Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Out on a Limb

Taking a break from my usual obsession with the past and the analysis thereof, let's talk about something else: the future.

See, I have been watching these so called "next-gen" systems for quite a while now, and I've come to a conclusion that really is going to piss some people off. Frankly, I expect less than 50% of you to agree with me.


The "big budget games" are going extinct.

Games like "Tony Hawk 51" and "Sonic n' Jesus: Fighting Crime" aren't going to exist in the future -- at least not the way you expect them to.

See, in order to make a game like "Tony Hawk 51," you need to have a huge budget. Not only do you need to have the programming muscle necessary to produce such a game, but you need to have a shitload of money to deliver "next gen" graphics, along with licensed materials.

Observe Figure A:

As you can see here, shit is expensive.
Back in the day, you could have a game made in five weeks, or have a game made by just one guy. Hell, one of my favorites (ToeJam and Earl) was just two guys dicking around! How cool is that?

However, as technology changes from colored squares to pixels and polygons, you need more manpower to get the job done. This is a good thing, but to a point.

A lot of ideas couldn't exist without better graphics and processors. Imagine trying to make a game like Mario 64 on the Super Nintendo -- impossible (for example, see Virtua Fighter 2 on the Sega Genesis).

However, there exists a point where you have the freedom technologically to do, well, pretty much whatever the hell you want. If you can think it, you can do it. As such, if a developer has an idea, he can make it with this current wave of hardware (and probably with the last wave, too). So why are these machines and their production costs getting bigger and pricier?

Personally, I think the wave of the future is in a system like the Wii, or an idea like XBOX Live Arcade. In both situations, the gamer is given the opportunity to play innovative games. Look at a game like Castle Crashers. That game looks like it's going to kick ass, and it'll probably only cost me $10 or so! Why should I spend $60 on the steaming pile of shit that is Spiderman 3 (PS3, 360) when I can save $50 and have more fun?

If the machines keep advancing at this pace (software/hardware), then the independent developer is the guy who gets screwed. The only people that will be able to keep up with the high overhead of making games will be the big three (Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft), and a few third party developers (EA, Ubisoft) that will likely be consumed by one of the companies. Great ideas for games will get squashed due to the high overhead to create such a game. For example, look at the budget for Spore, Will Wright's latest. Yes, it's going to kick ass, but how much would you like to bet that without Will Wright's name on it, this sucker never would have gotten the green light? And without EA's financial backing, would this game even be able to exist?

I want to see people have ideas, and make them work. I want to see the XNA Toolkit become second nature to people that like to have fun, and then they really CAN make their own games. This is where the advancement of console tech needs to stop, or you might as well just buy a computer with an emulator.

At this rate, it'll eventually be cheaper.

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