn, has made it harder to establish new IPs that can be successful due to the number of established franchises that have been able to make money with every sequel in that franchise released.
So while these have certainly had an effect on triple-A games, that does not mean that they are going extinct. Rather, we are nearing the end of this generation of consoles and the beginning of the next generation. This is established with the release of the Wii-U in the coming months, and the next PlayStation and Xbox by late 2013 or early 2014, as well as the debut of several next-gen graphics engines that will be used for the next wave of triple-A releases. When you examine all the facts, triple-A games look to have a bright future.