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EA's Hilleman: Triple-A console studios reduced to 25 worldwide

EA's Hilleman: Triple-A console studios reduced to 25 worldwide

Thu 04 Jul 2013 2:30pm GMT / 10:30am EDT / 7:30am PDT
Business

Down from 125 seven years ago, but roughly employing the same amount of staff, says CCO

Richard Hilleman, chief creative officer of Electronic Arts, has calculated that the number of teams working on triple-A console games is in the region of 25 studios worldwide.

That's compared to 125 studios at the beginning of the current generation, but according to his own calculations, those 25 teams still employ the same number of staff due to the significant increase in team sizes required to develop blockbuster games.

"We were on a path that made me nervous, but it seems to have stabilised"

"What is true today is that there are fewer AAA games being built than at the same point in the previous generation. I've done some calculations that say there were about 125 teams in the industry worldwide working on what I'd call a AAA game on a console, and that was 7 or 8 years ago," he wrote in a whitepaper produced for DICE Europe.

"That number today is well south of 30; probably in the 25 range. What's interesting is that, if you look at the composition of those teams, the numbers are exactly the same: those 125 teams became 25; the size of the teams increased by a factor of four.

Hilleman puts the increase in team sizes down to the switch to high definition games. But he also said that he's more confident that there won't be such a significant change to content with the looming release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

"This has everything to do with the standard definition to HD change. If you look at the math, that change is about content - richly about content - and as we evolved, our costs went substantially up.

"And the number of people on teams with that kind of vision went up by necessity. I don't see that kind of content-oriented change coming in this next generation of platforms. As a result, I think we were on a path that made me nervous, but it seems to have stabilised."

17 Comments

Alex Hutchinson
Creative Director

19 38 2.0


That said, there are indeed less than previous generations, but then again other sectors of the market have grown explosively. I would be willing to bet that if we could get global numbers of devs across mobile, online, console, indie and PC that there are actually MORE devs now than ever before, just split up across many more sectors.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alex Hutchinson on 4th July 2013 7:16pm

Posted:A year ago

#1

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Alex Hutchinson
Quite a few of those are not AAA. As in able to generate a global blockbuster.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Tim Carter
Designer - Writer - Producer

562 311 0.6
They're just like the movie studios of old...

Time for a Game Developers Guild.

Posted:A year ago

#3

John Scalzo
Editor-In-Chief

9 21 2.3
@Alex Hutchinson

Agreed. 25 "AAA" studios is a ridiculous undercount. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony probably have that many just among their internal studios. Adding to your list, there's also Kojima Productions, DICE LA, NetherRealm Studios, Visceral, Volition, Telltale, and Team Ninja.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Saehoon Lee
Founder & CEO

60 41 0.7
All the more reason why the next gen console platform holders need to think more seriously about the non AAA studios. Majority number of titles will be non AAA. (but that doesn't mean $ is on non AAA side)

I think it's time for MS and Sony to embrace small developers and help that side of industry to grow to sustain this generation and the future generations.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Al Nelson
Producer

33 54 1.6
That haircut says "trust me"

Posted:A year ago

#6

Alex Hutchinson
Creative Director

19 38 2.0
@Bruce: I think they've all done huge games recently. Added some examples to each: with the exception of a few, these are big titles...

DICE (Battlefield), Maxis (The Sims), Remedy (Alan Wake), Epic (Gears of War), Valve (Portal 2), EA L.A. (C&C), Ubisoft Montreal (Assassin's Creed, WatchDogs, Far Cry etc), Massive (The Division), Ubisoft Toronto (Splinter Cell: BlackList), Ubisoft Singapore (AC / Unnanounced), Blizzard (WoW, StarCraft etc), Wargaming (World of Etc), EA Redwood Shores (Dead Space etc), EA Tiburon (Tiger Woods etc), EA Vancouver (Fifa, Madden), Naughty Dog (Last of Us), Insomniac (Ratchet and Clank, Sunset Overdrive), Respawn (Titanfall), Bungie (Halo, Destiny), Bioware (Mass Effect, Dragon Age etc), Capcom (Dead Rising, Street Fighter, Resident Evil etc), Namco (Tekken etc), Konami (Metal Gear etc), Sony Santa Monica (God of War etc), Sony Japan (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus etc) Sony UK (Singstar etc), Infinity Ward (CoD), Treyarch (CoD), Platinum Games (Metal Gear Rising, Wonderful 101 etc), Nintendo (various) (Mario, Zelda etc), Crytek (Crysis), Criterion (Burnout), Codemasters (DiRT etc), Squenix Montreal, Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex, Thief), Warner Brothers Montreal (Batman: Arkham Origins), Rocksteady (Batman: Arkham City / Asylum), Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet etc), Bethesda Softworks (Fallout, Elder Scrolls etc), id (Doom etc), 2K Marin (Bioshock 2, The Bureau), Arcane (Dishonored), Relic (Company of Heroes, Warhammer 40k etc), Rockstar San Diego (Red Dead Redemption), Rockstar North (GTA), Irrational Games (Bioshock Infinite), Deep Silver (Dead Island), Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider), 4A games (Metro).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alex Hutchinson on 5th July 2013 6:47pm

Posted:A year ago

#7

Anthony Chan
Analyst

88 72 0.8
I am wondering if the person was counting a company name as one "studio" - eg. Ubisoft Toronto and Ubisoft Montreal as one studio. If not, then those numbers are ridiculous.

