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Monday, April 1, 2013

The Fright that is Rising Development Cost

I was reading the latest editorial on Super Philip Central, which concerns the Wii U. It's a fascinating read but the thing that really caught me off guard was his link to an article about the new Tomb Raider. As you may or may not know, the Tomb Raider series was recently rebooted and the game has garnered much critical acclaim, selling 3.4 million copies. That's a pretty big number, one that was achieved in roughly a month's time. But according to Square Enix, the game failed to meet their expectations. Wait, what?

So let me try to comprehend this. A game sells close to four million copies in a very short period of time and it somehow doesn't meet a companies expectations? I think Moth_Pope in the comments section below the article summed it up best. "It's sad to think 3.4 million copies solid in a month is not good enough anymore..."

*In Super Smash Bros. Announcer Voice* FAILURE.

But lest we be too hasty to condemn Square Enix. Let's hear their side of the story. Sleeping Dogs was released in August of 2012 and Hitman Absolution was released in November of the same year. Square Enix expected to see sales of 14.9 million combined from Europe and North America since last September. Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution and Sleeping Dogs reached a combined total of 8.75 million sales world wide. That's a pretty good figure but not good enough for Square Enix. It looks like they set their expectations way too high, not to mention the game's development budget couldn't have been cheap. Hey, Square Enix, I  know you're an industry giant, but 14.9 million in sales expectations in six months? Seriously, that's really pushing it.

One of my biggest concerns over this past generation of gaming has been the ever increasing cost of game development. HD visuals and all these other technical marvels make for big budget development and while a lot of gamers salivate over this stuff, it really is a double edged sword. A game has to sell enough in order for the publisher to break even and in gaming's current state, this is be becoming increasingly harder to do.

SEGA, a publisher that was once one of gaming's biggest risk takers and innovators has closed down so many of it's studios over the past several years. Sure, this was mainly due to the company's financial woes but in an industry that is full of so many copy cats and me too games, it's disheartening to see this happening. Taking chances doesn't always pay off but constantly playing it safe really limits the growth our industry. Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure on the 3DS could be one of the last truly different games we see from SEGA for some time.

If it's simple to deem a game a failure from a sales point due to a sky high development budget and it doesn't meet the company's outlandishly high expectations, I have to concur with Super Philip that there's something seriously wrong with the industry. Just because you can make games with a budget equal to or greater than that of a Hollywood film, doesn't mean you should. The first Wii, standard, underpowered system that it was, was scoffed at for not being an HD system. The flip side? It was cheaper to develop games and said games were easier to afford as opposed to the titles on it's HD rivals. $50 is still a good chunk of money to part with but it's a lot better than spending $60. God forbid games hit the $70 mark but the way things are going, I wouldn't be too surprised if that did happen eventually. But hey, as long as we get our games, escalating development cost, higher priced games and game companies going out of business is a small price to pay.

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