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The future of AAA

AAA is a marketing term. And what happens with marketing terms is that they are repeated so many times that they end up infecting also development. Expectations on AAA games are very high, in revenue and design terms.

To me, AAA means games with push-the-boundaries-high quality, extremely good game feel, and long duration. Two messages are spreading fast these days:

  1. 61% of PC/Console players choose 6+ years old games
  2. AAA development is too expensive and we need smaller games

Both messages are true, I guess. But you can read them also in a dangerous way. It’s a matter of “taste” somehow.

Small games are great. If I were to start a new company I would choose something small and grow from there. But video games are mediums not just to convey a story/experience. They are born to push the boundaries and show the technical capabilities of computers. For instance, I own a PS5 and I have zero games that are showing off its potential. Zero, probably the best game I have technically speaking is Horizon Forbidden West, and it was the first game I got with the console. I didn’t purchase a PS5 to play a JRPG made with RPG Maker, sorry about that.

People still buys high quality games

High-quality games have a market, players love games made with details and authorship. The issue lies more in our productivity as game makers since the overall software world is declining.

You should see this!

We should fight for more quality and more productivity, not less ambition. We should start from simpler abstractions because much knowledge is getting lost in the name of being “faster”. Faster doesn’t mean more productive, generally speaking.

  1. Players choose classics because of many factors. I identify 3 of them:
  2. Classics are highly available thanks to 2nd hand, massive discounts and subscription services
  3. Classics tend to have higher quality (in terms of software quality, less bugs) than new releases
  4. Also the game design slowed down in innovation, so that <GameTitle>7 is not that novel compared with <GameTitle>6. So, if <GameTitle>6 costs 10 euros and chapter 7 costs 70, guess what I’ll play?
  5. Over time, the familiarity with titles grows. We like something the more we see it.
  6. Improvements on technology have slowed down. A new title for PS5 is not that different from PS4 as it were between PS and SNES.
  7. The more games Players will have, the bigger chances to play old ones
  8. Game production has been affected by the post-COVID effect

I am positive, I believe we have all the tools to come out from the limbo. But we have to work on it, and maybe this crisis we are living in will bring good opportunities in this sense.

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