Rising cost of AAA could stifle innovation, says Ubisoft boss

Ubisoft Toronto head Jade Raymond says studios working on big-budget games must invest in new technologies and business models to balance costs.

Innovation exists in the AAA game space, but it is threatened by rising development costs, according to Ubisoft Toronto head Jade Raymond.

"I think the big question to me, as the expectations of these big triple-As keep on growing and the consoles become more powerful and teams get bigger, is how do we keep the costs in line?" Raymond told Digital Spy in a new interview.

"That's for sure one of the things that is going to stifle innovation eventually. Anytime you want to make a big triple-A, you're spending, let's say $100 million, you're not going to want to take a chance," she added. "It's got to be, I'm making the next Call of Duty or the Assassin's Creed and I know it's going to make 'X' amount, so we'll make money. I think that's the tougher thing."

To balance cost and further innovation in games, Raymond said studios must find ways of reducing cost through investing in new developer tools and business models.

"I think it depends on what type of game you're making, but all games I think we have to invest in tools to make people more efficient, to perhaps make ten times the amount of content that we were making before with the same amount of effort," Raymond said.

"That's the only way we're going to keep up. So there has to be a big investment there. The other side of things is we have to investigate some of the different business models," she added.

Raymond said the industry overall is changing, including the way people consume games. Along with this is a change of consumer expectation, she said. An episodic business model like the one used for Telltale Games' The Walking Dead series is "interesting," according to Raymond, but this does not apply to all games.

"What's the business model that makes sense to you? What's going on with free-to-play, what does that mean for the console market?" she said. "I think there are a lot of questions around profitability, and I think that's probably why the reason the new sexy thing is the indie game, because ultimately everyone who is in games has a game idea and wants to be creative, and it's harder to get your game idea to life when there's that much cost behind it."

Free-to-play and microtransaction-based business models "absolutely" have a space in the AAA market, Raymond said, noting that Ubisoft Toronto is examining the right way to implement these system sright now.

"You have to be careful about how you do it though, right?" Raymond said. "You can't set up the microtransactions to be, 'I pay money to be a better a gamer', because that's not obviously not going to work."

Ubisoft Toronto is currently working on this month's Splinter Cell: Blacklist, as well as Rainbow Six: Patriots and the next Assassin's Creed game.

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Discussion

488 comments
doomrider7
doomrider7

WRONG.  Both Dark Souls and Dishonored made money and received heaps of praise and were made with a fraction of the costs as other "AAA" titles.  Their problems is that they're burning money on ridiculous and unnecessary vanity items like Hollywood voice acting, live orchestra soundtracks, and new engines when all of these can be mitigated by current existing products.

greenshadow222
greenshadow222

So they spent tons more money and the combat, climbing and general game play in assassins creed three was the worst in the franchise - wow, the future looks grim to me.

squidshoggoth
squidshoggoth

AAA games aren't examples of innovation, rather they are quite the opposite. They're safe; They stand firm on  taking no risks, encouraging no new growth or creativity, but rather glorifying extensive re-interpreation of existing design elements and concepts.
Comfortability stifles innovation. 

RavenXavier
RavenXavier

You know what really stifle's innovation? Turning EVERYTHING into either a FPS or a MMO or a MOBA. Gaming companies that follow the money trends too much flood the market with crap that all seems the same. Just like the whole "Free to Play" which always means "Pay 2 Win".

NonLinearMemory
NonLinearMemory

Where finance and beauty meet...dark ambition blooms...


RussellGorall
RussellGorall

I was sitting around wondering what she thought about this, now I can sleep tonight.

Csdabest89
Csdabest89

How about test out innovative ideas with low budget games that are not triple A. and if the crowd likes it shove it into  a bigger title. How is this sooo hard

Revl8n
Revl8n

Innovation is not dependent on money/budget. Greed and corporate beurocracy stifle innovation; and bigger budgets facilitate ever increasing " management oversight". And as a rule, managers are not innovators. Example - Bioware pre and post EA .

