Article : Only 30% of games even break even!

Discussion in 'Console Industry' started by Shifty Geezer, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. obonicus

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    Honestly, I'd rather not discuss UE3 too deeply. I just think that saying 'UE3 doesn't work, so others won't either' is a pitfall. I highly doubt it's true. Support problems exist everywhere; true enough. Support also often helps.

    And again, I'm not saying: 'my way is necessarily better'. I'm questioning a) the notion that tech-wise, game development is so different from other disciplines in software development that lessons can't be shared b) why redesigning the same thing multiple times is beneficial. The answer to both of these is somewhat vague, and revolves around game developers being creative.



    By architectural, I mean: can't the engine/framework/library's architecture take such things into account? Make some modules optional while others not? Make it relatively easy to modify, if modification is necessary (it always will be). Make it possible for these modifications to be merged into the trunk after development is done.
    Designing a robust architecture that does this is far, far, far, far more difficult than it sounds, but again, not outside the realm of possibility.

    This I already agreed is a problem, to ERP. It's the one thing that may actually be insurmountable.
    I have my doubts, though. Because, well, there's a similar sentiment among the 'geek-power' crowd, this mystique that writing code is akin to doing magic. And it's not. It's just hard work. So I'm not sure product quality will suffer if things become more standardized, more methodical.

    What I'm hoping for is a standardization of technology and greater focus on content. I do believe this is possible. I think there's a misguided focus on technology; game studios' main line of business is games, not tech.

    We constantly hear stories about how studios are always one flop away from bankruptcy, and high-profile gaming is filled with stories of studios that just couldn't make it. The sentiment you hear repeated is: either you knock it out of the park, you may as well not swing at all. Over the years I've enjoyed games that were solid 7s, sometimes even 6s. Many of which didn't sell well either. Should studios be crushed because of one moderate failure? With HD costs, it seems like you can't target a niche audience anymore, unless you do it on portables (or sometimes weaker systems), or go for some low-tech HD stuff (see Disgaea 3). Are we better off that whole niche genres don't exist anymore for most intents and purposes?

    If I can be perfectly frank, though HD is essentially the reason I switched from PCs to consoles, I think the move to HD may have been premature, at least as far as the publishers are concerned. But HD is here to stay, almost certainly, so I think budgets have to be scaled down somehow. Maybe I am misguided; maybe the tech expenses aren't quite so high, maybe all the cost is on the content itself. I have heard reports in this very thread, though, that engineering is as big as content these days. So maybe I'm not.

    And it's not like not being able to roll your own engine would make game-making any less a labor of love.

    But you can have cookie cutter games with very polished engines. Content is the key differentiator. It's unfair to assume that one engine would lead to all games being the same, because what defines what a game is is content. We know this well enough. I think Sturgeon's law applies no matter the degree of polish you're forced to apply.

    Delays can also be the effect of in-house development. Again, I think you're looking at things through a very skewed, even Office Space-like perspective. Okay, so, say, Mass Effect was delayed. But so was Mercenaries 2. What does that say? Nothing. Delays are more likely due to poor planning than anything else.

    I'm not talking about wage increases. Greater QoL doesn't mean more money. It means less crunch time, more sane hours, better job stability. I don't see why this couldn't be achieved with proper planning. I don't think game prices should be increased, either. I just think games should be cheaper to make, not more expensive.

    Movies, like games, are hit-driven, true. But that doesn't mean that less ambitious films aren't released. They are, and many actually make profits. Film still has quite a bit of life in its niche genres and arthouse films. HD gaming, meanwhile, seems to be strictly for the 'blockbusters' -- all that other stuff targets other systems. And, er, I don't think that's a good thing. It doesn't mean some games can't strive to be blockbusters.
     
