Shiny New Games!: The Future of Video Game Development
In these post-E3 doldrums, I find myself thinking more and more about the future of video games. I’ve been going back and rewatching some of the trailers from the show, marvelling at the gorgeous graphics and the complicated gameplay systems that will soon raise the standard for modern video games. And while I picture the fun that is to be had in these new gorgeously-rendered, intricate game worlds, another thought keeps rolling over in my head: this all looks expensive.
Not only am I contemplating the cost of prepping my living room for the 4K revolution that gaming is inevitably moving towards, with a new 4K TV as well as a 4K capable gaming device like the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. I’m also concerned about the exorbitant cost of developing these games that studios will soon be burdened with.
Higher-resolution textures means more work for artists, and greater complexity to gameplay systems means more work for engineers. This added work means studios need to commit more time and money into developing these games that will ultimately be sold at the same $60 price point standard that has been grandfathered in from decades past.
These factors have me concerned about the sustainability of game development from a studio’s perspective for a number of reasons: The first is that unless adoption rates of new consoles and the number of people buying new games continues to rise, it doesn’t make sense from a business perspective for developer’s to be putting more money into development of a product that won’t yield an equivalent return. And we all know that profit-margins will always be the deciding factor when it comes to triple-A game development.
I could see a future where this mindset leads to developers producing fewer games per year, or doubling-down on this trend of continually producing sequels to successful franchises. Both of these scenarios would be equally disappointing for the video game industry.
Another possible outcome to this scenario is that developers disregard big budget console and PC game development, in favour of pursuing mobile platforms – after all, it’s often cheaper to develop games for mobile, the user base is already huge, and the potential profits are enticing. We are already seeing Triple-A developers experimenting in the mobile market, and with the recent standout successes from Nintendo’s foray into the mobile market, we could be seeing more developers taking note.
As a lifelong fan of video games, I’m undoubtedly worried that the ever-increasing cost of game development could ultimately lead to the collapse of the video game industry as we know it today. That being said, I’m choosing not to over-react and to embrace the changing video game landscape. Yes, I would prefer to play something new instead of a sequel to an existing franchise. Yes, I would prefer to play that new game comfortably on my couch with a controller. But I’ve also been surprised by what triple-A developers have done in the past, and I’m confident that if my interests happen to fall out of line with what the triple-A games become, I bet Indie developers will still be around to fill that gap.