Call of Duty devs optimistic about AAA gaming, but say B-game market could struggle

Sledgehammer Games' Glen Schofield says he's "pretty optimistic" about AAA gaming in 2014, while Michael Condrey says the B-game market might get cut out.

Is the AAA gaming market healthy in 2014? If you ask Just Cause studio Avalanche Studios founder Christofer Sundberg, he'd say no. But it's a different story for Call of Duty developer Sledgehammer Games.

As part of a Q&A session following a presentation the duo gave today at the Game Developers Conference, I asked cofounders Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey for their assessment of the health of AAA gaming in 2014.

These are their responses:

Schofield: "Well, [GTA V] sold what, 30 million units? [In fact, it shipped 32.5 million copies] I don't know about the health of it. I mean, I'm pretty optimistic. I think there's always gotta be high-end video games. We see the demand. People are still buying them; people are still playing them."

"I just think there's a place for that big blockbuster video game and you sit there with your 60-inch TV and you've got your speakers. You just gotta make sure it's really high quality."

Condrey gave a more nuanced answer.

"We're in a really dynamic time now," he said, noting that the indie movement is allowing for incredible instances of innovation and experimentation. "That's fantastic," he added.

Though he enjoys smaller, independently made entertainment experiences, Condrey said he also appreciates big-budget blockbuster movies because he "wants both experiences." And the same is true for his gaming appetite, he said.

Condrey's assessment of the industry in 2014 wasn't entirely rosy, however. He said the gaming space that is having a tough time right now is the B-game market.

"I fear that the middle ground is where it gets really tough," he explained.

So far in 2014, the AAA industry has faced numerous instances of challenging news. God of War developer Sony Santa Monica cut jobs and even canceled a new IP in February, Thief developer Eidos Montreal laid off 27 people a week after release, BioShock creator Irrational Games announced it is "winding down," and Metal Gear Solid creator said young people are losing interest in AAA games in favor of mobile experiences.

Also during the presentation today, Schofield boasted that this year's Call of Duty game is "most ambitious, most creative game we've ever made."

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com
See more coverage of GDC 2014.

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Discussion

112 comments
nyran125tk
nyran125tk

I just think there's a place for that big blockbuster video game and you sit there with your 60-inch TV and you've got your speakers. You just gotta make sure it's really high quality."


So.....COD is a high quality product now?


when did this happen? 


 Crysis is a high quality product. The Witcher 3 is a high quality product. Tomb raider is a high quality product, Civilization is a high quality product. GTA is a high quality product. Mass effect trilogy is a high quality product.


COD...Has not been a a truly high quality product since COD1,COD2 and World At War. A long long time ago, same with Medal Of Honor(literally since Allied Assault).


I think ARMA 3 is more of a high quality product than COD now. I can go into the ARMA editor and make a typical COD mission in 10 minutes.

tightwad34
tightwad34

Of course these guys will say anything to make more money. It's also sad that there are people out there who will see this and just assume that anything less than a "AAA" title is going to be shit.

ZoTrAcK
ZoTrAcK

what about also the A games industry, the AA, the AAAA, the AAAAAA, the S game industry, the SS, the SSS, the SSSS. the SSSSS, the XXX game industry, CCC, DDD? and we could go on forever talking about terms that in fact, means nothing.

drewrobertson
drewrobertson

Do they even know what the hell they are talking about. What a bunch of posers!

steamistrash
steamistrash

They dont make AAA games anymore it's just paid by the publisher reviews.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

AAA is the one that's struggling, make no mistake.

pyro1245
pyro1245

hmmm... i disagree. AAA titles will remain popular... and so will other games with whatever number of capital letters you want to group them up in. this fuckin' guy.

rmartinezdl
rmartinezdl

Why do Call of Duty consider themselves a AAA game? Is it based on profit or budget? I cant believe 1 programmer, 1 janitor and 1 secretary would be considered a AAA staff?


CALL OF DUTY DEVELOPMENT CYCLE IN A NUTSHELL


Open COD4CODE file


CTRL+ A

 CTRL+ C

 CTRL+ V

Apply Random Skin

Generate Random Title

 SAVE AS "New" call of duty INNOVATIVE, THIS TIME WE TRIED, LOL.


Release, let all the kids buy the game.



BigBadBully
BigBadBully

Only struggling because of the used game market continually growing. Thats why we're seeing tons of devs moving to indie/mobile market. I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing activation codes again for physical disc unless you buy digital.

I'm really interested to see how solo-player games do sales wise when walmart starts buying used games. For us the gamers its nice since we'll get games for less, but devs wont be getting money and we'll be playing assassins creed x, call of duty x, with maybe one new ip sprinkled in once in awhile.

Gamers are just forcing the move to mobile/indie games. PC will probably be the future for AAA unless consoles go digital or find a way to combat used game sales.

