PC Gamer recently organised an RPG roundtable where veterans like CD Projekt Red's Pawel Sasko (quest director on Cyberpunk 2077) and Mike Laidlaw (lead designer on the Dragon Age series) took aim at some of the biggest issues currently afflicting the genre.
The ever-increasing arms race in the AAA space, especially concerning the price of cutting-edge tech, top-tier development talent, and ballooning player expectations, was cited as a driving factor that needs to be addressed. Cyberpunk is emblematic of the issue (which cost more than $310 million to make), and Pawel describes the situation with a little more colour: "When it comes to triple-A, we are just running at a f*cking wall, I think, and we're gonna crash on that wall really soon."
We, as core gamers, have come to expect a lot from our sprawling, immersive, aesthetically-pleasing RPGs (and modern single-player games in general). The harsh reality is video games are already an incredibly cheap form of entertainment per hour, and we will have to pay more for them if we want to see them continue to push the envelope.
Laidlaw says the biggest challenge facing role-playing developers today is that of managing player expectations, which is oftentimes a losing battle from the get-go, stating that: "As soon as you're delivering something that starts to be cinematic, you then are essentially inviting comparison to the most cinematic things. So you are kind of keeping pace with Naughty Dog or Cyberpunk."
Of course, not every RPG needs to be made on a AAA budget, and Pawel points to Disco Elysium as a modern example of a ground-breaking RPG made for a relative pittance. This is thanks to its reliance on a branching-narrative structure, top-down perspective and commitment to reams and reams of quality writing. Words, after all, are cheap.
Perhaps it is best, then, for consumers of the biggest and best roleplaying experiences to steel themselves for a coming economic imperative. Because between the cost of big, beautiful RPGs and gamers still stuck on that $70 price tag, something has just got to give. Will you put your money where your mouth is? Or would an increase have you looking elsewhere for entertainment? Name your price in the comments section below.
[source pcgamer.com, via thegamer.com]
The cost issue is applicable to most mediums now. Movies and TV are encountering the same issue where costs are ballooning too much to be continuously feasible. Either audiences need to welcome more cheaper projects with open arms or the future of most entertainment will be very uncertain. There's a reason why sequels and remakes are so prevalent. Because they are almost always guaranteed to be at least somewhat profitable.
I don't really think CDPR can get a say in this at all when they lied to our faces about what to expect in Cyberpunk and knowingly screwed over their own developers due to that "CDPR magic." If CDPR wants to make smaller titles to give more development time to the RPG mechanics by all means do that. Just stop lying to us.
I can understand you cant expect a game for €70 with triple A across the whole game that is big, fantastic writing, actors it's just to much. Maybe episodic like they did with FF13 I wasn't the biggest fan of the but i can understand the part 1/2/3 idea.
I think developers just need to go back to making shorter games. Don't get me wrong I love longer games like The Witcher 3 which I've got almost 200 hours in a single playthrough doing everything in it, but how long are we going to wait for Geralts next adventure, another 5 years from now? Look at the 360/PS3 generation where we got so many trilogies it's not funny. For example the Mass Effect Trilogy is small in comparison to the Witcher 3, we got all 3 in the span of about 5 years and they each clock up about 30 hours each if you complete everything. The positive of this is we get more games which is a win and we don't expect a massive jump from game to game and will instead get incremental upgrades between sequels which I love. Long development just increases the expectations of every game to the point where we expect The Witcher 4 and Elder Scrolls 6 to be monumental leaps compared to their predecessors. I look at my favourite series ever, the Yakuza/Like a Dragon Series. None of these games have massive changes going game to game except Yakuza 7 which was an overhaul, yet they understand what works and are able to pump these games out like a Chinese sweat shop. Maybe lowering the budget of these large scale AAA projects would be good in the long run, but it's really up to one of these major companies to have a crack at it because I'm honestly quite sick of waiting literal years between good western developed games whilst I get to play dozens of great JRPGs every single year!
@PegasusActual93 We need to accept that not everything can be with a massive budget I would really like to see more AA games instead of triple A.
I miss things like a Dark Cloud where they can try some stuff without killing studio's if it does not sell.
@GorosBat Totally agreed the Witcher 3 in smaller pieces where the developers can take more rest and less pressure.
Like the Lord of the Rings movies it works and you make more money and you can polish a game without the time restraints.
I don't care about the current price at least for a lot of games. If it doesn't have multiplayer that I will sink hours into or a long campaign that will take 30+ hours or a couple playthroughs, I won't buy it until it is cheap.
This problem is a culmination of a lot of things. At least here in most states we are paying burger flippers and cashier's too much which then pushes everyone and everything else higher and higher. This is a bubble that has been forming for at least the last 10 years.
It dosnt really matter to be honest. I've never paid £70 for a game and i'm not about to start now. Even if prices continue to rise there are plenty of sites that sell the games much cheaper than rrp. It really is a moot point now.
They could charge £150 for it, and yes it may well be worth it per hour etc. but people won’t pay it. There’s a demand on the market and that will seriously wain if prices go much higher, people already feel put off buying games at 70.