Scorpion1813
Scorpion1813

The problem with Ubisoft is they are doing it backwards. They are actually spending way more money than they should, or need to, and the AC series.

The problem with rushing it out every year is that they end up with several studios working on it. That's a lot of man-power, but it's also a lot of extra cost. It would be cheaper for a single studio to work on it for a longer period of time, than it would be for multiple studios to work on it for a shorter period of time.

Not only are they having to budget for extra staff, but they also need to pay for computers for them to work on, and licences for the programs they use (such as Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk Maya). Then there is the rent for the office space and any other additional costs. These things are NOT cheap.

But worst of all, is tacked-on multiplayer. It adds a LOT of money to the cost of developing a game. And it's not even necessary for a game that is primarily singleplayer only. It's there for the sake of being there and doesn't add any extra value to the game, just adds more expenses to developing it.

I do agree with Jade Raymond that better technologies would be beneficial. Look at motion capture for example - it made animating a lot easier and faster. Having pre-made game engines also helps a lot, but they don't always allow the specific needs for the game in development, so things will need changing, or a custom engine will be built.

dolchi21
dolchi21

yesterday i added almost all my "BIG" games from steam to my ign account. aprox value of collection $2,526.34

i only buy the games when they have a 75% discount (dolar is really expensive where i live). let's say i have spent $700 aprox.

i was thinking about getting a PS4, but then i thought about the games.

also the PSN is even more expensive. so fuck it. i will stay with my PC

spindie
spindie

I laugh at people who pay about $70 after tax for new games these days. I know i sound typical "pc is master race" but literally in like a months time you can find the same $60 games on sale anywhere from $5-$12.  I know pc sounds out of the question for most people.. But at the end of the day i probably have spend thousands less than the average console gamer just in games alone.. Not to mention i have no-risk of scratching or losing those games.

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

problem with indie developers is that i dont find creativity there. i see too many retro homages, mash ups of genre, and 2d platforming...how is that any different?

akozar
akozar

How about making a GOOD game. Good games sell with minimal bullshit advertising. Maybe the money just gets to the gaming company bigwigs' heads... *COUGH* EA *COUGH*

Deano
Deano

we seem to be reaching that apex in game development which are so complex now and huge that require large teams working on them for years that they are becoming impractical in a business sense for the amount of units they have to sell. The latest tomb raider sold about 3.5 million units but was seen as a disappointment still because it didn't reach predicted sales figures of 6 million.

Tadgerot
Tadgerot

If ubisoft wants to increase there profit and she cares so much.

She should do a pay per view stip tease before the launch of every ubi game.

The cash would be rolling in.

Easy.

tightwad34
tightwad34

Is that really Jade in that screenshot? I always remember her being hotter than that. Maybe it was the glasses and her hair covering more of her face, not to mention her skin always looked darker.  I'm a sucker for a chick in glasses.  This must be the most informative post of the day.

FTB_Screamer
FTB_Screamer

No, pandering to all audiences, and releasing games with minor iterations in features is preventing innovation.

Lawrencevanrijn
Lawrencevanrijn

I think that Ubi needs to take a look at some part, like QA and better test games. they need to streamline the process and improve quality. Also, the broken promises by UBI do not help in keeping the name of making AAA games. there are a few more sides to the story and UBI would love to avoid them, but gamers do not forget and they now forgive less too.

dre256x
dre256x

That didn't stop them from taking a risk and starting the Assassins Creed franchise though, did it?  

I just think it easier for the Big companies to take a risk, because they have build a reputation over the years and person are use to them releasing a quality product.

