GTA Publisher: Game Development Getting More Expensive, Risky

A developer "cannot get in without having a couple hundred high quality engineers and artists, loads of capital and lots of money to market the title."

397 Comments
Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Take-Two Interactive, which wholly owns Grand Theft Auto studio Rockstar Games, says that the games business is still growing, but that it's also becoming more expensive and risky.

"It's an expensive business, and the risk profile reflects that," Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick told Bloomberg TV. Zelnick also said that the hit ratio for a well-run interactive entertainment company is in the 80s, while the hit ratio for a well-run movie company is in the 30s comparison.

"That said, those very expensive production, marketing, overhead, in the case of sports titles, licensing, they do create a risk profile," Zelnick said. "And from our point of view it embeds the winners even further. It actually creates a barrier to entry in our business." Zelnick added that a developer "cannot get in not without having a couple hundred high quality engineers and artists, loads of capital and lots of money to market the title."

Just Cause creator Avalanche Studios founder and creative director Christofer Sundberg recently shared a slightly more dire take on the matter, saying that the state of AAA development today is unhealthy and most big-budget games will never make a profit.

If there's a game company that knows that the games business is sometimes worth the risk, it's Take-Two. The company recently revealed that Grand Theft Auto V has now shipped more than 45 million copies worldwide, including 10 million on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The game is likely to grow further still, as the PC release is scheduled for March.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 397 comments about this story
397 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for PatchMaster
PatchMaster

This is straight up damage control for Evolve. "Bu-bu-but we're so used to GTA profits. We couldn't possibly put out a new IP without charging full price and then some. Why can't you guys just give us $100 day one? $60 is for games guaranteed to sell 10mill+." **** off, Take Two.

Avatar image for MasterSatsujin
MasterSatsujin

There is a simple solution for this problem. Change the percentage of cut content from a game from 50% to 75% - 80%. Sell the game for 60$. Include 10% of the cut content in Pre-Order deals and Special editions. Sell the consumers 25% of the cut content in 20 separate 20$ DLC Packs. Profit.

Avatar image for Pelezinho777
Pelezinho777

You greedy motherfu**ers, how many billions do you want, 10? Well not gonna happen, you will survive without having caviar for breakfast every day!

Avatar image for waterhornet
waterhornet

<< LINK REMOVED >> I know. What is the ceiling for enough profit for these people? We all know it's expensive to make a video game and it employs a lot of highly skilled people (though with most new games these days I'm not sure WHAT those kids are learning in college...games are buggy messes at release usually) and the specialized software licenses are outrageous. But you're right, how much is enough to shut these suits up already!? A hit video game is like a license to kill...

Avatar image for johnlewis107
johnlewis107

The big publishers need to start supporting games that are more creative and less expensive. They assume everything needs to be an over-inflated blockbuster to make money.

Avatar image for ask69
ASK69

Just put Kevin Spacey in your game. Seems to make a shitty game better nowadays.

Avatar image for kingcrimson24
kingcrimson24

good game will sell itself , something that has good gameplay , story , graphics , hours and hours of content that doesn't bore people will sell very easy . like Witcher or Skyrim . I didn't see those games have a lot marketing and yet they sold really really well because they had so much content for the money we paid .
yeah , if you make a buggy , crappy , short game in less than a year and spend most of your money on marketing (yes I'm looking at you Ubisoft ) then it is a risk .

Avatar image for Zloth2
Zloth2

<< LINK REMOVED >> You didn't see that Witcher 2 and Skyrim had a lot of marketing!? What's more, both games released in pretty buggy states. Witcher 2 got patched by the devs and Skyrim got patched via mods.

Avatar image for Fhiend
Fhiend

Why do games have to cost so much to make? I mean a game like minecraft that has sold millions of copies across many platforms couldn't have cost that much to make. Maybe these game companies focus too much on graphics and voice acting and marketing. I don't know. Just make the game fun first. All else is secondary. Maybe we should go back to 2d games. Maybe then it wouldn't cost millions to make a good game.

Avatar image for danp111
danp111

well its a good thing you got 1 billion from console sales..

Avatar image for CosmicD
CosmicD

Hehe, i've read someone who bragged about his "industry grade" software career and how he thinks games are overpriced and he would never go in the gaming industry because it's no way to make profit. So he's the overentitled whining kid causing his own problem, talking about conflicting views.