Cyberpunk cost 300mil, yet sold 20million copies, a good game will make its money and more.
Maybe if devs released finished and full games, people may pay full price, but right now new release are so shoddy in quality 90% of the time it puts people off.
@Nepp67 exactly. It's insulting to even have them in the discussion, especially when they mention "player expectations." The common excuse CDPR, fanhumans, and the mainstream outlets used as a reason Cyberpunk was so disappointing.
No, it was a fraudently marketed title where expectations and hype were not player generated; they were directly created via knowingly lying about the quality and content of the game over and over again during the year up to release
Maybe change that talking point to be more accurate. We over sold our product to investors and thus lied to gamers to ensure we kept those investors happy and lost the least amount of possible pre orders.
They have created the situation. Demanding massively Bloated budget investment and thus expecting massive profits for those investors. In so doing, attempting to replicate the same formulaic design decisions over and over in the hopes of replicating profits that came when those tropes were still fresh. The consequence being a very narrow and creativity draining market focused on increasingly predatory and/or high profit margin operandi.
Make smaller games.
Cyberpunk at 70hrs was too big anyway, they easily could've made the world half the size and at 35hrs would've been fine.
I refuse to pay $70 for games, so this Gen I have simply started to wait for the eventual sales.
Right now I am playing Fallout 3, and having a blast. I detest that games now take 3 times the amount of time because all devs want to put-do each other with whom has the biggest map or the longest hours to beat.
I wish for a day that games start downsizing instead of up-sizing.
Can you imagine a world were movies became longer every year, and they actually started to have 8 hour lengths but then demanded to increase price tickets because now people have time to watch longer movies (and making such longer movies cost more?)
@GorosBat you said it. Make shorter games please! I don’t need every RPG title to have hundreds and hundreds of hours of content.
Developers should consider quality over quantity then. I don't really need 100+ hours open world. I play Cyberpunk right now and after 80 hours of gameplay i am in the half of main story. I have player sidequests only but it's too vast. 40 hours semi open world is enought.
I do enjoy a good RPG such as The Witcher 3, Cyberpunk, Fallout and hopefully the upcoming Starfield but the thing I still enjoy Skyrim just as much and the upcoming Zelda looks to be one of the best games this year. So this arms race is more developer and publisher lead than what many of us gamers expect.
Oh and as others here have said, don't be afraid to make games shorter, when I saw the full map of Valhalla I knew I couldn't be bothered with it immediately. Focus on some smaller more interesting environments and like Yakuza, don't be afraid to reuse locations, I'd love another Cyberpunk game set in the same city, why waste all of that work?
What we need to see more of is smaller expandalone style games like the Lost Legacy and Mile Morales. Both of those games took considerably less time than mainline games.
These games can easily re-use a lot of assets and take advantage of the current engine without need for any significant improvements, and turn around games in 18 months.
Make more games with a smaller scope then. A focussed, well rounded 20 hour campaign often ends up being way more enjoyable than one which creeps in size. The number of times i've become burnt out on large maps with unecessary padding is only growing as developers look to increasingly cut corners with cut and paste activities.
Like, i enjoyed hogwarts legacy, but did it really need 100 Merlin trials and >1000 collectibles? No. I'd have rather they tightened the story and introduced more enemy variety on a smaller map.
Whereas Resident Evil 4 Remake is winning all sorts of plaudits for doubling down on its strengths over a shorter running time, which also increases its replayability. I simply dont have the time to run through 80+ hour games more than once.
So the TLDR version is, make games smaller, focus on quality over quantity
If these developers actually listened to fan feedback and put out more surveys then they would know what players expect from them.
For Cyberpunk players expected it not a be a buggy mess after so long in development, if that game wasn't broken at launch I'm pretty certain he wouldn't be saying these comments right now.
For me personally all I ask for from a Rpg is that it has an interesting open world to explore that makes you want to search every where and combat that doesn't get boring fast, especially if it's a 50+ hour game. Games like Zelda BoTW, Dragon Quest 11, Ni No Kuni 2, Tales of Arise, Atelier Ryza 3, HFW, Ghost of Tsushima, Fallout 4, Witcher 3 are all great examples of what makes a great Rpg, not all of them cost 100 million to make, and try not to worry about making it the best looking game around that just puts strain on the games performance especially with massive open world games.
I have been saying this for years now. The bubble of expenses to create entertainments vs. the cost people are willing to pay for that entertainment is about to burst and collapse. Where things are headed now with AAA gaming is becoming almost completely unsustainable. Sony, as of now, is, my opinion, screwed if they keep putting all of their eggs in the AAA cinematic blockbuster video game basket. I think that is why we are seeing Nintendo and indie devs thriving right now. They are making unique and engaging experiences for millions of dollars less than the one or maybe two titles Sony is pumping out per year. I think games like Hi-Fi Rush hit the absolute sweet spot. A fantastic, polished, and unique game made on a MUCH smaller budget than a AAA game.