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

Lately Bethesda, Blizzard, EA all emphasize MAXIMUM PROFIT and don't give a rats ass about the player's experience in their games.  I'd suggest returning to making games people want to play and stop treating their customers like an ATM machine!

yzeng
yzeng

How about spending less on marketing BS and more on game development? In some of the so called AAA games these days, I find the far from the quality an AAA should have, BF4, Simcity, COD, same old engine, changing a few maps, and call it AAA. I am no expert but some of those games definitely is AAA marketing budget but B development. 

X-7
X-7

So in other words games like COD and BF which are C- games are going to go extinct? I like how they brought up GTA though at the beginning. You wanna know why GTA does well? Because it is a unique product that gets released 2x a gen instead of every year with a different 5 hour campaign and new MP maps and weapons. GTA changes from what I understand but COD and BF are the same old tired crap every year. Make longer campaigns and distinguish the devs from each other rather than releasing the same crappy formula year after year. You have 3 devs now so make a new engine and make longer more meaningful campaigns. As often as AC gets released at least those games have some length to them.

helldragonzer
helldragonzer

I was going to read this article, but just like the article about plot in games and the guy from Riot, this article is headed by the least qualified person to talk about it.

Winchester01
Winchester01

I think their entire team is these 4 people on video haha

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

I would agree with the verdict that AAA games are going down the pan, if that wasn't all I played.

Like literally, indies and most B list games are just not worth the cost. I'm happy to pay £40 or ever £50 for a game and get many many hours of play out of it.

I mean I'm playing Dark Souls II now and I payed just shy of £40 for it and I am LOVING it. The indie games on my Steam account that cost me £2 and I've played for maybe an hour on the other hand are not getting any love nor or they worth the £2 I spent on it. 

I could use that for a drink or something instead. It might last longer.

bernard978
bernard978

Instead of Titanfall, are we going to get non-stop CoD 2014 articles now?


Also: "CoD" and "quality" lol

dyze
dyze

He misses the point completely...


The reason why AAA is twisted and wrong is that it's way to risky to try doing something that's.. Risky.

Any kind of risk and thinking out of the box, trying to make something like Journey, MineCraft or any successful indie titel will be far to risky for a publisher. They won't get it and they won't get behind it.  they'll want CoD/WoW/Mass Effect thrown in to appease to that crowd. It's their money, so they want it returned.

Completely understandable, but this is also crippling the creative process in AAA games.


So a AAA developer that takes almost 0 risk and has a large money return on this 0 risk.. can't really come out and say that AAA is fine.. What's worse is that their pointing fingers at another AAA studio that has no risk with a large return..


There's only a handful of studios with enough freedom to do what they want and even that freedom has limitations. 

Look at Naughty Dog.  Would they have been allowed a more creative IP like Last of Us if Uncharted 2 hadn't been as successful and Uncharted 3 was automatically in production and lusted after?   No.

Uncharted also isn't a innovating game. It mostly just mashes things together nicely.

Last Of Us is also very mainstream as well as leaning heavily on Uncharted gameplay, and zombies are "in" right now. It doesn't take a huge leap in risk either.

Even when a game seems like a hit, publishers might not even want to go there.

Look at Titanfall. We don't know how much has changed with the idea of Titanfall from pitching it to Activision to now. however, It's a game we all want to play, but the risk seemed to great for activision. They just wanted a new CoD. So the whole legal battle happened and we got Respawn Entertainment instead of Infinity ward. 

It's possible that one of the things that changed was Risk. Since Titanfall today is basically just a mix of CoD and Halo gameplay. It might've been a lot more risky and creative at the off-set, but the point is that even a successful developer like Infinity ward at the time wasn't allowed to make a more creative game, simply because of risk/reward for the publisher.


The problem with AAA is more clear when looking at the closed studios and cancelled attempts and the badly made re-makes of old titles and all of these things. We can't look at the few successful no-risk attempts and say it's working!


The future of AAA can only come from the gamers. Things like kickstarter is a great way of getting the ball rolling. However, the biggest leap would be new publishers starting up that are gamers at it's core. 

There's a few out there that are trying this. Paradox for instance. There's also CD projekt that has their GOG for more income etc.

The only other thing I can think of is allowing developers breathing room. Make one Safe title and one creative one. One for me, one for you. Keep this loop going. I'm guessing both titles will be heavily influenced by each other and the market would benefit from this process. We'd also be less saturated by sequel after sequel.

Chronologo
Chronologo

Sledgehammer? That's what the CoD series need, a sledgehammer in the balls so it finally stops reproduction

Netret0120
Netret0120

I don't see anything changing but I do like the increased focus on indie games. Infamous looks great too.

