With the rise of the indie market during the past 7-10 years, many of the mid-tier publishers either took a backseat or dissolved completely. As our online platforms became more robust, we have been re-evaluating the whole “budget” gaming scene. Up until this time, all games published on disc would typically be equally priced, not taking into account the amount of content or production value. Any game priced less was immediately written off. For the general consumer, it was difficult to discern the shovel-ware from the gold unless you had the lastest issue of EGM. But now, we see a whole range of game prices, even “free-to-play”, which helps us at the very least get an idea of what kind of budget these guys were working with. With all this happening and the market being flooded with more games every year, the middle-class of game development faded away.
Today, we are at a point where AAA games are getting crazy expensive to make and the indies are having a great time giving us so many smaller, unique experiences. AAA publishers have been fishing around the last couple years trying to find ways to monetize gameplay to avoid raising the standard $60 entry fee, and that’s where all this micro-transaction controversy is coming from. One problem is that our traditional single-player experiences are being swapped out for open-ended, multiplayer platforms and personally, I prefer the former. I really enjoy a game that has something to say and can take you through a journey with a definitive ending. That’s where our friendly AA publishers come in.
Now that we can charge $40 for a game and actually be considered something of value, publishers with more resources than the 12-man garage team and less responsibility to investors than a multi-billion dollar company can make a proper AA game and fill a hole in the market. “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice” was a killer example of this. It was a contained 6-hour trek, contained cutting-edge visuals, and introduced us to some interesting ideas and technology. Take Two Interactive (Rockstar, 2K, Irrational) recently started a new label, named Private Division, to make tighter games and we are about to see the fruit from THQ Nordiq. One of the great things about the video game industry is that it’s always been able to move and adapt quickly. Our industry is filled with passionate craftsmen who always keep their ears to the ground. As it grows, competition grows, and when competition grows, holes are filled and new ideas emerge. AA gaming is back and more affordable than ever.