This also brings up the issue of what hardware you'll even need to run these smaller games that cost less to make. We won't need a PS5 Pro or a 4090 GPU. Basically every non-AAA game will run perfectly on PS5, Steam Deck, or, hell, even the Switch. Something's gotta give.
@B_Lindz But Sony is known for those type of games, if they were suddenly to start making cheaper and worse looking games then I'm sure it's reputation would go down hill and would face backlash from it's fans. I do get where you're coming from but a large portion of switch players also own an playstation/xbox for those high budget type of games as well.
Sony could do with making smaller budget games as well their blockbusters though, such as sly cooper and Jak and Daxter, also bring back little big planet and motorstorm. Or acquire a few smaller devs to make smaller titles like xbox have done with pentiment and Hi-Fi rush.
Also with Nintendo it's the weight of the IP that's driving those sales, they know they can make cheap 720p games that are buggy (Pokémon) or games with little content liek their sports spin offs and make cheap ports but charge £50 and the millions of players will still buy them just because its Mario or it's Pokémon etc
A) I find it funny how people who call for more budget friendly titles here, complain about the lack of true current gen games in other comment sections.
B) Also, CDPR has a say on the topic because they are a leading Dev in this area. Some weirdos just wait for any chance they get here to write essays on their first world problem on how betrayed they feel.
C) If we want to push the boundaries of AAA games I think following would help.
@UltimateOtaku91 Sony didn't used to only make AAA games. That's a recent development, starting with the Uncharted series. Back in the PS1-PS3 Era, they made several smaller and double-A sized games. They would only get backlash if the games sucked. If Sony made shorter but polished games then I think they would see great success and praise.
Sure, Sony can still do their AAA games, but they can't just magically make more games. Their money and resources have to come from somewhere. This is one of those "You can't have your cake and eat it too" situations. We either see 1-3 AAA titles per year or we see 0-1 AAA titles per year with several more smaller games per year. Can't have both.
Also, can people stop pointing at Pokémon and saying Nintendo makes crap? I'm sorry, that's like looking at Michelangelo's butt and saying he can't paint with anything but crap. Nintendo has made some of the most polished and down-right impeccable games in the past 6 years. Mario Odyssey, BotW, Metroid Dread and Prime Remastered, DK Tropical Freeze, and the list goes on and on and on. Sony has an incredible list of great games too, but it's a shorter because Sony makes fewer games because their games take so much longer to make.
I think there's a lot of player expectations, but there are also a lot of studio and publisher expectations as well, and one of the things that temper the players' expectations is marketing which falls under studio and publisher expectations. Raising hype for your project is all well and good, and is amazing when it delivers, but that definitely raises the expectations of your audience.
I think the best marketing approach being taken right now is from Capcom. They show their game, they release a demo, they release their game, and their games are pretty high quality. You know what to expect, and because of the RE Engine it will feel and look really familiar too, which is incredible for your brand. Capcom is succeeding with the RE Engine where EA failed with the Frostbite engine. It's an incredible achievement, and they put the work in, and that shows.
Charge 70 dollars. You must deliver. People will remember a failure like Forspoken, and you only get a couple shots. You have to make it worth it, and that doesn't mean more content. It means more quality overall in the context of that content. A good lean 30 hr experience that can be replayed, is WAY better than a banal and tedious 60 - 80hr+ dumpster fire of a game.
Gamers will play the game over again after seeing 70 - 80 percent of your game if it means they can see 90 on the next playthrough. It makes the game more memorable, it keeps people talking about it, it makes a better experience. Don't try to up your last project if it's not a sequel, just give that project its own identity so that, we, gamers can remember it.
@Tharsman "I wish for a day that games start downsizing instead of up-sizing."
That would only work if games were made cheaper to buy, if God if War Ragnarok was 15 hours long instead of 30+ I'm sure a lot of people would moan about the £70 price tag. I'm sure people don't mind paying a premium price for a lot of content but as soon as that content gets less and less those people will start questioning their purchases and wonder if it's worth it, that's why games are getting bigger and bigger and there's more open world titles than ever before to make sure people know there's a lot of content and help attract more sales.
BoTW is the perfect example, went full open world and is the longest zelda game to date, also the best selling zelda game to date, they have set that bar high now and can't go back to the old zelda formula and charge the same price without risking losing sales.
I do think games have lost their way a bit and it’s been happening gradually since the ps3. The ps2 was the perfect harmony of decent graphics with a realistic turnaround and the immense possibilities of creativity.
If a new IP didn’t hit a home run, it often wouldn’t sink the studio and they could try again.
The issue now is that companies spend 10 years making this huge, bloated game that nearly always plays it too safe and is ultimately just a collection of tried and true ideas that ultimately feel formulaic and (personally) give me the sense of de ja vu.
