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Moore: As game budgets grow, everything else “falls off the cliff”

Thursday, 1st November 2012 03:31 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Small and mid range development are the inevitable casualties of increasing triple-A budgets, EA COO Peter Moore believes.

Speaking to Wired, Moore said we’ve “already seen” what happens to the games industry as development budgets grow ever larger.

“The higher-end games that land, land well. Everything else just falls off the cliff,” he said.

“If you think about the industry today, I don’t know what they exact numbers are, but the top 20 games globally probably deliver 80 percent of the revenue. Anything that doesn’t hit that top 20 or 25 finds it very difficult to justify itself, its existence, and you kind of wonder why you did it.”

Moore noted that “the big games are getting bigger” and the middle market is vanishing, with a “chasm” in between small and large budget games which used to be taken up by cost-effective games which “did okay and kept developers in work, and you do a sequel to it”.

“As a company, we made the decision many many years ago to do less is more. When I arrived we had 67 games in development for console and PC, that we were either about to deliver or had just been greenlit or were in alpha or beta. We’re now down to 14 this fiscal year,” he said.

“We’ve added 41 games this fiscal year which are social, mobile, and free to play.”

Moore noted that EA is very different now to when he arrived five years ago; he said the publisher used to throw out lots of games and hope something stuck, whereas now it wants to be sure.

“It was Hollywood. We’re no longer Hollywood. We’re more precise than that,” he said.

“We’re accused of being too safe, but then I’ll point to Mirror’s Edge – not a commercial success in the broad terms that we look at it, but certainly as an innovation, was brilliant. You take risks – we don’t get credit a lot for the risks we take.”

“We’re accused of being too safe, but then I’ll point to Mirror’s Edge – not a commercial success in the broad terms that we look at it, but certainly as an innovation, was brilliant. The art style, the character herself, the idea of taking this kind of parkour thing but a backstory of authoritarianism in cities, it was brilliant. Again, and you take risks – we don’t get credit a lot for the risks we take.”

Challenged on this point, Moore agreed that when EA narrowed its focus to a few big games, it was experiments like Mirror’s Edge that were cut, but blamed this narrowing of game type on the ageing console cycle.

“The deeper you get in the back end of the generation, the less that a new IP is going to work. You start saving up your creative bullets for when you think the next generation of hardware is going to come along,” he said.

“So you start thinking in those terms. It’s very difficult, if not impossible – I can’t think of new IP that launches five or six years into a generation of gaming hardware that is successful. It’s just not the time to do it. Over the coming years you’ll see a rebirth of new IP, new genres. With these platforms, you’ve got to be looking to re-imagine the way they deliver games. Otherwise, why would you buy them?”

Moore has a lot of interesting things to say about the changing face of the games industry throughout the rest of the interview; clock through the link above for his thoughts on new business models, streaming technology and more.

Thanks, Polygon.

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9 Comments

  1. SlayerGT

    Maybe I don’t understand the industry, but 14 titles? Half Need For Speeds and half shooters? Give me a fucking break. And why is the end of a generation the worst time for new IP?? The largest install base exists, ergo you can get this “innovative” game in front of more people. Is the industry really stuck in this “new shiny gotta have it the day it comes out anything later and you might as well buy used has to be of the highest COD money making” shit? I believe folks like Moore are completely out of touch with the gaming community or lack there of. Times are changing yes. Its a bubble. A fad. And its gonna crash once all these “casual” gamers move on to the next thing. Its getting way too expensive to do what anyone wants anymore. Pubs want games made that appeal to everyone..and are getting games that appeal to no one. That’s why Indie is doing so well. Most are games that are coming from the heart. Folks are making games THEY want to play. They don’t give two shits if you like their game or not. The “business” of games has gotten so bad. I have no idea what im talking about anymore….

