Ninja Theory boss: AAA is “crushing innovation”

Tuesday, 6th September 2011 11:49 GMT By Johnny Cullen

Ninja Theory creative boss Tameem Antoniades has said that AAA games development is “crushing innovation.”

Antoniades, speaking to, suggested that going digital was the way to go.

“The high budget, high stakes retail model – the barriers to entry for that are so high, so difficult, that we seem to be getting, being offered, decent work in that area,” he said.

“It’s hard to say no when you’ve got a team of 100 and you have to keep the payroll going. Another big project comes along, you tend to go for it.”

Antoniades said that a “digital revolution” of sorts “can’t come soon enough,” adding that the current retail model as it currently remains “is creaking.”

“It’s such an opportunity for fun creative games to reach a target audience, there’s this stranglehold that the AAA retail model has which I think is just crushing innovation and access to creative content.

If you’re paying that much for a game, you don’t want to take chances. You want everything to be there, all the feature sets. You want it to be a known experience, guaranteed fun. That’s not healthy.”

He also noted interest in returning to Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, but said it was “not in our hands.” The Heavenly Sword IP is owned by Sony, with Enslaved owned by Namco Bandai.

Ninja Theory’s currently working on a Devil May Cry reboot for Capcom.



  1. daytripper

    i can understand playing it safe when it comes to AAA titles, money of course is the main reason although having said that, it what makes the special devs stand out above the rest as they work on AAA yet try to do something new alongside it.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Eregol

    Then again, not all companies can survive on innovation alone.
    Lots of companies used to fight for the right to make licensed games as they were guaranteed money makes back in the 16bit days, and the funds generated allowed them to plough more money into the innovative products that wouldn’t sell so well.

    It doesn’t help that a lot of people ignore reviews and buy games based on the name.
    The whole CoD thing echoes the FIFA debacle of old where it didn’t matter if the competition was better, FIFA got bought just because it had the name.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. AHA-Lambda

    As much as i agree with the sentiment i still find it ironic when they’re developing a reboot for a AAA franchise after all -_-

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Yoshi

    @3 But the idea is that they’re trying something new with it. In other words this whole statement is basicly just backing up the development of this game.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. AHA-Lambda

    true but then again i feel personally its went in the totally wrong direction, as one of the people who just cant stand this reboot.
    It may be new but it doesnt mean its any good

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Ireland Michael

    I saadly agreed with Antoniades, who I have a lot of respect for anyway.

    Though there are undeniably a few gems around the place, this has to be the most creatively vapid generation for video games since its inception.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. The_Red

    I want to say he’s wrong but sadly, he’s half right. Most of the time AAA games have to avoid risks and innovations because of crazy budgets but still, there are a few exceptions. BioShock Infinite, Batman Arkham City, Dark Souls and Kingdoms of Alamur are AAA games that seem to be taking risks and going after some innovations.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. DaMan

    Nah, shitty games produced by the likes of NT are what’s not healthy.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. anuekr

    Poppycock, Resistance isn’t innovative? battlefield 3 isn’t innovative? Red Dead Redemption isn’t innovative? Deus Ex isn’t innovative? Halo Reach isn’t innovative? Splinter Cell Conviction isn’t innovative?
    give me a break, the new “Dante” looks so ugly, weird and totally off the original one. if he wants to keep the payroll going he can contact different publishers and get bought, OR he can start developing GOOD GAMES and get payed for them.
    btw, saying the AAA production is killing innovation isn’t only stupid thing to say, it’s also very whiny. you want to make money? make good games, rather than blaming the big boys because they can actually make good ones.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. YoungZer0

    @9: Look up the word “Innovative”. With the exception of RDR and SCC none of the games you mentioned are innovative.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Zana

    @9 None of the games you mention are innovative, they are just the continuation of already establisheed franchises and/or genres. But they can be excellent anyway, this is just different from actual innovation.