And anyway, none of this really matters because I predict that in a few years, whether you agree with it or not, AI game making will be a huge thing so developers, artists, writers will have an even harder job than they do now
@B_Lindz I'm not saying Nintendo makes crap, my reference to Pokémon was aimed at Violet/Scarlet to which they were a buggy mess at launch and their visuals were absolutely lacklustre and the textures of the environment was so bland, yet they cost £50 and they are close to being the best selling Pokémon games, if Sony released God of War like that it wouldn't sell the usual amount and faith in the series would be ruined, that's what meant by Nintendo's games selling based on the weight of the IP, it doesn't matter if its buggy, low framerate, missing content, basic port, poor graphics etc as long as its got the name pokemon or Mario or zelda then it's guaranteed to sell millions. That's just how powerful Nintendo's games are, a position sony aren't in just yet hence why they spend millions to make sure their games are polished, have a lot of content and are visually the best to attract buyers.
And I'm not saying all of Nintendo's games are crap I was just using that as an example, I love Nintendo and have put over 200 hours on the switch this year alone (mainly fire emblem and xenoblade), so I know how quality their games can be but even I can see they sell a lot off blind faith at times.
I agree that some games are just too big. It just makes sense to me to make them smaller - costs less money to make, less time, and gamers get to enjoy more games, surely that has to be good for the industry. Maybe the upcoming AC will be the litmus test.
Some of that is dev choice though I feel. Make smaller, focused games, pick artstyles that aren’t bleeding edge realistic and cost a ton to make (and usually age poorly anyway), don’t put voice acting in everything (most gamers can read), don’t bloat your dev team size, make more than one genre (if you can), don’t rely on licensing IPs (make your own), resuse assets/engines(most devs haven’t figured it out with one game anyway). Control your narrative don’t let gamers write it for you. If you only make games to gamer expectations (which is caviar work for soda cost to consumer) you are gonna keep having high pricetags that product sales may not pay for. Make the game you envision, not the popularity contest winner. So many devs waste budget trying to pivot to consumer’s ever changing demands.
Many Japanese devs make their bread and butter with lots of smaller, focused experiences to pay for their big games (look at Squeenix’s output over the past three years… they have released quite a few games but not all are the same type/budget and many of the smaller games have turned nice profits).
God of War is a perfect example of more content means more sales, God of War on Ps3 struggled to reach 5 million copies sold each new game and that's even with God of War 3 coming out when the Ps3 console sales were over 80 million, yet with God of War 2018 they improved the visuals to be top tier and made the game bigger, more to explore and more content, and has sold over 20 million copies, the same amount the entire God of war series had sold up until that point, Ragnarok comes out and is bigger than the last game content wise, and sold 11 million in just 3 months.
People flock to content and visually impressive games, that's why they buy next gen consoles, the better the consoles become the more they can handle so games will get bigger and better in return so obviously will cost more to make, we can't just suddenly ask for games to get smaller and cheaper with each new gen, otherwise what's the point in new consoles every 6-7 years.
Absolute nonsense. Pathfinder, Wasteland etc are doing fine. No RPG fans really care about cinematics, just good story, world and mechanics. You don’t have to compete with Naughty Dog, nobody is asking you to. He even references Disco Elysium but still says this.
These developers are drawing false conclusions from their own asumptions and warped experiences (warped as a developer versus a core gamer consumer I mean).
All that money that was spent on Cyberpunk. How much of it do you think they spent on consumer research? Research BEFORE the game was made I mean... not gauging response to your advertising. It'll be a few thousand at most.
Do some actual factual research on RPGs and then make the game. You'll find we're not such a demanding bunch at all.
A decent story - not disjointed nonsense written by someone that's been locked in a basement their entire life would be a solid starting point.
If they spend the money and make the game the best it can be, it will still make millions (Witcher 3 made 200 million apparently). If you want to earn more than this then you can reduce the spend /quality, but you risk people not buying it and making losses.
Also Cyberpunk 2077 has sold over 20 million copies, even at £30 a copy that's £600 million revenue, they have made a profit off that game for sure. If the game wasn't a mess at launch they would of sold a lot more and wouldn't of had to give refunds either, they could of made close to a billion just by polishing their game. So blaming the fans for having high expectations is just wrong in this case.
Nowadays, the writing in RPGs in one of my main priorities. I'd much rather play a game with good writing but mediocre gameplay (according to many) like The Witcher 3 than a game with awful writing but good gameplay, like ME Andromeda.
Can't believe it cost that much to make Cyberpunk imagine how much it would of cost if they'd actually finished developing it before they released it.
I hate that developers seem to equate throwing dozens or hundreds of millions of dollars at development with higher chance of success. Maybe it's true and I'm old and dumb, but the PS3 era had really good budget titles. I'm glad THQ Nordic are around - they must be successful considering how many old IPs they're reviving on an obvious budget that are faithfully done, fun, and affordable
"This problem is a culmination of a lot of things. At least here in most states we are paying burger flippers and cashier's too much which then pushes everyone and everything else higher and higher. This is a bubble that has been forming for at least the last 10 years."
I wasn't prepared to read such ignorance in the comment section this morning. Also, way to go, dehumanizing "burger flippers and cashiers" by telling them they're worth next to nothing in your eyes. These are people you're talking about. Why do you think they deserve less? Are you better than them?
It's cheap to put the blame on the gamers when the makers keep on making these games bigger and bigger beyond a point that gamers complained about it.