But don't make the game too out of the norm.. See what Bungie did with destiny? They didn't need to re-invent the FPS genre, just try to figure out a way to make it more fun on a broader scale...

ruisan101
ruisan101

First Ubisoft says that they need a new console gen to innovate, now they are saying they need more money. Stop making excuses more money =/=  innovation prime example the entire history of the MOBA genre and how it came to be or what some of these indie devs are doing with games right now.  

pcty
pcty

Metro Last Light had a mere 10 percent of the budget of its biggest competitors but it managed to be great game also Demon's Souls had a very low development cost, ATLUS was expecting to sell only 75000 copies, but even with a small budget it was an excellent game(for me the best RPG of this generation). You don't need to spend hundreds of millions to make a good game if Ubisoft thinks that way they can only blame themselves for their lack of creatitivity,

vega13mv
vega13mv

...and people still say there are no real gamer girls that are hot.

greenpolyp
greenpolyp

Then stop spending ridiculous amounts of money on games. Coming up with new ideas shouldnt cost more money. Heres a thought. How about releasing a game that isnt so bugged out That I have to restart it 15 times just to play it for an hour. Fallout New Vegas I'm talking to you.

HuskerMetal
HuskerMetal

No they are excuses, read between the lines. Innovation should always be the front runner to any great game, risks need to be taken otherwise your hashing out the same junk every year. Hence this balance talk between investment and innovation, Ubisoft is playing it safe instead of pushing the bar. Them, EA and Activision have saturated the market with their copy n paste games that now all that's left for them is to push out mediocrity since now tthey're too scared to try something different.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

Free to play can go away. Who wants games who's core is designed around syphoning money from players. 

What we need is flexible pricing: There should be $20, $30 and $40 experiences available at retail. There should be DLC that is relatively cheap, but really adds value.

Chrypt22
Chrypt22

@Scorpion1813 I think you are a little off in regards to man-power vs time to completion.  The methodology used by Ubisoft and a lot of others in and out of game development is what is called Agile or (SCRUM).  Basically, the game gets split into smaller parts and people (SCRUMs) are put into Agile teams to work on a specific aspect.  Though it may seem more expensive, in actuality it is quite efficient.  It allows for developers to create bigger and more in depth games and software.  I do agree about the tacked on multiplayer... wasted resources is wasted resources. In my opinion, gone are the days of standard death match aside from a few that dominate that mode (CoD).  If you are going to make multiplayer.. make multiplayer.  Do it after the fact and charge extra for it... whatever, just dont tack it on like youre saying.  

roman4545
roman4545

@dolchi21more like your lazy as fuck !... alot of pawn shop or flea market offer a huge discount on games.. and i mean physical copy.. that being said.. buy 5 games used or new (depends the seller price) will get you only 10$ to 15$...  like yesterday.. my favorite shop.. buy 25 games for only 15$.. xcom:eu, far cry 3, ac3, dishonored etc...  can Steam beat that price ???

My ps3 500GB new cost was only 120$... soo why dont you get your stupid lazy lame ass and go search or find them ! And guess what this will also happen when Xone and PS4 comes out..

jakesnakeel
jakesnakeel

@jsmoke03 I totally agree.  I think Indie dev has jumped the shark a few years ago.  I'm so sick of 2d platformers "with a twist" and retro 8 bit style graphics.  Indie in the next generation of consoles translates to lame, iOS/Flash style games.  

Hurvl
Hurvl

@jsmoke03The indie scene is getting large and profitable enough to suffer all the things that the mainstream market is accused of. Indie games now also have their stereotypes and generic settings, but a lot of indie games are innovative. It's just hard for them to get heard, since they don't sell a million copies or have huge budgets and equally huge marketing budgets.

roman4545
roman4545

@akozar lets play a game:

tell me what good games that did not have a advertising ?

Hurvl
Hurvl

@tightwad34 Perhaps she's not "the new sexy thing" anymore? Coming from her, indies are the new sexy thing, but I don't think she minds. She's probably glad that gets to be just a game developer, instead of being "that hot woman who apparently is also a game developer". The media's and public's lack of professionality when confronted with the "truth" that the gaming industry does have attractive women, was embarrassing.