Makes you put disloyalty to your collegues in a whole new perspective now does it ?

Avatar image for onefai
Onefai

GTA V is a good game. I have never played any GTA games before but GTA V has a very good story and convincing characters.

Avatar image for gipro1
gipro1

I'd be fine if they just plateaued visuals for a while. We already have such nice graphics and can do so much with the. I think it'd be better if more focus was put into gameplay and story now. Also, not every game needs to be open world. If someone could make a corridor-like shooter with various options as to how to progress in the story, I'd be really impressed and very interested.

Avatar image for JrSlacker
JrSlacker

The problem is the industry and the consumer really. The industry keeps making bigger things because people want bigger things.

As for marketing, most of us posting here are a minority not to sound bad when I say this, so at the end of the day all the mass marketing is to get the attention of average Joe, via commercials, events, what ever.

I do feel though with the loads of options with social media I don't think they need to spend that much money on marketing. Make a commercial, put up some ads on websites like Facebook or Twitter (since it seems everyone has one or the other, or even both). I mean I was still baffled that during the Superbowl there were adds for Smartphone games...

Avatar image for Fhiend
Fhiend

Yes you are right. It is the weekend gamer that causes most of the problems the game industry has because they are the majority. The real gamers are the minority.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

That's funny, people seem to be making games perfectly fine with less people and less money.


They do it by not spending 70% of the dev resources on graphics.

Avatar image for PinchySkree
PinchySkree

<< LINK REMOVED >> and 20% on marketing.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Realism should never be the goal of a video game.

Avatar image for Fhiend
Fhiend

True, but it doesn't make a game fun, wich is more important.

Avatar image for Clovergirl227
Clovergirl227

Kind of amazing how quickly people are willing to shout sarcastic and mocking remarks when they are not in the business themselves and would have no idea how it works. In general most big-name games need to get an 90% score or higher to be considered a success and a single flop can ruin an entire studio.Before the first copy is sold you're already in debt by 20 million and despite being the people that actually make the game the developer studio only take home less than 5% of the sales profits.

Avatar image for purplestone6988
purplestone6988

<< LINK REMOVED >> "Kind of amazing how quickly people are willing to shout sarcastic and mocking remarks when they are not in the business themselves and would have no idea how it works."


you should take your own advice, throwing random numbers around really?

Avatar image for benelori
benelori

<< LINK REMOVED >>

And you got these numbers from where?

Avatar image for X-RS
X-RS

Please enough sharades n nonsense! KEEP GAMES FUN! MAKE GAMES FUN!

Avatar image for gordon100
Gordon100

Gta 5's sale figures are just.................. Astronomically high and so far ahead of any other title

Avatar image for BlueCryztal
BlueCryztal

<< LINK REMOVED >> It's not fair to say that because game systems are more available today than 25 years ago, Super Mario has sold over 40 million and that was alot during that era, today 45% of America owns a Console system which makes it more accessible, hence it's not fair to say that GTA V is the best selling game of all time it's better to say it's the best selling game of the era. Because gaming wasn't as popular back then as it is now.

Avatar image for gordon100
Gordon100

To be fair I never stated it was the best selling game of all time but I accept your point but I would also like to offer the opinion that 25 years ago the quality and quantity of titles is nowhere near what it is today so even though the console market is quantifiably bigger than it was 25 years ago it's a lot harder to get a customer to spend there money on your game especially with all the options there is with free to play and such.

Avatar image for oflow
oflow

They drank their own Kool Aid when they started following the production/distribution model that big budget movies use. A huge chunk of the budget for these AAA games is marketing which realistically isnt needed in the age of social media. The problem is they are using marketing hype to sell the product instead of the gameplay itself a lot of the times.

I guess the fear is that if it were left to sell itself instead of people hyping the games they might tell people how terrible they are?

Maybe its time to dial back the AAA and actually make some AA or A games that dont cost $60 but say $30? In the first golden age of consoles (back in the Atari 2600/intellivision/C64 era) this method seemed to work pretty well and the market was actually flooded with good mid priced games.