This industry is so stupid it hurts....
The idea that we are running head long into a world where games are just too expensive to make is ridiculous.
Scale back on the unnecessary, focus on the bits that make the game fun, dispense with filler, no need for celebrity voice acting and cameos.
We have games with full orchestral scores and yet you'd struggle to find many better game tracks than Megalovania from Undertale. So maybe trim the fat a little if you can't afford it.
Failed live service games must be costing this industry millions too - stop making so many, there is only so much time in the world and people don't have anymore to devote to the next flash in the pan, bare bones slot machine.
Just make your games fun to play.
I now have well clear of 50 hours in Vampire Survivors and that game and all the dlc cost me £7.
@tameshiyaku Completely agree with you about the price. I don't buy any games other than Nintendo first party ones at launch because they drop so quickly. In doing that though I am contributing to them becoming a flop and reducing the possibility of sequels. Same with PS+ Extra. I just wait for them to turn up on there instead of buying them. I will only have myself to blame when all we have left is Fifa and CoD.
310 million to make you say, how many copies sold and what profit? Blow.
To people who said scaling back is the solution, have you seen Forbidden West's DLC getting review bombed for being "too short" & the map is "too small" just a few articles ago? And it's only $20.
There may be a small group of people prefers small games. They are not the majority or why are all the top selling games massive games now?
It's a complicated problem. Also, games are not more expensive now. Just take a look at how much PS1 games cost back in the days. Those prices are before inflation somemore.
Whilst not an RPG, I was thinking today that I got GTA IV in around 2008? Rockstar worked on a couple of expansions afterwards, and then released GTA V in 2013 right?
So 5 years in which they made two GTA IV expansions and the entirety of GTA V. That's a massive game with a fair amount of performance capture and voice over.
Begs the question.....could any developer, including Rockstar, produce a game of GTA V's quality (it still holds up today) in 5 years and at that budget today?
I'd take another GTA V quality/length game over Cyberpunk any day of the week. Even if the graphics aren't "technically" on a par with Cyberpunks.
This "arms race" is not necessary.
@puddinggirl in defence of those criticising the size of HFW's DLC, it is only accessible to those who completed the main game right?
I can't buy it, because games like HFW are just too big and it will take me five years to slowly plod through it! I bought HZD at launch and didn't finish it until lockdown!
By marketing their expansion at a group of people who smashed their way through the main game already, they are setting themselves for a fall, as everyone rating their game is by definition someone who spends a lot of time gaming.
That's going to lead to a biased slant, as people like me who'd appreciate a more conscise and compact experience, were excluded.
@ShadowofSparta you've kind of got a point I think. I think people who enjoy long sprawling RPGs generally don't have cutting edge photo realistic graphics as a priority. Maybe developers need to aim for specific audiences rather than trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing noone.
@Balosi Exactly. Decide what you want to make. What kinda winds me up is that CDPR did this to themselves. They’re the ones who wanted to make cinematic RPGs after hitting it big with Witcher 3. They wanted to follow that up because they had set themselves a standard, but really most RPG fans are having a blast playing WotR and it’s scaled back immensely. They don’t want to go back to basics because maybe they feel obligated to keep going now and went overboard with the Cyberpunk hype, but they don’t have to. I replayed the Shadowrun trilogy earlier this year and had an absolute blast. If they want to push the envelope, they shouldn’t complain that people expect them to push the envelope because that’s what they promised.
I think it kinda goes both ways. Many players want lots of content for the starting price of$70. Devs want to one up each other in whatever way they can to stand out. It's not anyone's fault alone really. That's just how a competitive market works.
The best thing we can do is just make sure to support the games we wish to support. If you want smaller games, buy smaller games. They are out there if you look hard enough. If people didn't want bigger games Rockstar wouldn't take decades to make everything they make.
As for the dev side, just focus on making a compelling, polished game instead of seeing just how far you can stretch the budget. Falcom has done very well for themselves and they don't have nearly the budget most AAA games have. They make great games without breaking the bank. That's the model everyone should strive for.
Maybe not having one of the biggest movie stars on the planet in your game ,wouldve knocked that cost down a little ,I mean who doesn't love keanu ,but I'm sure the game wouldve been the same without him.
Strange people saying they won’t pay more than £70 for a game when that is by far cheaper than buying a film.
A new 4K Blu Ray costs about £20 and the average film is two hours long. So £10 per hour.
An average 20 hour game costing £70 is £3.50 per hour. So the average game is £6.50 per hour CHEAPER than a Blu Ray.
Games are cheap. Stop being entitled and pay the asking price.
@Korgon Owlcat is doing it right in my opinion. The Pathfinder games are huge and deep. A single playthrough could take 100hrs but they’re also highly replayable. Out of all the issues people sometimes have (more with Pathfinder 1, 2 is brilliant), not being cinematic wasn’t one of them. Agree with you. Pathfinder and Wasteland may not make Cyberpunk money though, which is where this focus in the dev space may also come from, the need to compete with Naughty Dog rather than being happy as an Owlcat or Larian.