SpookyJack
SpookyJack

@tightwad34 Informative? No. You're just horny.

dre256x
dre256x

@pcty The thing is these guys really think, without all the detail.. That the game won't sell.. If it doesn't have a engaging story it won't sell.. etc

Does any of them Stress fun gameplay?

Scorpion1813
Scorpion1813

@vega13mv  

People still think that all gamers are teenage boys who have no friends, are anti-social, considered a geek, and are always, without fail, unnattractive.

The fact is, the average gamer is someone in their 30's, can be from any walk of life, have any number of friends, can be male or female, attractive or otherwise.

Shows like The Big Bang Theory don't help the stereotypes either, they just make them worse. That show couldn't be further from the truth and they completely misrepresent gamers, nerds, and geeks. The sad thing is that this is exactly how the rest of the world sees those "groups" of people - and we let them!

In fact, sometimes we even suppoert those stereotypes by the way we act (or at least a vocal minority do). Just look at the comments on here who are more concerned about Jade Raymond's looks, than they are about what she has to say. It's the same every time Jess McDonnell does a GS News video, and it was the same when Jane McDouglas did Start/Select.

Oh, look! An attractive girl! GET OVER IT!

Hurvl
Hurvl

@vega13mv If you've seen the cosplayers at any gaming convention, you'd never again question the existence of hot gamer girls. I know they pay models to dress up as well, but not all cosplayers are paid models.

OldKye
OldKye

@AyatollaofRnR Free to play is here to stay it turns a normal supply meets demand price graph into a monopoly one.

Rather then say 2 million of 5 million paying $15 a month all 5 million play some spend nothing, some spend $15 a month, and a few spend $500 it hits all price points.

With a normal pay to play the guy who would spend $500 only pays $15 and the guy who only spends $14 doesn't play cause it costs too much too him.

LatinproX
LatinproX

@roman4545 @akozar  That`s easy: Demon souls, Dark souls, Vanquish,Binary domain.. All these games had minimal exposure and ended up being sleeper  hits.

tightwad34
tightwad34

@Hurvl I know it may seem like I am, but I don't consider myself superficial. Society and their whole emphasis on looks is downright wrong. That was just the first thing that came to mind so I wrote it.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@dre256x @pcty Yeah, the "fun" part is rarely mentioned. "We have 100 bajillion pixels, motion captured animations for all 354 NPC's, great voice acting and more effects than you can shake a stick at", "But is it fun?", "Ummm...". 

Gaming companies need to figure out what creates a fun and engaging game and then look at how much they cost. There are lots of inexpensive features that makes a game great, but you can't toss out modern graphics and other costly things either.

akozar
akozar

@roman4545 @LatinproX I didn't say NO advertising, I said minimal advertising. As the other guy said, word of mouth is where truly good games gain popularity. Games like Chivalry, Kerbal Space Program, Arma 2 etc. aren't what you would call AAA games but they do help lead the industry in terms of innovation, and they did so without ridiculous amounts of ads telling me they existed.

LatinproX
LatinproX

@roman4545 @LatinproX Nope, I live in japan and the ads were minimal. These games cater to a niche market and do best by word of mouth references.

roman4545
roman4545

@LatinproX ok all those games were advertised like crazy in Japan and Korean... while its true they are underrated but it still being advertised alot just not in western or middle country.

Keep going.. what good game did not have a advertisement 

tightwad34
tightwad34

@Hurvl At least you are truthful to yourself. No need to be ashamed or anything like that.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@tightwad34 @Hurvl Actually, I also thought about her looks the first time I saw the article. I didn't recognise her at first and thought it was a new Ubisoft hottie, but then I saw her name. I thought it would have been odd, statistically speaking, if there were now two attractive Ubisoft bosses, which just happened to look alike. I'm not proud of that being the first thing I thought of, but I won't deny it.