THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
One of the worst things you can do is to become too big. As that old saying goes "The higher they rise, the harder they fall." This goes for pretty much everything. With game budgets going over the roof these past few years, I feel that the fall is coming. This will NOT be like the video game crash of '83, but it will be close. While video game sales have never been higher, so has the cost into making them.
When Dragon's Lair came out in 1983, it cost a total of 1.3 million to make. This included animation, programmers, coders, sound, the entire staff and the tools they need to create it. Because of the hand drawn animation style, it must have taken a little longer than normal to make it at the time.
Hand Drawn by a team of many.
One of the primary reasons for the Video Game Crash was because of over-saturation. There was consoles nearly everywhere and having multiple versions of the same game was a new thing at the time, consumers was just not that interested anymore. It didn't help when the games that was being made was a poor man's Pac-Man and Space Invaders. While E.T. would be the sole reason for the Crash, it wasn't the only one that caused it.
JUST LIKE A PHOENIX
Then in 1985, A little card and toy company named Nintendo decided to create their own console. They had a big hit with the arcade with Donkey Kong in 1981. The cost into making Donkey Kong was around 100,000. When the new system came out, the Nintendo Entertainment System, it arrived with Super Mario Brothers. Because they wasn't doing arcades anymore, the cost to create it was probably less than Donkey Kong. This isn't including the advertisement the game had prior to launch.
Then the video game industry was risen again. Nintendo had a huge hit with there hands with Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and more. Then a new company called Sega joined in shortly after. Nintendo's response to the Sega Genesis was the Super Nintendo. All was good until Nintendo teamed up with Sony to create something new. When plans fell through, instead of Sony ditching everything, they released it instead as the PlayStation. The console war has heated up.
This is what it could have happened
While the console wars themselves was heating up, so has the price of creating them. I couldn't find the budget for the 64bit era, but I can imagine it was around to 1 to 5 million mark. This included advertisements. While the price was that low, the developers was more than willing to create more new IPs. The risk of failing wasn't as high.
BETTER HARDWARE MEANS MORE THINGS TO CREATE
When Sega no longer made consoles, their last being the Dreamcast. Microsoft took Sega's place with the X-Box. The price of making a game would have most likely doubled. While that did happen, new IPs, and risk was still being used. Some of the most popular games of this generation was born here. Call of Duty, God of War, Pikman, and Halo. While Call of Duty was more of a PC game, it didn't stop Activision from releasing the series to the PlayStation 2, Gamecube, and the X-Box.
It is in this generation that are showing signs of danger. Not a massive decline like in '83, but a risk of being to big. One of the first massive big budget games was the original Gears of War for the X-Box 360 for 10 million. While this was a lot back then in 2006, it's not so much now. The average budget of a game is 18 to 28 million dollars per game. The rise of a the budget also raised the price of the game itself. Most games now are 60 bucks minus tax in the United States. The price of the game could be higher, depending on where you live.
If Four cost that much, there is not telling what Five is
It's not that often that a game breaks the 18 to 28 million mark, but it is becoming more and more likely. When Santa Monica completed God of War III in 2010, the cost was around 44 million. In 2008, Rockstar Games released there most expensive game to date, Grand Theft Auto IV. GTAIV cost 100 million to make with over 1000 staff working on it. It is considered as one of the most expensive game to make. Any other developer might have cracked under all that money. Taking the playful tones of the past GTA games, GTAIV became serious with its subject matter. Most companies now would never do that with all that cash on the line. The big advantage that Rockstar had was that the series will still immensely popular. At the time of its release, it shattered record sales.Then nearly all the games that was being released was Open World. While there was Open World games before that wasn't part of the Grand Theft Auto series, there was an explosion of it. We are still feeling the effects of it today. That was until the Modern Warfare series. It's just one massive loop until something else shows up.The rising cost of trying one up each other is beginning to show.While more IPs is being made, like The Last of Us, Watch Dogs, and Remember Me. The chance of succeeding is slowly becoming unlikely. While I do believe those games will be successful, they still have a modest AAA budget. Resident Evil 6 is Capcom's biggest game to date. It's basically 4 massive games in one. Besides the obvious action route, I believe the game is doomed to fail. Not the action or how the game could be good, but by the cost of creating it. To bring back even half of the cost of the game, it would need to be successful.
HIDDEN UNDERNEATH THE LIGHTS
All is not lost. If there is one thing that has been on the rise lately, it's the indie games. They don't need millions upon millions of dollars just to create that next big blockbuster. While the work is long and difficult, the accomplishments is worth it. This year's PAX East and PAX Prime has shown of a large amounts of excellent indie titles. From Antichamber, Guacamelee, Mark of the Ninja, and many many more. One of the first massive hit for the indie game scene was Braid. Braid was released on the X-Box Live Arcade and the entire budget was 200,000 to create. Braid was a massive hit and it easily stands besides AAA titles as one of the best games of this generation.
Created by Two men. Paid for by one.
While million dollar projects has a tag of 50 to 70 dollars, the more lower cost games scan sell to 15 to 20 bucks a game. This allows for easy access, more chance of a success, and that success can lead to more risks, more IPs and cheaper costs. The AAA game will always have a place. The indie games that will show them that just because you have the ability to spend millions upon millions of Dollars just to make one game, doesn't mean you have to.