    Ninja Theory did an excellent job with Enslaved last year. It definitely wasn’t a AAA title, there were obvious gameplay and plot defects but it had a lot of character and felt more touching, more sincere than many AAA titles. And the art direction was incredible, which is rarely the case of AAA titles, especially FPS games.
    I wish more games like this would be made.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. AHA-Lambda

    @9 – almost none of those games are innovative and fucking lol at resistance and conviction being innovative XD

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Eregol

    @10 RDR innovative?
    Isn’t it a sequel?
    Isn’t it really GTA with horses deep down?

    I wouldn’t say we’ve had a poor generation innovation wise. We’ve had some great games the likes of which we’ve never seen before but which unfortunately never took off.

    The enemy of innovation is excessive sequels. Not AAA development.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. OrbitMonkey

    His right in the sense that some publishers are going to be unwilling to risk big budgets on innovation, especially if the game has a loyal/over entitled fanbase. Ryan Payton from 343 said something similar about working on Halo.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. IL DUCE

    Yep all we need is more crappy indy/digital download games that are low cost and also lower quality…give me a triple A title any day of the week over that junk…

    Now that’s not saying some indy/arcade type games are good…but the majority are not worth my time…

    #15 3 years ago
  16. DaMan

    #14, Actually, if you read it Ryan Patton admitted he wasn’t qualified enough to make such fundamental changes to the project. I’m sure you’d like to believe otherwise. We really don’t need any more Angels of Darkness and Daikatanas. This on the other hand, is nothing but publicity through dissing the big titles in general.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. Gadzooks!

    Sony are the sole cause of this showy, soulless flood of shite. Sonys direction this gen is ‘more pixels, more QTEs, fuck gameplay, just make it look good in screenshots’. Bullshot toting smack talking all mouth no trousers bunch of wankers the lot of them.

    Ninja Theory should go back to Microsoft and make a new Kungfu Chaos. That was a million miles better than the virtually on-rails bollocks they produce nowadays.

    #17 3 years ago

    Uh oh…

    #18 3 years ago
  19. Aimless

    @17 You’re trying too hard. A little subtlety goes a long way.

    #19 3 years ago
  20. YoungZer0

    @13: Yeah, i thought some of the gameplay elements were innovative. Just because it’s a sequel doesn’t mean it can’t be innovative.

    #20 3 years ago
  21. OrbitMonkey

    @DaMan, actually I read “The Halo I wanted to build was fundamentally different and I don’t think I had built enough credibility to see such a crazy endeavor through,” as him saying he didn’t have enough big games under his belt to convince Microsoft that it was worth the risk to give him more creative freedom.

    Probably why he stopped feeling creatively excited, even though he was working on what will be huge title.

    #21 3 years ago
  22. Ireland Michael

    @17 Are you being serious? Sony is the only console developer this gen keeping gameplay innovation and creativity alive.

    The original Motostorm, LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers, The Last Guardian, Uncharted 2.

    Microsoft in comparison doesn’t even try. Their idea of catering to the core gamer is rehashing the same two or three franchises over and over again.

    #22 3 years ago
  23. YoungZer0

    @22: Don’t fucking feed it.

    #23 3 years ago
  24. AHA-Lambda

    @22 – as much as i agree with you i’d hardly say its fair to count TLG when its not out, doesn’t seem anywhere near release yet and we’ve really not seen much actual gameplay

    #24 3 years ago
  25. DaMan

    OM, A direct consequence of them not having enough titles under the belt is not having enough experience to pull off drastic changes in a project of that scale. More so when you’re talking game design and the such, not visual arts or programming (you can’t pratice in designing AAA titles on your own in any case) . History shows that a poor choice in that can lead to diabolical results.

    #25 3 years ago
  26. Strange Sultan

    #17, you are wrong my friend. didn’t you play Uncharted 1,2 ? didn’t you play MGS ? didn’t you play Heavy Rain ?!! have you ever seen games like that before ??

    i agree with #13. what kills innovation is excessive sequels. look at CoD MW3 for example !! they didn’t even change the UI !!!!!!!!