  2. Carl B

    Carl B Friends call me xbd
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    Game studios are made up of a number of different sorts of folk; some of them are technology people, and they're in this for the tech itself. I would argue that there is a greater assurance of diversity in the gaming market if teams themselves remain diverse in number, make-up, and passion of the individuals which comprise them. If one area of the classic team structure becomes marginalized, IMO it's a loss to the industry.

    Consider this example: pretend Carmack was a part of the EA empire, and suddenly he was unable to pursue his engine technologies because they were considered 'redundant.' Is this a positive in your eyes? I use Carmack because you seemed to hold him in esteem earlier in the thread, but his example is perfect because the technology he is pursuing is so divergent from the norm right now.

    When I was saying cookie-cutter, I wasn't referring to the engine similarity, I was referring to employees who are just 'doing a job' vs making a game... know what I mean? An environment where they are given a task to execute rather than where a homegrown idea is presented. Remember the classic model of the games industry is still that of independent developer seeking publishers for game ideas; it's been subsumed by greater nesting and acquisitions, but it's still out there. And in that sense, also like Hollywood.

    That's like saying movies should be cheaper to make. Ok, they should be cheaper... now what? :)

    Incidentally Insomniac is constantly winning "best place to work" awards and such if we're talking QoL in the broader sense, and that place would likely fall apart if they had external engineering foisted on them. Again just using an example of a place that I feel you have respect for and fits a lot of your "end goal" ideals, but would actually buckle and break under your proposed system.

    What niches existed before that you've seen disappear? I think that XBLA and PSN offer the perfect "art house" venue to keep going with the film analogues.
     
  3. obonicus

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    Possibly, but I think you're taking too romantic a view of things. I think the irreconcilable difference in our views is that you think the industry is fine (or okay), and I don't -- other than maybe from my geek inner-self (the part that likes tech for the sake of tech).

    And... I had a response written up, but at this point I think we're just speculating heavily. I mean, sure, maybe under my ideas every developer I like would be depressed and working on accountancy software, or maybe, instead, every developer you like would have banded together and built the engine that finally delivers 4D (at reduced costs!). It all stems from the difference of views above, I think.
     
  4. NERO

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    I think the arguments from both sides have been measured and reasonable. I would just like to add that the attempt at optimising the business of producing art is artfull in itself but not feasible. Being pretty ingnorant with this branch of the software industry I understand what obonicus is getting at (monolithisizing [sic] one engine or using as few as possible for coverage) and agree that it probably works in the case of EA (to a certain extent) and is being attempted to work at Capcom but the drive to create within different development groups makes this an impossibilty.

    Devlopers consist of groups of people who want to create and I believe that if you restrict their options to do what got them in the business in the first place you might drain the talent pool a bit. Another way to look at it is that you could free some more time for story telling, art (etc.) by unifying an engine. The problem with the latter though is that a (unknown to me) percentage of programmers are mathematical artists. Their coding may like exceptionally boring to an outsider but keeping them from creating will lessen their ranks or simply make a potential inovator cease to exist. In other words do not segregate programmers from artists.

    And here I ramble. Well it's Friday.

    Cheers.
     
  5. Carl B

    Carl B Friends call me xbd
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    A lot of my arguments in the context of our debate have been to clarify what I feel are pitfalls in the "remove tech from the equation" thinking. In a void, it might seem like I have a diametrically opposed view to yours, but I really don't. Really I think what it is, is that there are a lot of shades of gray; as has been mentioned in this thread and others, different organizations have differing levels of centralization/tiers of hierarchy, and as such, both the corporate structure extreme and the "art house" extreme are alive and at play in the industry, with most houses lying somewhere along the continuum other than at either far end. For some studios, wherever they are on the continuum... it works for them. And for some, it doesn't, and they remain mired in a poor structuring and/or management situation.

    I'm not against middleware I should mention, or standardization/centralization in the general sense. But I do think that these efforts should remain as optional adoption rather than forced adoption, to allow folk that think they have a better way to deal with their situation to go that route. I am a romantic though, I admit, in the sense that I admire those that "switch off their targeting computers" in their pursuit of the mission, if you catch my meaning. ;) But I respect the entire industry workforce, from the mega-publishers all the way down to the solo guys working an XNA title.

