Pursuit of AAA is a 'cancerous growth' - AC3 dev

Assassin's Creed 3 creative director Alex Hutchinson believes aiming for graphical fidelity and scale will make AAA games "nothing more than the last of the dinosaurs."


The Assassin's Creed franchise is one of the biggest in the business both inside and out. Its latest entry--Revelations--shipped over 7 million units and represented a step forward in terms of graphics power and scale within the series. But according to Assassin's Creed 3 creative director Alex Hutchinson, this represents "cancerous growth."

The Assassin's Creed franchise is one of the industry's biggest.
The Assassin's Creed franchise is one of the industry's biggest.

Speaking at a 2012 Game Developers Conference session titled "Designing Games to Sell," Hutchinson said he envisions two "dystopian" futures for the game industry. One, he said, is where the only games that sell are focused on analytics and are obsessed with making money.

The other, according to Hutchison, is what he described as a "massive arms race," where studios are "pushing for graphical fidelity and working on the sheer scale of games."

"We think about [this push] as kind of cancerous growth," he said. "I think that will leave the AAA blockbusters as nothing more than the last of the dinosaurs."

Hutchinson concluded his talk by offering an ideal aim for video games.

"In my mind, video games need to have the goal of educating people, entertaining people, or at least being artistic," he said. "If you're not pushing any of these things...then I think we're in for a rough patch."

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

Join the conversation
There are 253 comments about this story
253 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 hunter8man

Something that might help is actually spacing out the releases of these AAA games, so that it becomes less about making money, and more about quality and longevity for the franchise. Yet all the studios see are dollar signs, so they could care less about maintaining the integrity of their games or making an event out of the releases. Games like Skyrim, Uncharted, Batman, and Mass Effect are held in higher regards among the gaming community because they actually care about making the quality titles that will sell themselves based on reputation. The end result? They get all the awards, prestige, and acclaim while the others just get fatter pockets.

Avatar image for FlashCharge

A gamer's first thought about purchasing a game is game play and quality in the product. Get rid of the glitches and bugs and games that are so hard they are never finished and find themselves sitting on the shelf. Good game play and a fun experience is number 1 with me. Graphics are only a bonus and 3rd or 4th in my consideration for buying a game.

Avatar image for HaloPimp978

I agree with everything he is saying. The first game that comes to mind where it's all about the money is the COD series. Activision could care less about innovating.

Avatar image for FLEEBS

I'm going to go ahead and say... Uh, What? This guy never even really explains what he's talking about. A little elaboration to get your point across would be nice. Of course, Gamespot doesn't do a very good job, either.

Avatar image for sieg6529

The arms race for graphical fidelity has been a part of the game development process since the beginning. I don't see that as a problem, and the push for greater scale doesn't bother me either.

Avatar image for giedrius1001

sounds like call of duty!!!!!! except graphics are not improving at all, and i think nothing is improving in this franchise...

Avatar image for ZoTrAcK

I hate the term AAA because it means nothing and nobody was using this term until like 2010... I think gamers understand which company have principles for those who buy their games and which company will milk your money... The masses however, are destroying what made games great...

Avatar image for atopp399

I assume he speaks of Activision and EA?

Avatar image for Second_Rook

@Howie1926 Why not pace yourself and play through a series when you want to as oppossed to adhering to a developers release schedule?

Avatar image for Aliauditore

can't wait

Avatar image for enzyme36

I kind of agree, development cost is spiraling out of control... and gamers grow more insatiable by the year. Everyone just anticipates the next game to be more graphically advanced than the last, and this is taxing on the makers.... there has to be a tipping point. But many gamers, and system war-ers do not understand this.

Avatar image for howie1926

@Sadek I'm with you. I even tried playing Revelations and after like an hour or so I just could not do it anymore. It's the same game over and over and over. If they had spaced it out more I am sure I would have enjoyed it more. Instead they over saturated the market with sequel after sequel.

