Ninja Theory can recoup Hellblade budget with 300,000 sales

“Our work on Hellblade is an opportunity to question the way the industry has always done things”

Ninja Theory's Hellblade will need to sell only 300,000 units to recoup its development budget.

After releasing a string of AAA console titles to varying levels of commercial success, the UK-based studio is attempting to establish what it describes as a "third way" of making games - one that falls somewhere between what we have traditionally called AAA and Indie. Smaller scale, lower cost, with no sacrifices made in terms of creative risks and quality of execution.

"We're taking our work on Hellblade as an opportunity to question the way the games industry has always done things," said product development manager Dominic Matthews in a recent developer diary. "To see if there's a better way, a more streamlined way. To create amazing quality on a smaller budget."

As a result, Hellblade has a core team of 12 people, with a single person working in the majority of discipline areas. Ninja Theory is committed to finding affordable or homebrew alternatives to the high-end processes associated with its previous games - the performance capture used in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, for example - but its sales target will remain eminently achievable: between 200,000 and 300,000 units.

"[Hellblade] is about what we feel passionate about, what we're good at, and what we think our fans and supporters want from a game," said Tameem Antoniades, Ninja Theory's co-founder. "But it comes at a price. We have to self-fund this game, and we have to work within the restrictions that that means for us."

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Latest comments (5)

Anthony Gowland Director, Ant Workshop7 years ago
That $100m figure for "high end" AAA seems kind of low. I'm thinking of stuff like GTA, CoD, Destiny here. Though even the concept of splitting AAA in to 3 categories seems a bit silly to me. By definition all AAA is "high end".
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Spencer Franklin Concept Artist 7 years ago
I would love to see a breakdown of where the $$ goes for a $100M project. I mean, the true cost fo just developing the game (not the marketing and hype machines, just purely artists/programmers/designers/writers/music... everything that actually goes on the disc (or in the download). You always hear about the skyrocketing costs of making games, but I would really like to know the why behind it... When the PS3/360 were new, the costs for games were projected at 20M, yet I have not seen anything done in terms of gameplay/art itself that would increase the cost so much. Seems like a lot of money is spent on all that "other' stuff that doesn't actually make a game... But what do I know...been a while since I was in a development meeting... :/
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Richard Browne Head of External Projects, Digital Extremes7 years ago
There are no AA games any more ; it's AAA or bust and I highly doubt many AAA are hitting $100m in DEV budget. GTA is clearly an exception given how long its in production with a massive team. 3 years, 100 people you're in the $40m range. Add all the gloss, cut scenes, etc, you're at $50+ but not $100m.

Hellblade should be an interesting game to watch ; I do wonder how much prior art they're carrying forward mind.
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Anthony Gowland Director, Ant Workshop7 years ago
"Everything is AAA, but some AAA has half the budget of other AAA". If the budget is half, then it doesn't have an "A" Dev budget, so by definition its not AAA. I don't really understand the insistence on trying to use the term on games that don't fit. Maybe a perceived prestige thing?
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Richard Browne Head of External Projects, Digital Extremes7 years ago
Anthony anything that hits retail at $60 on console today is AAA. The market won't support anything else. If you spend $50m or$100m is not relevant.
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