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“AAA is not fine”, warns Dyack over industry sustainability fears

Tuesday, 30th July 2013 12:52 GMT By Dave Cook

Former Silicon Knights boss Denis Dyack has compared the games market of today to the 1920s movie industry, in which filmmakers had a tough time making a return on investment through their productions. In today’s world of spiralling game costs and lay-offs he certainly has a point.

Speaking with GameSpot, Dyack said, “AAA is not fine. I think our industry now is in a position exactly where Hollywood was in the early ’20s – the golden era of films. Making movies like Cleopatra or Ben Hur where everyone was employed and they had thousands of staff. And they made fantastic movies; those were great movies; I still watch them today; they’re amazing. But studios looked at it and said, ‘We’re not making money. This is not working.’”

“And then those [film] studios didn’t disappear; and it’s not to say that it’s going to be over for EA or any of the studios. They’re still going to be around. I don’t think anyone should kid themselves about that.”

“But what did happen is they changed the way they worked and it went more towards the model that we have. Which I would call…a micro-studio or a very focused studio that grows and expands but are not employees of this one group, where it’s basically not internal development. It’s much more efficient that way. I think that’s where AAA may go, or at least game development can go.”

We’re seeing a lot of what Dyack calls ‘micro-studios’ reaching prominence these days. Just look at the likes of Double Fine, Thatgamecompany, Mojang, Zombie Studios, and other indie or small operations reaching great success in both artistic merit and monetary returns.

What do you make of Dyack’s opinion? Do business models need to shift for the triple-a studios to make financial gain easier to attain, or are big budgets now so engrained they won’t be able to shake them off?

Let us know below.

Thanks OXM.

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18 Comments

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  1. Biscuitpants

    i like dyack

    #1 12 months ago
  2. DrDamn

    The current business model for big budget games is not good, but I think that just needs to evolve. That’s a good thing. We’ll still see big bucks thrown at standard genres, but hopefully we’ll also see publishers throwing some big bucks at proven ideas from smaller/indie studios too.

    #2 12 months ago
  3. Phoenixblight

    HE is doing it again…

    #3 12 months ago
  4. wildBoar

    Many considered the Last of us to be a gamble, and ND seems to have made killing so far on that game, with DLC still to come out. Ugh, this is just the same old, “I’ll make a statement on a controversiel subject, please check out my game.”

    Doesn’t Dyack have a Kickstarter going RIGHT NOW? Gee, I wonder why he’s saying these things… Surely not so more people will hear about his kickstarter? Please don’t advertise for this idiot Dave, he’s a complete bonehead and we’re better of if he’s forced to quit the industry.

    #4 12 months ago
  5. _LarZen_

    Developers need to embrace digital distribution more on consoles. The industry need to embrace DRM on consoles and make incentives for the gamers to embrace it on console as done years ago on PC.

    #5 12 months ago
  6. Llewelyn_MT

    The movies in 1920s didn’t have a third of their budget thrown away on marketing.

    #6 12 months ago
  7. salarta

    I was about to say something defending Dyack, but after pausing to think, the comments here SO FAR are actually pretty fair. No different from judging Hideo Kojima, Motomu Toriyama, etc (and yes, I shudder too that I put those two names in the same sentence).

    Yeah, I’d definitely say it’s fair to say that a lot of his remarks are based in the current Kickstarter. People talk about and support the things that back what they are currently doing or care about; it would be absurd to expect anyone to do otherwise. Would you expect a woman to say abortion should be outlawed as she’s walking into an abortion clinic to get one?

    #7 12 months ago
  8. Erthabutt

    “Would you expect a woman to say abortion should be outlawed as she’s walking into an abortion clinic to get one?”

    Typical Salarta, trying to be relevant while jumping out of the boat

    #8 12 months ago
  9. Dragon246

    User name- Erthabutt
    Hmm…….
    Sounds familiar.

    On topic, whatever. People will adapt. If the current model is unsustainable, it will be replaced eventually. No need to lose sleep fearing something stupid like “Oh, the VIDYA GAMES industry may crash again”. Its not happening.

    #9 12 months ago
  10. salarta

    @8: But the water looks so tasty!

    It’s an analogy, they’re not perfect or sometimes even wholly appropriate but they’re there to present a basic point.

    @9: I expect there will be a video game crash, but not in the sense people think. There won’t be a crash in the sense of video games completely disappear off the face of the earth, that’s never going to happen. Instead, I expect that the current model of ludicrously Hollywood-ized, business obsessed work will crash, and out of that we’ll have a remainder of people that actually care about the industry and medium making games.