Avatar image for howie1926

You want to know whats a cancerous growth? Releasing a sequel every single year. I used to love the Assassins Creed Franchise until they shoved it down my throat.

Avatar image for RobertBowen

Too many devs have been pursuing photorealistic graphics like it's the Holy Grail of gaming, and of course that comes at a cost. Certainly there are some games that require more realism to immerse the player, but at the same time there are other games that would have done just as well with simpler alternative art styles, and more devs need to experiment more, and take more risks, including gameplay dynamics.

Avatar image for Second_Rook

Assassin's Creed, Uncharted, Gears of War, Bethesda RPGs, Rockstar epics, I would call all of them AAA titles and they have all provided me with hours, days, even weeks of entertainment. I'm not sure what he's getting at. I love games like Braid, Outland, and Super Meat Boy, but the fact is they aren't on the same level as the blockbusters. The industry needs them both. It seems like a lot of developers are dealing in absolutes when it comes to the question of big studio versus indie. Hollywood managed to find room for both and I'm sure this great industry will as well.

Avatar image for XxKing_BlazexX

Can someone please tell me what AAA stands for???

Avatar image for lurkero

I don't care about graphics, I still play Playstation and GBA games because I enjoy them (and not just nostalgia). It's hard to take him seriously when he is coming from a franchise that has spent the past 5 years making many sequels and spin-offs (analytics) and having massive development teams to churn out those sequels with a high budget (graphical fidelity). It's hard to say whether his is speaking from experience or whether he wants me to believe the Assassin's Creed series doesn't (or won't) fit those models.

Avatar image for bat725

I've never played a AAA game that didn't "entertain" me, from COD to Mario. What a senseless statement. You can tell he just wants to switch dev to casual games for the iPad, and redefine what hardcore gamers see as AAA.

Avatar image for Gardenpath

I want AC3, but in like 3 years time, and looking flipping amazing :P

Avatar image for Menalque2

The coveted AAA score on Metacritic and Game Rankings has little to no meaning to me. There is so much embedded journalism in gaming (access to dev studios previews, interviews, alpha tests and the rest) and advertisers carry so much clout in the media, that most often you can't trust the opinions of most professional critics. I even take Edge and Eurogamer's reviews with a large handful of salt. It is as true over here as it is in Japan. (just look at the generous score Famitsu gave to the awful Gundam: Target in Sight)

Avatar image for zennioparty

I think we need to redefine the standard that is AAA. I think we need to emphasize more than just, THIS IS AN AWESOME AND GIANT GAME. Lets go for great interaction with other characters. Customization is great!!! I want to be immersed in the story. Sometimes creating a situation that isn't exactly how most humans would react is normal.

Avatar image for vgsak2005

Games need to entertain... if they don't they are really "games" are they? Maybe they are training devices, or educational devices. That's all good, but people tend to play games for a good time. I would put entertainment at the top of the list of goals games should strive to achieve.

Avatar image for infinity_

how exactly am I to take someone seriously who makes games for consoles, talking about innovation?

Avatar image for GamerLegend10

@AuronAXE Wtf? try using some real figures rather than making them up :roll:

Avatar image for zennioparty

@The-Neon-Seal or I just think about some of the Indie games that have been out lately. Even without a story, games like VVVVVV are SO MUCH FUN!!! And different. They seem to polish the graphics they have, make them nice to look at, but they don't go all out on it because they want the game to be about fun.

Avatar image for zennioparty

Hence why Nintendo has a loyal fan base. They make FUN games, not games that focus on churning out high end graphics all the time. Also, if you stop focusing on higher end games, you can then maybe push a few more out that are better polished all around and that have the small fun details included. That is what makes an experience. If graphics are just there because they are high def, then they suck. Let them enhance the game, not just be there because.

