Riccitiello: “consequences are huge” for triple-A failure, industry “driven by top 50″

Wednesday, 31st July 2013 20:52 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

John Riccitiello has said the inherent nature of a hits-driven business means a publisher which is successful now, can go under rather quickly, because that just the nature of triple-A development and being “driven by top 50.”

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with GI International, the former EA CEO said because of such a focus by the larger publishing firms, it makes it harder for them to try anything relatively new like the indies are doing.

“We’re driven by top 50. The indie movement, I hate to say this, but you go to a lot of indie conferences and the numbers are really small,” Riccitiello said. “And people are doing it out of love, not business economics. And I’m in this industry for the love of it, but the fact is that the top 50 are getting bigger and bigger and bigger and I think they’re going to absorb the lion’s share of the business on mobile, just like they have on console and on other formats.

“And then the question is how do we build products that serve that intelligently? I don’t know that in mobile we’ve got a pattern; we think we’ve got a pattern but we’re only a few years old.

“The consequences are huge. If Ubisof fell on Assassin’s or Activision gets the lead on shooters taken away by EA, that’s going to be cataclysmic, and there’s going to be huge issues there. I mean what do you think GungHo will do if Puzzles & Dragons fades?”

Riccitiello said companies need to realize there is more to game design that “resource management around the money that you put into a game,” in order to create satisfying entertainment.



  1. GrimRita

    Maybe he should play SWTOR and take this interview again. Publishers can be diverse and try new things, they just dont have the balls to, because their PR/marketing clowns *think* they know whats best.

    I bet none of the big publishers would have looked at Minecraft or Angry Birds for example.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. MFBB

    Big Publishers should also do smaller games, indie style.

    The developers for sure have the talent to come up with great ideas.

    They always talk about that they cant do what they want and are forced to work on a Franchise for years with sequel after sequel.

    As we see there is a lot of money to be made with indie style games.

    Surprised big studios didnt already start to have some small teams develop something like that as a side project.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. TheWulf

    What’s funny is that whilst he says that people are doing it out of love and not business economics, they’re still making more money than AAA developers. Whilst that may sound ridiculous, what you have to not do (as many do indeed do) is mix up revenue with profit. Very, very few AAA titles are profitable, whereas the vast majority of indie titles are profitable. Revenue tells you nothing, you should never look at revenue.

    But why is it that indie generates more profit than AAA? That’s easy. AAA pays marketing to be no. 1, they have ridiculous campaigns, and they pay through the nose for graphical fidelity. They have teams of hundreds, with wages for those hundreds which are sky-high. See everything from Assassin’s Creed to Call of Duty. This actually costs so much that the profits they get from their efforts are becoming more and more negligible all the time. This is why we’re seeing more lay-offs and increased costs with an ever lower profit ceiling in AAA development.

    Indies on the other hand don’t need huge marketing campaigns, they don’t need many people working for them, they don’t need massive wages, and the end result is that a successful indie may actually reap more profits from a game than a successful AAA. Again, I’m talking about profits here, not revenue.

    How does this work? Focused demographics.

    I love X. If you make a decent game about X that’s enjoyable and reasonably priced based upon how good it is, then I’ll buy it. You don’t have to advertise it, just get a news site I read to mention it.

    Example? Shelter.

    Example? Blood of the Werewolf.

    Example? Aaru’s Awakening.

    Example? Owlboy.

    None of those are out yet, but I plan on buying each of them because they all do something I want. This is how indie does it, they don’t target everyone like AAA does, they just make small games designed to hit underserved demographics.

    The trouble with the AAA industry is that they’re clearly always trying to hit the lowest common denominator, all the time. Most games are dumb, and the games that aren’t dumb and horribly written tend to not sell, since they’ll go over the heads of the lowest aspect of their intended audience. This is why the writing is so gallingly bad. I look at Assassin’s Creed III and it reads like the kind of novel you’d pick up in a gift shop’s bargain bin. It’s awful. So awful.

    But that’s AAA for you. And I’m on the brink of just completely losing interest. I gather that a lot of people feel the same way as well, since their profit ceiling seems to be dropping, whilst their costs (due to this next generation) are getting higher.

    So eventually AAA is going to collapse in on itself and we’re going to end up with lots of small studios focused on projects aimed at specific demographics, rather than trying to be catch-alls.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. TheWulf


    Exactly. Didn’t Blood Dragon actually make Ubisoft more profit than Far Cry 3? Due to it being a throwaway project with not many people working on it, with reused content and all. Except due to it not being the usual AAA trash, it actually sold well.

    I think there’s a moral, here: Don’t target the lowest common denominator; Don’t base your game around a huge marketing campaign; Don’t have the biggest team under the sun; PROFIT.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. polygem

    now guy looks even more stoned

    #5 1 year ago
  6. wildBoar

    How could anyone look so smug accidentally.. No way, that right there is the definition of smug. A picture says more than a thousand words, that man is a rich smug asshole.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. DSB

    More empty posturing. The movie industry is running circles around the games industry, and they obviously don’t agree that AAA is the only thing worth their time.

    Even if a 30 million dollar movie only has the potential to make 60 million, you could be creating value far beyond those 60 million by giving the next amazing director his big break by producing it. It’s a risk worth taking because it ultimately enriches the medium, and keeps people interested.

    There’s no way to predict that kind of success, you simply have to have the courage to roll the dice and invest in something new.

    It never ceases to amaze me how reactionary and practically medieval these guys are. It’s no wonder you’re stuck selling the same old trash to the same old audience.

    If you don’t have the balls and the vision to move shit forward, shit says right where it is, and so do your measly profits.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. bradk825

    @6 that’s what I get from all his comments too.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Professor Zoom

    Where is he now? Is he unemployed?

    #9 1 year ago

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