Large-scale, big budget videogame projects are not likely to decline despite the rise of the disruptive App Store market.
That was the overriding belief expressed in this week’s Develop Jury.
Develop cited both EA and Activision’s significant cuts to its product portfolio – as well as the rise of high-profile devs breaking off to set up their own App Store microstudios – as a reflection of the decline in AAA-projects.
The Jury disagreed, however, suggesting that the rise in development costs remains driven by core market expectations.
“No, I don't think the days of large-studios are behind us,” said Zoe Mode general manager Ed Daly.
“There is a solid audience for big games that push technology that's not going away and could grow again,” he said.
Daly added that game development “has always felt over-supplied”, adding that the industry’s workforce is always shifting from platform lifecycles and product demand.
He acknowledged the rise in small independent studios, as did Stewart Hogarth of Denki, a longstanding studio he describes as “strong advocates of the small, multi-disciplinarian approach.”
Hogarth said that smaller, more agile studios are ultimately better for games development, adding that this remains a core value in Denki’s design philosophy.
“Five or six people who can cross between disciplines is preferable to twenty people each specialising in a specific area,” he said.
“One guy, with an idea, designing and prototyping a game is better than lots of people, with lots of ideas, trying to communicate their ideas to lots of other people, who have none.”
Hogarth was convinced that more studios will take the path that Dene Carter and two Rockstar Leeds devs have already taken, by handing in their notice and forming their own solo studios.
“With new ways to cheaply self-publish, for the foreseeable future we’re definitely going to see an increase of teams who want to break out on their own,” he said.
“But it’s worth remembering that success on these platforms is still wildly unpredictable. It won’t kill off large scale development. The blockbuster releases will always be the domain of the large companies. You can’t make GTA 4 in your bedroom, it’s impossible. Games like that will always require big teams.”
Meanwhile, Adam Green of Assyria Game Studios went as far as saying that bigger studios will, in time, become the dominant force on App Store.
He added: “I don’t think we’ve seen the peak of large scale studios, I just see [microstudios] as an alternate segment of the market. Digitally distributed games are becoming ever more popular, both from a publisher and consumer perspective.”