CyberLips
CyberLips

Is anyone else having problems with the site? The forums are screwed and i can't even report this because a bug won't let me make a thread in the Bug Reporting & Feedback forum. -_-

jjleshko90
jjleshko90

I thought it was the other way around, that AAA was getting scared of B-Games. Because, well, look at top 10 lists for 2013...

jamieNERO
jamieNERO

Pretty sure this bonehead said the same thing about MW3 and then IW said ghosts was gonna be 'creative' believe it when i see it. (not a cod hater i love the series to bits but god damn I'm bored of it)

amv12
amv12

I think they've missed a point. 


Sometimes I think the B-games get right what the AAA game developers get wrong. Sometimes a game can have very simple mechanics and yet be extremely addictive and immersive to play; take for example games like Braid and Trials. 


The majority of the big game developers nowadays like to big everything up like "This has way better graphics, bigger/more powerful weapons, more cars/tracks than before". And this almost becomes fruitless when gamers and the press get hold of them.

deviant74
deviant74

I'm thinking about starting up a new game company called.  If you buy it you will finish it or your money back games.  The name is a little long but I think it's a winner.

wizzzer_thy_133
wizzzer_thy_133

B-game market? i think he meant the middle market, and no the middle market isn't having a hard time, it's actually thriving, especially on the PC's early access, just look at Rust! 

besides, the middle market can do just well with a tenth of the budget of a AAA game, and most certainly make a profit.

wdma
wdma

Personally i want less AAA ($60) games and more B ($40) games am sick of these so-called AAA titles that have less content and more DLC ending up costing $80+ for the full experience

roganth
roganth

He's only talking about AAA and B games here.  What I want to know is - how will the double A and single A games do?

Gruntlock
Gruntlock

@BigBadBully  Used Game sales on consoles are not nearly as big of a problem as piracy is on PC. 

Mantan911
Mantan911

Well that's a load of bullshit. You have no idea what you are talking about.

Karlinel
Karlinel

@yzeng  Indeed, marketing costs nowadays are skyrocketing out of control...a person propense to seeing conspiracies would wonder why this happens in the social media era...advertising for? fanboys do that for the publishers...buying notes, lol, ofc not, there have never been a single doubt of that happening. At all. 

pyro1245
pyro1245

@Dannystaples14  there are plenty of indie titles worth playing, and they're not all that hard to find

OrgeLambart
OrgeLambart

Indie games have a unique appeal about them, like a diamond in the rough deal.   You have to crack open a lot of coal to find that diamond.  I have loads of garbage indie games, then again I buy loads of bundles for one or two games that look good.


Also plenty of AAA games have sucked, heck COD sucks, if you're talking single player gaming.  COD's campaign isn't worth the 60 you wind up paying, or the 30 dollars they still want 7 years later.


OrgeLambart
OrgeLambart

@dyze you are right on many points, but that publisher will never happen because safe games are safe for a reason.  Loads of Neanderthals buy them, and thusly that becomes the way to turn a profit.


Neanderthals see multiplayer, they see explosions, it makes them happy they buy it.  They only buy those types of games because pfft, they aren't gamers.. pfft only nerds play games..  They are playing combat games so they aren't nerds..

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

You lost me at Titanfall being "a game we all want to play"..

Haha ;)

Nahh, fair comments in all honesty. All about the risk and the costs involved. You raise some good points.

X-7
X-7

@Shelledfade1 Copy paste copy paste.......... Guess what.......... COPY PASTE MOFOS!!!!!!!!!!!

X-7
X-7

@Chronologo They need to take a few years off. I don't think I can stomach to buy any COD games even at half off at Christmas. Pretty much no one plays them on PC anymore which is where I play.

X-7
X-7

@Netret0120 Most Indies are crap but at least they are different.

MrFreehuggs
MrFreehuggs

@jjleshko90  What top ten list are you looking at? It seems like most lists are dominated by AAA titles

X-7
X-7

@porcupeth123 That would take some stretching. I don't feel comfortable with that.

Mantan911
Mantan911

Rust is indie. The guy says that indie market is going nicely

tightwad34
tightwad34

@WolfgarTheQuiet To be fair to them, it's not their fault people like the same shit over and over. Don't get me wrong, I hate COD but you gotta look at it from both sides.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

@Gruntlock @BigBadBully  bla the piracy thing again. Seriously i own 300+ games on STEAM, developers have got MORE than enough money from me on PC and 8 million other people on STEAM on average, almost every day also pay for tons of games, it all adds up. theres millions of gamers on PC paying for their games.


what you are referring to, is PC gamers WONT pay for Madden each year. Thats true. We just wont. We are not going to pay for yearly bullsht franchises like console gamers will. why? because its fcking crazy. Why pay for the same game released every year? its crazy.

X-7
X-7

@warhawk-geeby I don't agree with everything he said but at least he seems logical.

Gruntlock
Gruntlock

@nyran125tk  And how are you going to excuse away the high piracy rate for games like Witcher 2? Face it, only a comparably tiny minority actually pays for the PC games they play. The so-called master race is only kept alive by the virtual bargin bin and DRM nightmare Steam.