Avatar image for JrSlacker
JrSlacker

<< LINK REMOVED >> It's a mixed bag, there are people I trust on their opinions with titles for instance TotalBiscuit, AngryJoe, or even Rooster Teeth podcast discussing games. But the big problem is some people will dive bomb a game just out of a disagreement with how something was designed. For example Titanfall. You look at Metacritic, a site were users can input their opinions about something, and how people gave the game 0/10 or 1/10 just because it had online, or no single player. It's when things become sketchy. God only knows how many people told others not to bother with the Mass Effect franchise just because of 3's ending.

I do 100% agree with you that there's no need anymore for that amount of mass marketing with the way let's plays are, facebook, twitter, etc, there's so many options to sell your game. But that's the kicker, putting all that money into marketing is to get people interested in buying it before it comes out to avoid criticism. For example Destiny. Who knows how many money went into marketing for that game, only for it to be "meh".

Avatar image for oflow
oflow

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I was more referring to the marketing hype machines that the publishers themselves hire, but I get your point. Thats what I meant when I said maybe they are afraid of people (like TotalBiscuit et al) telling everyone their game is terrible.

Avatar image for dizeenzy
DizeEnzy

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> and yet if they'd traded advertising for storyline and whatnot, the actual game would've been so much better and the enormous amounts of "meh" comments wouldn't've been warranted. it was already big because it was from the same people who made Halo, which was a titanic success.

Avatar image for generalnene
generalnene

<< LINK REMOVED >> Well said.

Avatar image for billy19joseph
Billy19Joseph

<< LINK REMOVED >> Mate you summed it up perfectly! I was thinking that Destiny and Watchdogs would be great examples, the marketing for those games was everywhere! It was a complete waste since both games generated immense word of mouth in the months before their releases

Avatar image for iwoof
iwoof

Dragons Age Inquisition is a decent game, but not GOY material (10 years ago it would have just been another great game out of a dozen). The standards of gaming have fallen so far. This is supposed to be the continued rise of gaming. Destiny was the best game released last year. Most good recent games are 3rd party or independent publishers like MineCraft.

I don't see anything unique about new games coming out. Same old story's, game-play


If they make the next Dragons Age game a full multiplayer experience.. Now that would be fun.

Avatar image for cboye18
cboye18

Risk my a.ss. I haven't seen a AAA game with lots of innovation and creativity in years; it's al about chucking sequels after sequels, milking a once succesfull franchise dry.

In fact, if they ever managed to reboot some good games from the ps2 era we would have more fresh experiences and game variety without needing to risk establishing a complete new franchise.

But apparently they are too blind to see that.....

Avatar image for hahaaomghedidit
Hahaaomghedidit

<< LINK REMOVED >> Matrix

Avatar image for -s3r6i0-
-S3R6i0-

<< LINK REMOVED >> At this point, I actually wouldn't mind seeing that. I don't think these new developers could come up with a fresh idea to save their life.

Avatar image for yamisniper
yamisniper

most big budget games nowadays are crap hence why you wont make aprofit

Avatar image for SweatySasquatch
SweatySasquatch

BS

Avatar image for RustedTruck650
RustedTruck650

...and getting very dumbed down. GTA V had so much stupid and extremely childish content in it that makes you wonder how much they are dumbing down the game for the sake of not losing the kiddie audience. Put some pants on Rockstar and make your next GTA f*****g game not half as dumb as GTA V.

Avatar image for Karmazyn
Karmazyn

With great risks come great returns.ohhhh yeah corporations love huge profits....with the power of dlcs these shall be achieved.

Avatar image for PinchySkree
PinchySkree

You mean you can't support your bloated shareholders anymore.


The system was never sustainable, just look at the pathetic strategies that have been used to selling games for way more than they are worth.

Avatar image for btbrotherton
btbrotherton

Dust: An Elysian Tail was made by one guy and is a pretty good game. The PC community would beg to differ with this article. No surprise Rockstar's owner is totally disregarding the PC community though.

Avatar image for nickyparmar92
nickyparmar92

When developers create crap game they get crap results. Do the smart and honest thing and create a good game. I bet many developers have secretly thought while building their game that they have not done a good enough job so far and coming up to the going gold deadline part. If you feel your game is not good against the competition why even bother, like who are you going to fool nowadays. That shit has happened to many times people don't get fooled ever no more.