    I hear ya, I do. I just want to make sure that if someone else has an idea for a different take on a 4D engine, that engine sees the light of day as well; I think we'll be better off for the diversity, and the economics will reward the title, all else being up to snuff.

    Now what your specific use of 4D means here I'm not sure... but I'm rolling with it as just a placeholder for 'awesome.'
     
  6. obonicus

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    Yeah, that's essentially it. It's a stupid meme. Supposedly Kutaragi said something about the PS3 achieving the 4th dimension, or rendering in the 4th dimension, or... hell, I don't know. I can't find the quote anywhere, other than referring to the meme itself. It was probably misattributed, or miscontrued, or just misquoted. Fanboys use it to harp on the PS3. I used it as placeholder for 'insert awesome, improbable or just impossible feature'.
     
  7. Carl B

    Carl B Friends call me xbd
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    I thought you might be referring to the Kutaragi thing loosely, but assumed that 'awesome' was what you meant. :)

    Indeed yes the Kutaragi thing was misconstrued though; it wasn't rendering in the 4th dimension or any other such thing he was referring to (as is often recalled), but the idea of persistent worlds - that real-world time lapse would become an element of virtual worlds.
     
    #107 Carl B, Aug 16, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 16, 2008
  8. ban25

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    That's a good point. I think even the mobile games space is well on its way to being hit driven -- consider the iPhone App Store. Virtual shelf space is just as hard to come by as the real thing, and the result is a bunch of Top 10 lists. The iPhone presents an interesting new market, but it's going to get crowded fast.
     
  9. eastmen

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  10. Laa-Yosh

    Laa-Yosh I can has custom title?
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    Only??? About 5 million more than I've expected... that's like a Wing Commander 4 difference...
     
  11. eastmen

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    It also includes the engine costs. I wonder how much crysis and crysis war head cost combined. I'm sure they both share alot of assets
     
  12. JPT

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    A little on games pricing, the interesting part is

    http://www.crispygamer.com/features/2009-09-23/the-60buck-dilemma.aspx
     
  13. Laa-Yosh

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    So, selling 1 million copies brings in about 30-35 million, which is just about enough to cover a ~20 million budget plus marketing. As expected, really.
     
  14. obonicus

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    A note that this isn't a final word either, since Divnich doesn't actually know, he just probably has far more information than the rest of us.
     
  15. T.B.

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    Well, if you are both publisher and developer, that is.
    If you're independent, it can be quite a bit less than that, depending on how well you negotiate.
     
  16. Demirug

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    You missed the money that the console developer would get for every sold game.

    A general rule of the thump is that 1 million copies would cover 10 millions development costs.
     
  17. Laa-Yosh

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    That isn't really enough, everyone would've gone bankrupt by now with that kind of money...
     
  18. Silenti

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    Something has to be wrong with those figures. That would place the profitable percentage well under 30.
     
  19. obonicus

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    Is it possible we overestimate game budgets? I remeber Fafalada saying something either here or on GAF about how japanese devs this gen still manage to make HD with last-gen budgets (and the results are mostly obvious).
     
  20. flynn

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    I would assume that for certain kinds of games most (if not all) of the money goes into asset creation.

    If you think about Forza3, surely the engined was enhanced but I seriously doubt they started from scratch. So the budget for F3 vs F2 should be significantly smaller if they were smart and kept high res assets from the previous game.

    Another number I would like to see is what's the cost of adding an additional port to an existing game, e.g. Bioshock coming out on the PS3 after it debuted on PC and 360. All the game assets were done already, so the cost should be just the porting effort.

    I understand that the development costs have gone pretty high in this gen with all the HD assets that need to be created, but if only 3/10 games are profitable I would expect most game companies to fold after a while, and that doesn't seem to be the case.
     
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