BioWare: Triple-A is the wrong thing to chase

Big console development "more dangerous than it's ever been," says Zeschuk

BioWare co-founder Greg Zeshuk has said that triple-A console game development is the wrong thing for developers to pursue, as only the top ten companies can do it successfully.

The creator of Mass Effect and Dragon Age said there are better opportunities developing, and that boxed game sales for traditional retail is declining year-on-year.

"It's more competitive than it's ever been, it's more dangerous than it's ever been," Zeschuk told attendees of the Develop Conference in Brighton. "Right now it's precisely the wrong thing to chase."

Publishers are being increasingly conservative as only the best titles break through sales barriers, said Zeschuk, with costs continuing to rise.

"The risk taking is disappearing on the publisher side," he said. "There's exceptions but it costs a lot of money and you've got to set the right goals."

Zeschuk said he was encouraged by moves by veteran developers opting out of big blockbuster development and start-up smaller teams, which are able to build a tight business with a positive working culture.

"I've enjoyed seeing the elder developers retrench to smaller teams. They're building a stronger culture, they're building microgroups that are quite successful," said Zeschuk, adding that going direct to consumers rather than through bricks and mortar was also a huge opportunity for developers.

"Retail still works but it's not a panacea," he added.

BioWare itself would continue to work on consoles, but Zeschuk made a point of saying the business would be "aggressively experimenting" with other opportunities as it has with recent Facebook and iPhone projects.

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Latest comments (4)

Pier Castonguay Programmer 7 years ago
WWhhhattt? 80%+ of games released in the past 2 years had been B or C level games, with barely no sales and profits. Games that still needed a lot of work to do, and simply a bit of extra polishing might have put then on the radar but instead it went directly to trash. On the other hand, the AAA titles (From BioWare, Activision-Bllizzard, others), received praises in every public domain (reviews sites, tv, magazines, gossip) and made billions of profit. I can't believe one of the only company still doing AAA-exclusive title will start to produce let-down games too. :(

Not to mention that you actually can create an AAA title with barely no budget and a small team of confident and enthusiasm people given enough time and creativity freedom.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Pier Castonguay on 14th July 2010 1:20pm

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Andrew Clayton QA Weapons Tester, Electronic Arts7 years ago
I agree with Pier. Most of the B and C games on the market still have the potential to be AAA titles, but have some sort of major flaw that keeps them from that goal. If those flaws were corrected somehow those titles would definitely be contenders. I understand what Zeshuk is trying to say, but avoiding the AAA isn't the solution to most of the current problems, spending more time in QA is.
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Daniel Leaver Creative Director, Ambient Studios Ltd7 years ago
To put a counter point to you, Pier, I don't think Mr Zeshuk is referring to the quality of the game, but rather than size and scope of the project. AAA is a weird beast, and can describe anything from massive Blizzard titles to the relatively small "Portal" or even LittleBigPlanet.

What I read from the article is "Don't always try to make a sprawling epic boxed product, spending 50m in the process, because year on year these are making less cash. Why not try focusing on smaller projects, with a high level of quality, in different markets (such as PSN/XBL/Mobile)."

Also, your final comment about making a AAA title "with barely no budget and a small team" is very true, except for the fact that "enough time and creative freedom" does in fact tend to cost a lot of money!
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William Welch Gameplay Programmer 7 years ago
I don't think he's saying make B and C quality games instead of AAA, but look toward AA or maybe just A instead. AAA is 10's of millions in budget and 100 or more developers working for a few years on a huge project. It makes perfect sense that this is totally unachievable and a MASSIVE risk for most. As he said, there are only a handful of developers who can pull this off and make a good profit. Why not cut the budget and developers in half and still turn out a great game with a smaller scope?
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