In an article posted on gamespot.com UBiSoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat was quoted as saying that the only games that will survive in the next generation will be triple “A” titles, and those in the lower budget, indie, and social media space. In exploring the topic several examinations came to mind because the question to be asked goes beyond is Mr. Mallat right or wrong about his assessment. Based on the statistics, and trends there is viable evidence that he has more than a point. The explosion of the Ipad, smartphones, and the growth happening in the indie sector is yielding success that are making mobile platforms the stuff. Market penetration of these devices are projected to grow by the millions over the next five years. Consider the ease of development environments, and tools such as Unity(They are also headed to major publishers and developers). You can clearly see that there is more than some writing on the wall. In the triple “A” game sector some of the best, and majority of resources are poured into making these games the best they can be. Titles such as Borderlands, Assassin Creed 3, GTA 4, Halo 4, Call Of Duty series prove that big budgets, and dedication will produce quality gaming experience. Except there are some traps, along with some peripheral short comings. The numbers may not lie, but they do not tell the whole story.
What are most of the successful games on mobile platforms? Take a look at some of the top ten titles on Google Play, Apple App store, Facebook games. The majority are “B” games, heck that’s being generous. Let’s call them “C” games. Shooters, puzzle games, Tower defense spin-offs, linear games, and the like. In terms of Facebooks games, the biggest publisher in that space Zynga is going through a metamorphosis in search of revenue generation to sustain their massive. Social gaming is not as viable as one may think if Zynga is looking to get into real cash for play game models. The type of games on the previous mentioned services wouldn’t even see the light of day to green by major publishers, because no one (let me be fair…few are) is willing to pay $60, and upwards for DLC content on games like Strike Fleet.
For major publishers, and developers the writing is on the wall. There will be very few “A” games that will be green lit. They will be scrutinized, tested, beta pushed, pre-order quantified, and community driven to yield their worth of market value. When you are dealing with upwards of $20 million to make a game of “A” quality. Yes every dollar spent will make the noose tighter around your neck as a developer to be great. The problem with the model, and direction is the fact that you can easily fall into sequelitis which is happening now. In order to remedy, or add value. Publishers are looking towards the mobile equivalent of micro-transactions, or a free to play model. On the development side of major publishing the best is in creating a game that has legs well beyond a one time purchase, focusing on the game world itself. Bungie’s deal with Activision speaks to this with their title Destiny. Which would be an expandable universe with a long range goal of being a viable entity played for ten or more years. Ambitious? Yes, but Bungie has proven the model works when you look at titles like Halo. Again there are holes in this theory, as well as stiff competition because of just what Mr. Mallat has stated. The competition comes in the form of having to compete with devices that house titles that frankly are not, and will be credible experiences on a console. The PC infrastructure is a bit different, but still in a state of flux because of the migration to tablets, and smartphones. Not to mention that the services once mainly used on a PC can be found elsewhere. What Mr. Mallat, and others are really lost on is that gaming is evolving into a value proposition. What is the value of my gaming time? Is it $60 or $1.99. Obviously it somewhere in the middle. Where “B” games live.
The future of gaming comes down to price and platform in the next generation. It’s that simple. Forget the idea of triple “A” or “B” games. Most people on social, and mobile platforms try out games because they are cheap. Like free cheap. If in the next generation publishers based their content strategy on a pricing tier. As opposed to going in for the kill with a flat $tandard of $60. There would be far more successes, and less lay-offs of great developers in the console space. It’s great to use the indie space for business model extraction, adjustments in current models would yield the most results. Not only that, but you could solve the problem of sequelitis, and less games being made due to constriction, or commercial viability. You can apply all of the new emerging business models to fit the types of games that players are clearly playing which don’t fit what major publishers are not creating. Along with focusing better financial projections. Case in point; how in the world did it make sense for SquareEnix to lay-off it’s U.S based arm when they have been responsible for some of the best games coming from the Japanese for an entire generation? A publisher and developer who has clearly lost step, or refuses to acknowledge through pride that the market has new expectations. So due to not meeting sales projections (which boggles the mind based on that only).
The revamped Tomb Raider not only did will in selling over $2 million copies, the respect it has garnered from gamer’s, critics, and the general public has revived Lara Croft into a true icon of gaming again. So the solution was to can them, instead of expand the success? I don’t get it. Yet, the Final Fantasy series has done horrible, besides other JRPG’s from the developer. At what point does that make sense? See the trap that console publishers, and developers are exhibiting in what Mr. Mallat is alluding to with his statement; is that the goal outweighs the practicality of creating, and dealing with expectations. The mobile, and social platform success is predicate on how many users are playing are particular game, then growing that into financial success. What is really a success comes down to range of content. This is what the next generation has to be about. Especially in light of a company like Microsoft who wants to rule the living room, by in all rumored honesty splitting it’s bases attention, and focus. That is for another article not this one. Back on topic though, the idea of there being no middle ground is a self full-filling prophecy that is going to hurt publishers like Ubisoft, and kill the indie scene. In another article we will explore both areas more fully. For now let us know your thoughts. Is this the end of “B” games? Or are publishers drinking the wrong Kool-aide?