It seems pretty clear to me that there are already too many games to be able to raise prices much. Many games (except Nintendo) are 20-50% off within a couple of months of launch. There are constantly huge sales of hundreds or thousands of games. Epic, Sony and others give you free games each week/month. The phrase “backlog” has real meaning for a lot of gamers. I think the market has room to grow but for the individual supply outstrips demand.
So… yeah sure publishers can charge … some “insane” amount like $120 for an amazing game at launch just like they already offer $300 collector editions with knick-knacks, but the baseline price would drop to $50-60 within a few weeks and most people would pick it up for far less.
@Anke I think it's the biggest issue. Devs equate replayability to game length and repetition of boring tasks and collect-a-thons. That just makes me slam my head at a wall and not want to buy your game.
Make smaller, polished, more fun experiences and you can replay it forever, without that tediousness that games like AC and pretty much most open world games have.
Of course games are taking longer and longer to make and 'big sprawling RPG's are perhaps the most 'complex' of games to make.
Visually, you have increasing complexity too - increased polygon counts with increased texture details, more '3D' objects on screens, improved lighting, improved object density etc etc.
Quests are also becoming a lot more 'complex' and not so 'superficial'. We expect them to have impact - The Bloody Baron quest for example can be quite different depending on what side-quests you have done and how you chose to resolve them for example.
As such, the time it takes to make a game goes up. Time is 'money' as they say so an 'extra' year, is an extra year of Salaries, an extra year of 'overhead' costs (all of which have increased) etc so an 'extra' year requires 'more' sales to break even.
Gone are the days of making a Game a year - even 'short' AAA games. According to Guerrilla, it took 12-18months just to make one of the 'Robot' dinosaurs for Horizon. Sucker Punch took over 6yrs between Infamous 2nd Son and Ghost of Tsushima releasing yet go back to the 360 era and Naughty Dog were able to make Uncharted 2, 3 and Last of Us in about 2yrs after Uncharted.
Point is, even with modern technology, even linear games story focussed games are taking much longer, made by 'bigger' studios today with larger Salaries/Overhead costs - all of which 'increases' the cost to make and bring a game to market.
Some Publishers would rather 'chuck' out an unfinished game to try and start recuperating those costs with Sales rather than invest another 6-12months of development 'costs' and hope that it generates 'more' sales to offset the increase in development costs. If they don't think it will translate into 'more' sales, it maybe better to put it out, try and fix 'post' launch, and hope you sell enough to at least cover what's been invested so far...
The toolkits that developers can use are improving all the time, though. To take CDPR as an example, they recently stated how they were moving to Unreal 5 to ease development processes.
There's an element of 'work smarter, not harder' that should, in theory, mitigate some of the issues that are being discussed here.
The hope being that said toolkits can keep pace with ambition.
Some great comments here. Personally I think they need to reign themselves in and stop focussing so much on the graphics and fidelity and focus more on revolutionising gameplay. I like a AAA as much as most but in terms of gameplay it's quite a stale space.
Even something lauded like the Witcher 3, which is a brilliant game, has a horrible fighting system. It's propped up by everything else.
One way or the other, budgets are going to need to come under control eventually. The trajectory of AAA game development as it exists currently is unsustainable.
@B_Lindz Strongly agree. Nintendo still has their gigantic flagship properties (the scale of Tears of the Kingdom seems, frankly, almost absurd), but they develop and publish a wide variety of games, most of which don't require 6 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to produce. They also smartly contract out work to trusted third-party developers (Metroid Dread is a good example) and commission exclusive games based on their existing IPs (the various Nintendo-themed Warriors games immediately come to mind). The end result is that, while Sony releases one or two blockbusters a year, and Microsoft struggles to get much of anything out some years, Switch sees cool exclusive titles built for the system releasing nearly every month now.
Diversification is key.
I'd rather have a good group of actors/voice actors rather than big name celebrity actors for starters, that's some costs cut right there.
Cyberpunk is THE example of what not to do with the AAA genre, it is more style than substance, like the world it portrays, and they could have gone about it in a totally different way and got far better results. Strip it back and focus on what matters.
I always think charm far outweighs technical polish and set dressing too. Sure it's great when a game pushes the limits, but give me something with real heart and soul and I will forgive any shortcomings it may have. * mentions KCD again *
Also, if developers are worried about competing with Naughty Dog...
They make very polished linear games with passion, and no one is thinking TLoU and Uncharted are in the same category as massive open world RPGs. And linear games like Plague Tale show you can be successful in that space with an AA budget anyway.
And two of the most successful games in the last year have been massive Open World RPGs and Elden Ring was only £50 on release 🧐
The lesson is probably to just set a budget and expectations that are manageable, and then you can surpass them and actually be happy with the project at any level, Independent, AA or AAA.
There’s a reason independent mid- and low- budget games on devices like Switch or Steam Deck or even phones/tablets have done so well. There are definitely times and places for AAA gaming, but an enjoyable game, at a much more palatable cost (for both the developer and the player), with the freedom to be played anywhere at any time, is a demonstrably winning combo. It’s good for players and studios.
