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The Term "AAA Game" is Fundamentally Pointless Now

I'm not a big fan of Destructoid's Jim Sterling. In some of his writings, I think he has been immature, overzealous, arrogant, antagonistic and just downright unpleasant. His reviews feel knee-jerk, unintelligent and at times dishonest with the objective points made. However his Jimquisition videos are something to behold. Much better with politics in the game industry and very much on the dime with business matters in the game industry. Recently, a Jimquisition video put something into perspective for me and I thought I would give my thoughts on the subject.

The AAA Game is a lost art. The big, hyped up experiences are not all they are cracked up to be anymore. Perhaps it is the fans growing up and becoming more decisive, or perhaps the games themselves have lost their charm. Either way, the term "AAA Game" no longer holds the same water as it did roughly a generation or two ago.

Back in the days of the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube, fans were always ecstatic for a new "big" release. The next Ratchet game was exciting. Halo 2's launch was epic beyond the scale of most games. Dare I bring up Twilight Princess toward the launch of the Wii and the end of the Gamecube's lifecycle? These games were BIG. They were AAA games. The fans were behind them, they sold many copies and the publishers and developers made money.

This is not the case in this day and age. With rising development costs and expectations, we are seeing more and more large scale flops. A particular example is Tomb Raider's recent reboot. Despite being a stellar and well received game, even selling several million copies, the game STILL managed to be costly to Square. It's possible to infer that if Square had opted to leave out the unnecessary multiplayer mode, the game could have been budgeted more effectively and therefor been more successful.

Another example is Resident Evil 6. This is an incredible example of something great jumping the proverbial shark. Resident Evil 4 was a turning point in the series and skyrocketed the franchise into a glorious and newfound mainstream fame. Suddenly it stopped being about fun gameplay and chilling stories and started being about Gears of War-esque co-op and in RE6's case, a muddled and disorganized clusterf**k of unnecessary gameplay tweaks and poorly utilized ideas that bogged down Shinji Mikami's original concept for the gameplay style. Resident Evil 6 was critically panned by many. I'm unsure of its financial success (or lack thereof) but presumably the HD remake of the much more lauded 3DS game Resident Evil Revelations was speculated to be made to make up for the losses Capcom had suffered from RE6's failure.

Even Dead Space 3, a long awaited sequel to an otherwise fresh take on survival horror, incorporated more action and a co-op mode and supposedly under performed compared to previous iterations. Why? To "broaden the audience" and to of course do what everyone else is damn doing. Because nothing cries new and fresh like copying Gears of War or Call of Duty.

A AAA game should not be such a blind shot in the dark. It should not be a massive gamble that is riding on 5+ million units sold to break even. Making games more generic and less unique in an effort to appeal to the mainstream is NOT going to work for what has for the most part been a very NICHE market! Only games with child/family appeal can get away with this (casual games like Wii Sports and cartoon-esque games like Skylanders come to mind).

A AAA game is a fun, successful game that a majority of people can agree was a lot of fun, such as a Smash Bros. game or an InFamous game or a... well, I'll get back to you when Microsoft makes an interesting new IP that isn't a shooter or a Kinect game. Publishers, STOP ignoring your fans and forget about the mainstream. You won't hook them with a niche game with casual elements, but instead you'll lose EVERY potential audience you have; just ask Capcom whose track record consists of "AAA games" that consistently fail to meet their expectations due to their lack of development prowess and poor business decisions, customer consideration and PR.

Anyway here is the link to the video that inspired this blog. Kudos to Sterling (man, that's weird to write out).

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

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SilentNegotiator1703d ago (Edited 1703d ago )

Thank Jim for Jim. He articulates industry related issues so well. I never go a Monday without watching Jimquisition.

The video he did recently with Payday 2 is a great companion to this one. He makes a lot of the same great points about how they handle development, costs, etc.

I still trust that Dark Souls 2 will be a great game, though.

AKR1703d ago

Great blog. Your point is very strong.

This is what I hope to see LESS of this new generation.

That's why the coming months are so chaotic. There's so much 'AAA' content coming out all at once ~ it's starting to become stagnant. When you have major franchises trying to be other franchises - an over-saturation occurs, and that's exactly what I feel is happening right now. That's why some games either make it or break it.

Hopefully developers will focus on making fun, long-lasting quality titles this generation - and less of the first-person shooter (i.e: Mass Effect, Battlefield, Call of Duty) and open-world action/adventure titles (Assassin's Creed, Batman Arkham, Watch_Dogs, GTA, Saints Row).

KabalsHookblades1702d ago (Edited 1702d ago )

Open world games are awesome in my opinion. They offer MUCH more gameplay and time to play than cps games or some Indies (I do like a lot of Indies though)

Edit: FPS not cps

qzp1703d ago

Funny you bring up dead space 3 first thing i thought of, Played it for 2 hours uninstalled it. Meanwhile things like bastion, limbo etc are some of the most memorable games I've ever played. Which is why i'm proud of sony for cutting out bullshit like "First DLC" exclusivity and making a strong indie push.

cyguration1702d ago

Yeah, Xbox fanboys can cry to the moon over SOny's bid to cater to indies but who cares. Fanboys are stupid and I would rather have 100 awesome indies to choose from than one or two AAA generic shooters.

In fact, I can't wait to play Starbound on the PS4, amongst other games.

A line-up of fun games beats a big-budget, generic AAA title any day of the week.

Heck, a lot of the popular Let's Play videos generate most of their views and subscriptions from indie titles, not AAA titles.

crxss1703d ago (Edited 1703d ago )

I don't think AAA Game is fundamentally pointless anymore, I just think the term needs to be redefined. I never considered Tomb Raider or Dead Space 3 as a AAA title. A AAA title to me has to fulfill three requirements (one for each A haha): highly anticipated, sell well (obviously), and also receive high scores from media outlets. That's assuming the game has already released, but for a game that hasn't released I don't think you can call it a AAA title. At most you could call it the sequel to last year's AAA title.

Doesn't matter though since a AAA game doesn't have a definite definition (actually I'm not sure, does it?). Still, the term "AAA game" will be used constantly and can just simply mean a popular game until someone sets the record straight.

Letros1702d ago

Clearly we need an AAAA budget term for games now. GTA V was probably one of them.

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