    Sorry if you read all of that looking for some point. I cant sleep. Night VG. Sorry again.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. TD_Monstrous69

    Moore is right in a few regards, namingly, what AAA development is doing to more mid-range budgeted titles, and the developers behind them (on both ends). The most recent examples being Lightbox Interactive, Nihilistic,, Starbreeze, and Eat. Sleep. Play. Each had mid-range budgeted titles that’ve come out in the last 7-9 months (except Starbreeze with the Syndicate reboot), each had good games (except maybe Nihilistic), but because they didn’t do well, each developer downsized, and shifted focus either to iOS games, or in Starbreeze’s case, downloadable indie titles. Sure, there are other factors as to why it is their games didn’t do as well as it thought have could, but it’s none the less sad to see devs like these leave making console games just because they’re not making the next big AAA game, and instead focusing on making something they’d love to play (though I get Starbreeze isn’t going anywhere, so before anyone nails me on that point, I’d like to note that. Also, I don’t think going into iOS or Indie Game development is a bad thing. In fact, I’m far more impressed with what indie games have done this year than what console releases have done, so far at least, see if I feel the same way after playing Black Ops II and Assassin’s Creed III). Also, I couldn’t agree more in the fact that EA didn’t get enough credit for Mirror’s Edge. I loved the game, and still hope they make a sequel for it (though here’s a thought for em, why not make it a downloadable, episodic title, built using Frostbite 2……a guy can always dream, right?).
    But just where he and Frank Gibea are dead wrong on is releasing new IP at the end of a console generation. This shows just how soft EA has gotten creatively and integrity-wise (though arguably, not much there to begin with). Unless it can make 100 million dollars now, it’s either axed or sat on until the next generation. Gamers are always looking for something new, not just the same shitty FIFA, Madden, or same-fps-different-year they keep releasing. Which is why games like The Last of Us, Watch Dogs, and Dishonored got a lot of praise and attention back at E3 (that and they looked awesome), the most noteworthy thing EA had back at E3 was bringing the UFC to EA Sports. A wise man once said a company’s greatest enemy is the dogma that is complacency, that man was Steve Jobs (though not an exact word 4 word qoute I might add), and right now, all I can really see at EA is a creatively complacent firm, that’s un-willing to try anything new because of a looming next generation of game consoles, and it’s just sad.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Telepathic.Geometry

    I think it’s more like, 1) at the beginning of a console hardware cycle, the big boys haven’t had a chance to make a big AAA game yet, and 2) gamers are eager to buy anything. Also, 3) everything feels new on new hardware, new tech, new controllers etc., so you can bring something new to the table.

    On the flipside, deep into the console hardware cycle, you’re competing with imminent releases of big AAAs, and there’s already a big library of quality titles in the wild in just about every genre, so you need to do something to stick out.

    I’m sure Dishonored will be wheeled out as an example that new IP CAN work late in the cycle, but that’s only because it’s a fucking great game. If it had been released at launch, it would have make a fucking mint!

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Ali

    That’s what you get when you spend most of the marketing budget on a few products and leav the rest to die out. I have played a lot of the not so AAA titles, and I have found em more daring,more creative and even more charming. Nintendo can strike Sony/MS hard if those Eastren European devs land on the WiiU and were given support.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. The_Deleted

    How of much of this money goes on advertising a game that really doesn’t need advertising? Take the biggest culprit, CoD, that has 2-3 different ads on the go, not to mention the embarassing arse kissing the magazines bend over themselves to give it, although that is a neccesary evil on their part, to be fair. But CoD is it’s own entity. And it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. So why the massive advertising campaign, we know it’s there, the fans andd the hardcore know it’s there. What about those games that get over looked, Acti?

    #5 2 years ago
  6. freedoms_stain

    Is this supposed to excuse EA for all the turds they’ve been squeezing out recently?

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Edo

    @6 Apparently so.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. OlderGamer

    @TD +1

    #8 2 years ago
  9. DSB

    To me it’s two things.

    One, you may throw 30 million at a game, but that doesn’t buy you 30 million worth of talent. I think there’s a huge problem in these budgets being so big, and being left to people who arguably wouldn’t be considered interesting enough to work in Hollywood. It makes for a lot of expensive, unimpressive games.

    Secondly, if you can’t make smaller budgets work, it sounds like the executives are just as stuck in the mud as the talent. A business can also be considered a creative medium, and there’s more than one way to shave a goat.

    Finally, why do people like Polygon relegate themselves to dickless microphoneholders? For how fucking long has EA gotten away with namedropping Mirror’s Edge whenever someone points out their noticeable lack of creative vision. Continuing to use a four year old game as credit doesn’t warrant any sort of follow-up?

    Like “Yeah, that was four years – or eight Need for Speed games ago – and you haven’t made the effort since”.

    Apparently you can get away with anything if you sit down with those guys.

    #9 2 years ago

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