(Of course, the downside there is discoverability, but that’s a whole other discussion.)
@GorosBat This! Exactly! When I think back on previous generations, the 40+ hour games were such an anomaly. I remember when Fallout 3 was being advertised and Bethesda called it “a massive 40 hour campaign experience,” and it certainly felt huge, but now we have some games bragging about having over 100 hours of content, etc. When you get down to the details, there’s few games willing to do what the RE series does (as an example) and just toss out a very well made 15 (or less) hour game. Dead Island 2, however, seems to be continuing the trend. I mean, many gamers simply don’t have as much time as they used to because they grew up and have the rest of life to balance. It seems like a perfect time to cater to that demographic and make shorter games with high quality and let the RPGs be the exception rather than the rule in the industry. I say this as someone that loves RPGs too. I gives them time to be more special as well.
Devs could make cheaper games by focusing more on art direction and a unique look than pure graphics.
Honestly I think Shadows of Doubt (developed by 1 person) looks better than the (probably extremely expensive) Immortals of Aveum, but that's just me.
“ we will have to pay more for them if we want to see them continue to push the envelope.”
games are regressing as a whole , who are they kidding ? shouldn’t even be $70 , gaming as a whole hasn’t progressed past 7th gen; it hit its peak and now it’s just re-skinning and rehashing
Kind of funny that the people talking about it are the studio who made their money back on that game the first day and it was even broken. So do we really need to hear a sob story from them?
Oddly enough, I find most 100+ hour huge AAA RPGs to just be overwhelming bloated messes. Bigger definitely isn't always better. I'm currently working on Fire Emblem Engage and Atelier Ryza 3 and I can make an argument that these games have hit all the right marks in terms of length and depth of actual content. 100+ hours used to be some rare novelty reserved basically only for the hugest games... and Persona. Now it seems like everything has sixty hours of additional fetch quests.
@UltimateOtaku91 If they cut almost half the game in GoW:R, I'd feel my money would better spent as the game is great, but a horrible offender for padding where what you're doing feels so gamified and pointless it's insane. Almost everything in that game takes longer than it needs to.
@SplooshDmg Agreed, it used to be special, and now it's just too common to mean anything and often should not be the case.
When I saved up and bought final fantasy 3 on SNES in 1993, it was $70 at toys r us. The gaming community has exploded which has helped keep the price of games down, but the fact that a new game still cost the same or less 30 years later is insanity. This is why I laugh when people cry about RE4 remake having some optional paid content. I paid $60 for that game on PS2 20 years ago. Nothing else on earth costs the same that it did 20 years ago. I know there are a lot of reasons why that is the case, but we the gaming community have been incredibly lucky to have prices remain more or less constant since the inception of the home gaming console.
With how much game prices have risen once DLC and microtransactions are taken into account, I'm not feeling sympathetic towards the game creators. Plus, buggy releases are an ever common theme these days. There's definitely an argument to be made for quality over quantity though.
@GorosBat Exactly!!! Also DLC can be a way to keep profits going for minimal development time compared to the full game. I like what Zelda is doing with tears of the kingdom. Its a sequal built in the same world so they are basically re-using material to cut costs. More companies need to rethink their strategies if they cant turn a profit in a shorter development period.
Costs can be kept down by actual competent management. How many RPGs go through reboots and massive delays. When it takes you 5/6/7 years to finish and it should have been 3/4.
Also, I very rarely pay full price for any game, usually full price that's above £40 does not represent value for me, it is a personal judgement. I will never pay £70. Maybe in 20 years.
@Jaz007 I couldn't force myself to do any of the additional stuff in Ragnarok. I think did one side quest and decided, "Okay, this is filler. None of this is actually fun or matters." Then beat up Odin, uninstalled the game and never turned it back on again. I genuinely still prefer the OG God of War formula over the the 2018 shake up.
Whats funny here is when you look at titles like Spiderman, any Bethesda rpg, cyberpunk, ac, Witcher, Drsgonn Age, etc
They all have one thing in common, repetitive copy and pasted filler content to pad it's perceived size/runtime. Stuff that did not receive the same care as the main story quests and/or was aided by cost cutting procedural generation/reused assets and designs.
So I find it even more nonsensical that this conversation existed. No one likes that stuff as much as they think we do nor do we expect it. Most of the above Mentioned games would have runtime in the 10-30 hr range if all of that uninspired content didn't exist. The world's we explore could be so much more interesting if most didn't largely copy and paste world assets over and over just to make massive maps or 100 hrs of content.
Trim that fat. Make your games shorter and more inspired in design. Hey you could also then maybe once again release finished and technically polished projects as well. We don't need need the bloat, nor do we enjoy waiting entire console generations or longer to get a single game made that ultimately feels like 25-40% of it was half baked or tacked on.
@PhantomMenace84. I think most “burger flippers and cashiers” still make minimum wage. A full time job paying minimum wage (40 hours a week at $7.50) nets three hundred a week. That’s $15,600 a year before taxes, well below the poverty line. People deserve a decent living wage regardless of occupation.