And Bruce, your definition is BS. AAA is basically "not indie". It is more to do with the production value as opposed to being "a global blockbuster" whatever that means. And if you mean "blockbuster" by sales, then you are wrong. Because Angry Birds is a blockbuster then, but it is by far not an 'AAA' title. The latest Tomb Raider did not even make close to the sales of Angry Birds, but by definition is an 'AAA' game production.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Anthony Chan on 5th July 2013 4:48pm

Posted:A year ago

#8

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Anthony Chan

Angry Birds is AAA on its platforms.
Blockbuster is a good measure of AAA, on a per platform basis. They need to be blockbusters to pay for their development.
And there are plenty of games that are not indie and not AAA.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Tom Keresztes
Programmer

655 270 0.4
bisoft Montreal (Assassin's Creed, WatchDogs, Far Cry etc), Massive (The Division), Ubisoft Toronto (Splinter Cell: BlackList), Ubisoft Singapore (AC / Unnanounced),
Is it fair to count different studios of the same publisher as individual devs?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tom Keresztes on 5th July 2013 6:15pm

Posted:A year ago

#10

John Scalzo
Editor-In-Chief

9 21 2.3
@Tom Keresztes

Why wouldn't that be fair? How else could Hilleman come up with 125 AAA studios in 2005/2006 unless he was counting individual teams within larger studios?

Posted:A year ago

#11

Sebastian Moss
Editor -in- Chief

57 19 0.3
"The numbers are exactly the same: those 125 teams became 25; the size of the teams increased by a factor of four."
25 x 4 = 125?

But yeah, 25 is a ludicrous figure.

Posted:A year ago

#12

Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

844 1,101 1.3
I think he probably has it right. I will admit I don't follow the AAA world much, but one thing I have become aware of is that to most people "AAA" now just means a console game. Any console game, pretty much.

That is understandable as most popular console games are big budget affairs, but really that just makes them "A" titles. AAA is meant to be "OMG WOW" beyond the norm, wherever the norm is.

It's like exam results. What is considered AAA should be adjusted based on how many are acheiving what used to the be required AAA standard, so you can identify the true cases going beyond the norm.

EDIT: I see I just did it myself, but will leave it in for flavour. I meant "the console world", not "the AAA world"

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 7th July 2013 11:02am

Posted:A year ago

#13

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,098 1,061 1.0
AAA - my official list of definitions for the English language dictionary.

AAA:
a game which has high production costs and prioritizes visual presentation for easier advertisement to crowds used to the Hollywood trailer format?

AAA:
a game dominating a segment of the market (FiFa, WoW) or having created that segment in the first place (Minecraft)?

AAA:
The business strategy of describing your production with a term rating agencies use to quantify the quality of something in an effort to get easier access to venture capital from investors who never heard about video games but would trade dead grandmothers, provided they had AAA ratings?

AAA:
The term you use to reassure yourself to sleep each night, once your production costs start running away and projected sales aren't looking too good. (Personally, that is how we got from 25 to 100 AAA studios in this discussion)

AAA:
the game half your development team is playing that is not the AAA game they are currently developing

AAA:
the phrase you describe your production with in idle conversation, hoping that the likes of Tim Schaefer might envy you a tiny bit, although they are the coolcats and you know it. And they let you know that they know you know it.

AAA:
secret code in press releases to let reviewers know you also have an advertisement budget.

AAA:
a popular name for cats around the year 2040, when people formerly having worked on AAA projects name their pets AAA, because they eat the same stuff for dinner now than the people did working on AAA projects in earlier decades.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

844 1,101 1.3
Got another for you, Klaus.

AAA:
Class of game whose players consider only themselves worthy of the title "gamer".

Posted:A year ago

#15
Why dont we use the term Core Games instead?

Posted:A year ago

#16

Roland Austinat
roland austinat media productions|consulting

129 72 0.6
Maybe because titles like CoD aren't just for those anymore? I was hiking through Northern California last summer, wearing a CoD swag shirt (no need to rip apart dress shirts in the wilderness) and two distinctly non-core gamer guys mentioned the game upon seeing it. One even had his wife mention it first. ;)

Posted:A year ago

#17

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