    I think rebooting Devil May Cry was the only way to improve this game in terms of gameplay. the half angel – half demon thing is a great example for that. EVERYONE WILL CHANGE THEIR MIND WHEN DMC IS OUT.

    #26 3 years ago
  27. OrbitMonkey

    @DaMan, thats true enough, but do you think Microsoft will let anyone make big changes to their flagship? Maybe lack of creative freedom was a contribution to Bungie leaving for pastures new?

    Though tbh, i’m not sure what you could change about Halo, apart from graphics obviously.

    #27 3 years ago
  28. DaMan

    OM, Yes I’m certain they would, however when it’s totally uncalled for it’s not welcomed. From what I recall, many in 343 industries are ex-Bungie. The founders left ages ago. Personal creative freedom and project creativity are very different things.

    Make it more like those old Marathon games. Make it like Odst. Omp shouldn’t become any different obv.

    #28 3 years ago
  29. Eregol

    It took until comment 17 for a troll to appear……good going.

    #29 3 years ago
  30. Ireland Michael

    @29 Yeah, that’s definitely a vast improvement on the past, when you just needed TEA to walk into a thread and open his mouth to fill that criteria.

    #30 3 years ago
  31. Christopher Jack

    @30, I’m disappointed, you know the last several times that he has left, he only returned when you said his name, right?

    #31 3 years ago

    He got banned for 3 months about 6 months ago, iirc…

    I don’t have a power cable for my PS3 atm. If I did, I’d try and send him a message on PSN to find out what he’s up to.

    Where’s the best place to get a PS3 power cable from?

    #32 3 years ago
  33. DSB

    The greater the investment, the greater the demands, and the tighter the limitations. When has that ever not been true?

    It’s no wonder that AAA is more restrictive like that, but I also don’t think it’s universal. Look at stuff like Arkham Asylum.

    I’d definitely welcome a bigger assortment of just A or B+ games (in terms of the investment put in). Even for publishers I think there’s nice big piles of money lying in wait.

    I don’t think I’m the only one that would jump at something like a first person or third person tactical game these days. I’ve been replaying most of the old ones ever since they went away. Not to mention a proper tycoon game.

    #33 3 years ago
  34. Christopher Jack

    @32, IDK about yours, but mine uses a basic IEC power cord that is used on almost all PCs.

    #34 3 years ago
  35. Aimless

    I don’t think “AAA” and “innovation” are mutually exclusive.

    Whilst people take the series for granted now, Assassin’s Creed was a pretty bizarre proposition at the time: strange control scheme, the middle-eastern Crusade setting, an out there plot that played itself entirely straight, etc. Likewise CoD4 and Halo were real breaths of fresh air at the time, they didn’t just magically take their positions as monolithic franchises.

    It doesn’t really matter how innovative — or even good — your game is, a strong marketing push will sell it; I bet a load of people that bought Human Revolution have no real concept of how to play the game, having been drawn in via the adverts. If your budget doesn’t allow for that treatment then you’re taking a real risk, and maybe it would be more sensible to scale back both the project and your expectations.

    To be frank most people that comment on this site can spot a game that isn’t going to perform well at retail months before its release, so you have to wonder how out of touch the money men are that they’re constantly surprised when they aren’t suddenly doing numbers that would have Activision green with envy.

    #35 3 years ago
  36. DSB

    Not to flog a dead horse, but Human Revolution isn’t exactly more complicated than your standard Splinter Cell.

    The original one might be a mouthful though:

    #36 3 years ago

    @ CJ:

    Mine is a slim and uses one of these.

    #37 3 years ago
  38. Aimless

    @36 No it isn’t, but then take a look at Conviction.

    The idea that you’d need to read a manual to know how to play a game is an alien concept to a large portion of the games playing audience these days. They’ve grown up with waypoints and QTEs, they aren’t trained to deal with a game that grants them freedom of approach.

    #38 3 years ago

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