@FuzzyYellowBalls. I should have kept reading. I didn’t realize that someone else had made my argument for me already. Well said.
@Anke I personally love massive 100hr rpgs ,cyberpunks story is only 20 plus hours ,you don't have to do all the optional content.
I'd happily take a shorter RPG that has a decent, well written and constructed story with film quality voice acting.
Finally got around to finishing FF7 Remake this weekend, and for all its spectacular achievements... (and there are many), the voice acting and the frankly absolute nonsense that we sit through with the "story" is just utterly crap.
100s of millions being spent they say, well can you throw a salary at someone that can write a story without simply throwing in nonsense to drag it out? Sephiroth is one of the best characters ever created, but my god, what nonsense I have played here?!
Never was a fan of static prices. It goes in the other direction too where games are $70 that aren't worth half the price. But this won't change anytime soon. All I'll say is, I'll happily pay more for the big games and less for the crappy ones.
I don’t care about the price. I care about quality. Developers seem to think massive maps and endless map markers equals quality so long as it looks pretty. It does not. Reduce map size and the number of markers. I don’t care about hoofing it across some huge pretty, meaningless void to get more dumb armor for the fiftieth time. And I don’t need to be told where it is. Let me find it. Give me some clues (but please don’t always copy Elden Ring level of crypticness). Let me use my brain.
Focus on quality mechanics that are fun, on quests that have depth that are truly rewarding, make secret items feel rare and special instead of redundant and superfluous.
$70 is not a lot for a game. I don’t care what others here say. This is a fair price for the amount of entertainment we get from massive productions. And when you factor in inflation games should really be north of $100. Games cost on average $50 in the 90s. That would be $115 today. If you want to say that distribution of games is cheaper, the cost of living is up, and the industry is raking in record profits and therefore games shouldn’t be as expensive, well, that’s fine. Because you’re correct. Games are cheaper. They’re $45 cheaper than they would be if they followed inflationary trends. It seems like some people haven’t gotten past moving out of their parents house and having to buy their own games and deal with a world where prices are ever changing.
And if you don’t want to pay full price. Don’t. There are countless quality games that can be purchased secondhand for cheap or played for pennies on subscription services.
Quality over price always.
Speaking only for myself, my issue isn't the cost as much as the length of time it takes for games to be made now. I'd gladly pay $100 a pop if I could get a new Elder Scrolls or Fallout game without a DECADE passing between mainline entries. I understand quality takes time, but having to wait that long for mainline entries in well-established and commercially successful game franchises is absurd. So I would gladly pay more for games if it meant that the development times would decrease.
Budget appropriately. It's as simple as that. Failing to do that is failing at business to let the creatives run amock rough somebody else's checkbook. Cyberpunk didn't need to cost 300m they made the choice to pursue tech for the sake of tech rather than making their best game within the tech that sits at a sustainable budget for the market. This idea that video games needs to always be tech showcases no matter the cost is absurd, unsustainable, and always was. If Gunpei Yokoi could figure that out in the 80s how has the rest of the industry consistently failed to do so? It's not like his ideas are proven failures, his ideas delivered the 2nd, possibly top highest selling platform ever. Again.
@Jaz007 exactly my feeling. I tried for the 30th time picking 2018 up again and omg you spend so much time circling one areas to find the thing, and every climb up and down is so needlessly slow and padded. The game just irritates me to no end. It's clearly designed to feel long by slowing you down everywhere rather than being fluid and fun.
@PhantomMenace84 When minimum wage was first established, burger flippers and cashiers made enough to live in dignity. I think you're mad at the wrong people.
@Stevemalkpus yeah that should be renamed in American as minimal wage 🤦
@Jaz007 Okay, I thought I was crazy. When I was playing GoW:R I kept thinking, "Am I having a good time? I think I'm having a good time... Am I, though?" I felt like I was just going through the motions. Everything was so slooooooooow. The little bull ride you go on where you pick fruit with that one girl nearly broke me. I still haven't brought myself to finish the game because it takes forever to get anywhere.
In contrast, I picked up Metroid: Dread for almost the same price as GoW:R. Oh my gosh, within minutes, you are being chased down by a robot that impales you through the head if it catches you. It does not slow down. Metroid: Dread is less than half the length of GoW:R, but I felt like my time was never wasted and it was worth every single penny.
Publishers should learn simple math.
Right now they sell 1M copies per £70 and 5M copies in sale per £30 and 3M copies people buy preowned so 3M for £0. That is 9M copies for £220M.
If the price would be £40 without any sales than it is 6M copies for £240M + at least half of preowned + those who just avoid buying because choose different game because of low money.
Fu(king simple math...
Second thing is, no one needs huge games. It is delusion they live in. Because bigger doesn't mean better! For example Hades - one home base, 5 random dungeons, 1 story - and result is bombastic! Compared to for example Assassin's Creed Valhalla - enormous world, dozens of activities, dozens side quests - result is boredom!
I honestly wish RPGs could be beaten feaster/shorter playtime.
That would also help cut down on the price maybe?
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