When did game making reach its profit vs acceptable graphics zenith?
Philip’s recent 2012 predictions got me thinking about the challenges that the games industry is facing.
As we all know, the commercial gaming industry has a bit of a problem on its hands. It costs so much to produce a premium title these days that its now only cost effective to produce such titles if they can be released across multiple platforms. Bad for us PC gamers as we get dumbed down titles that have to also appease the console gamer “bottom feeders” (heh heh). This merging of gaming markets may last them for a spell but theres still a looming problem on its way.
As graphics engines get more and more powerful, it gets more and more complex and expensive to create new content worthy of the system requirements. Look at the player models used in a Battlefield 3 compared to Half Life 2. The difference in the sheer amount of modelling and artwork is immense. Hundreds of people have to sit there and create all that work. Those people need to be paid a salary and the salarys for good model designers aren’t going down either.
This inevitably means that the cost of creating premium games will rise at the same ratio as the capabilities of hardware and graphics engines until presumably games will simply hit photo-realistic graphics level and cost the same to produce as a space shuttle launch!
Added to this, its not like the gamers out there are willing to up the amount we pay for a game either. In the UK, the price point for a brand new premium game has been around the 35 GBP – 40 GBP mark for about 20 years… the price then usually drops pretty quickly two months after release. That’s what people are prepared to pay.
So eventually we reach a point where commercial companies can’t afford to produce games anymore therefore the question becomes… where would the games companies roll back to?
If I were a games maker, at what point did game graphics reach an acceptable level where it was still profitable to create the title?
Did World Of Warcraft get it right? Did Half Life 1? Half Life 2? Or was it earlier than that with games like Theif or Unreal Tournament?
People will never stop making and playing video games however the business model surrounding them though may change rapidly. As the internet has set music free from the cage created by the publishing industry, the indie games market is storming ahead using content distribution services like Steam and Desura.
Its a brave new world and personally, I would prefer to have five hundred indie games year at Half Life 2 quality graphics than five games at Modern Warfare 3 quality.
What do you think?
29th January 2012
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