    #10 12 months ago
  11. Lengendaryboss

    @8
    Now, now don’t be so butthurt ;)
    http://cf.chucklesnetwork.agj.co/items/7/5/5/3/0/we-heard-you-were-butthurt-so-we-made-a-picture-for-you-toflame.jpg

    #11 12 months ago
  12. Dragon246

    @10,
    “and out of that we’ll have a remainder of people that actually care about the industry and medium making games.”
    Makes absolutely zero sense to me man. Are you saying people working on AAA games are less “passionate” than indies, which incidentally is just a chic name for games with smaller budgets and teams?
    Disagree. Its like saying a avant garde movie director is more passionate about movies than Spielberg. They just have different ways.

    #12 12 months ago
  13. bradk825

    He’s got a very good point. The budgets are going up in order to compete with others making the latest in graphics, hiring Hollywood writers and voice actors, building bigger worlds etc… But the game is still $60, and they are still just getting the sale once even if that copy is resold 6 times. They aren’t taking risks not because they aren’t creative, but because they need to KNOW they can sell x-amount no matter what, or they lose money and jobs.

    I love creative stories and great visuals, and something needs to change in the business if we’re going to keep seeing new things.

    #13 12 months ago
  14. lookingglass

    Middleware and contracting will be used far more often in the future, as will procedurally generated content. The cost will go down eventually, but right now we are in the most expensive era of gaming ever.

    Indies though are still, at least the vast majority, not that impressive. The answer is not just crap indie games, it’s a new system of developement.

    #14 12 months ago
  15. salarta

    @12: I’m saying that AAA games as currently operated in the industry are more likely to stifle creativity and more likely to forcibly govern how characters and games are treated based on purely money and business concerns. Such a system can very easily result in the employees losing passion for the projects they’re on and feeling demoralized.

    At its barebones, an “AAA game” is essentially a big Hollywood production in video game form. Like big Hollywood productions, this lends to the people paying the bill having more authority over what happens, because they want to make sure their investment brings a secure return. This desire for assurance leads to going for “guarantees.” In existing franchise, they change the franchise and its characters in idiotic ways to fit modern gimmicks and trends, because they figure nobody has the ability to respect the history and these games can’t be made in a way that takes what people loved and merely modernizes it. For brand new franchises, there’s even greater fear of not making money back because there isn’t a familiar name there to dupe people into buying it. Hence, why a lot of ideas for brand new games become Final Fantasy 13, 3rd Birthday, Silent Hill: Book of Memories, the new “Tomb Raider,” etc. Slap a new game concept onto an old name, bam, guaranteed money.

    This can and does affect passion that employees have for the games they’re working on. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a passion for the industry. It means they may be stuck in a situation that actively kills that passion.

    And so we have my remark: out of the remainder, we’ll have people that actually care about the industry and medium. You read it as “people that make AAA games don’t care about video games.” What it really meant was that in the absence of AAA games, the people that really care about video games, whether they’re an indie or working at a developer making AAA games, will keep at it. Look at Hironobu Sakaguchi, American McGee and more. They love video games, and so even though they’re not part of the “AAA game” scene today, they continue to make video games.

    #15 12 months ago
  16. wildBoar

    Good, now can we all agree Dyack is an idiot and that it’s blatantly obvious that all he’s trying to do here is promote his failing kickstarter.
    Better to comment on something more worthwhile, or when someone who actually has a clue, chimes in on the subject. That’s not what we’re seeing right now.

    #16 12 months ago
  17. Ireland Michael

    Bigger budgets, less risks, more indentikit first person shooters.

    Welcome to the next generation of gaming.

    #17 12 months ago
  18. OlderGamer

    I think what will happen is that devs will get more out of less investment. As tech evolves we can see that small teams of “indie” style houses are cranking out higher quality games. I think that will continue to happen to a point where the big Tip A games are losing ground to small, unheard of before games. Already has happened here and there. Minecraft continues to be one of the top played games on xbl. I think that continues.

    But that is why the massive advertising/marketing budgets. That is whyMS was dragging its feet on selfpublishing and indies in general. Ofc that was before they uturned. Could just be lip service, we will have to see how things actualy play out.

    But at some point I see consoles being a little like app stores, full of games you never heard of before. Games that have a hard time franchising because if they get too big, something smaller, newer, fresher comes along.

    I think, in short, most of the industry will turn indie-ish. Once it gets so that small studios can compete with bigger ones. And we are close to that then we might realize.

    #18 12 months ago