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Why Fewer Big-Budget Video Games May Be A Good Thing

Currently, if you throw a rock into a room full of gaming industry honchos, you’re probably going to hit somebody saying we’ll have fewer games with massive budgets coming out in the next round of consoles. Ubisoft’s CEO, for example, or the head of Avalanche, the studio that makes the Just Cause series.

So why may that not be such a bad thing?

It’ll Mean Fewer Studio Closures

While the end of any console generation generally heralds at least a few studio closures, the last year and a half has been pretty rough. So far we’ve lost LucasArts, Radical, Eurocom, Psygnosis, Rockstar Vancouver, and a litany of others. Even more studios, like Vigil and Big Huge Games, were nearly closed before somebody bought them up. Heck, we even lost a publisher this year, THQ.

And in almost every case, they had a game that was supposed to be massive, had a massive budget, and choked. Even when the games were really good and sold relatively well, like Prototype 2 and Max Payne 3, that wasn’t enough to save them. If they don’t have to bet the farm on one game, that might mean studios we love stick around.

The Standards For A “Hit” Have Gotten Insane

Not too long ago, for a game to make its budget back, it had to sell two million games worldwide across all platforms. That was a bit of a stretch, but with a decent marketing push and the right timing, it was doable. Now it’s a patently ridiculous four million to five million for a sequel.

How much of that is the marketing budget getting out of control and bad financial management is up for debate, and is likely a case-by-case basis. But there’s no denying that if you put out a triple-A, top quality game, it has to be a home run. And nobody has a perfect batting average.

It’ll Lead To More Games On PC

Something we’ve mentioned before is that both the Durango and the PS4 are much closer to gaming PCs than the previous generation, and this is fairly deliberate: It cuts development costs. This means PC gamers, who as much as it’s fun to tease them do get screwed a lot, will finally be made a bigger part of the party. Just in time for the companies they love to ditch them, but at least they’ll have games to play.

It Will Allow More Room For Creativity

One thing you may have noticed is that this article keeps referring to sequels. There’s a reason: A lot of what the gaming industry is putting out right now are sequels and reboots. Tomb Raider reboots the franchise, BioShock Infinite is trading off the name of BioShock, and the list of sequels just goes on: Metro: Last Light, Grand Theft Auto V, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Lost Planet 3… True, there are games like Remember Me and The Last Of Us with a lot of excitement behind them, but the biggest games of the year are mostly sequels.

As much as we gripe about them, sequels sell. They also make accountants less nervous once the budget gets into eight figures. But with lower budgets, new ideas can be tried out.

It’s More In Line With How Gamers Buy Games

Finally, there’s this reality that neither developers nor publishers seem very good at accepting: Most gamers just don’t buy that many games. March alone was ridiculous, as we’ve noted, with no fewer than eight entries in major popular franchises being released.

If a game takes fifteen hours to complete, and has a robust multiplayer mode, that’s usually enough to carry many gamers for months. That doesn’t mean there’s not a huge amount of interest in a game, but interest doesn’t mean sales, especially if you’re still playing the last game you bought for $60.

So fewer big-budget games, spaced out, means more gamers will get a chance to enjoy them. And that’s possibly the best benefit of all.

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