Avatar image for The-Neon-Seal

I think the two most important factors are story and gameplay. If you made a game with the greatest story and gameplay ever but gave it commador level graphics it would still be miles better and more enjoyable than a few games which come to mind, most of them involving contemporary war.

Avatar image for GamerLegend10

Its very simple; stop listening to casual gamers who have no idea what makes a game good. Instead try focusing on real gamers, we are constantly voicing our opinions of the industry, but are often ignored because they are too obsessed with getting into the growing casual market, it seems like you have almost forgotten us, and that will be your downfall.

Avatar image for Dawg9000

Man I just hate this generation of consoles so much right now. Time to bust out the Dreamcast.

Avatar image for GamerLegend10

Well of course if developers purely focus on scale and graphics then their games will suck. Great graphics are very nice to have, but only when the rest of the game is good (story, character, gameplay etc.), graphics should never be the primary focus, they should just improve naturally with time as technology gets better.

Avatar image for DoubleclickTF

@kingofmetal16 It's not ending, yet. They're just finishing the trilogy-and-a-bit for this protagonist, then we get someone else in the chair.

Avatar image for kingofmetal16

In my view, games should be about entertaining people, or at least giving them something different. I can't tell you how brilliant a game like Heavy Rain is because i can't put it into words. I think also the game depends on plot because if you don't care about the plot then you don't care about the characters or what they're fighting for. I'm really glad that assassins creed is ending because it'll give ubisoft a chance to make new games, like I Am Alive. That game was announced in 2008 and because of Assassins creed ubisoft hasn't had the time. Thats not to say i hate assassins creed. i love it.

Avatar image for DoubleclickTF

I don't know if people realise this, but while he's been the creative director of AC3 for the past few years, he has nothing to do with any of the other Assassin's Creed games: only the forthcoming one. Also, he's a creative director, not a marketing director, not the Ubisoft CEO. His game is already slated to contain lots of gameplay features never seen in the series before, as well as the graphical and educational elements, so he is putting his money where his mouth is.

Avatar image for controlfreak25

@Sadek They release something ever year because story isn't over! AC3 is the last game because that's how many they said there would be, then you take something like CoD where they release it every year but thats because they know it makes alot of money for no reason. I for one love AC and know that you don't have a clue about what you are saying.

Avatar image for Kyuurei

Right, milking the fanbase with the same game once a year is so much better

Avatar image for PlatinumPaladin

Call me dense, but I'm not sure I believe what I'm reading. Is Hutchinson saying that the annual commercial success of his own franchise is ruining the industry??? Good on him.

Avatar image for TheLordHimself

The problem is the community. A lot of gamers out there don't care about innovation or artistic endeavors, they just want to shoot stuff. =(

Avatar image for slowdrum13

He's right, all real developers should just quit and go about making crappy ipad games. FUTURE TECH BRO.

Avatar image for jsmoke03

the developer must not be looking at the state of games now...AAA games and games that sell are the only concern. Graphics is already been the dominant theme for most games....

Avatar image for Sadek

assassins creed is boring... I mean they release it every year... I'm tired of the same thing over n over again.. Havent even played AC Revelations.. Maybe in a few months.. The devs need to realize that this isnt a sports game... Even they shouldnt release something for 60$ with a few iterations every year... Its just nonsense...

Avatar image for SigurdJohannsen

I believe Hutchinson talks from the developers POV. And he has a good point. If a developer thinks the only way to get big in games is via a graphical/analytical focus, then he's in for a surprise. I believe the gaming community can be as inticed from a AAA-game, improved in graphics or in scale - as from a game that actually brings something new.

Avatar image for Talavaj

no seriously, AC is just prince of persia with different look and next time you ask for an interview look for somebody who has more than a few gba games in his portfolio

Avatar image for polterdice

Someone needs to remind these developers that they're not politicians. The shovelware they're selling doesn't bother me but the PR they're putting out is making me nauseous.

Avatar image for darksunshaman

To be succint, I absolutely agree that todays' AAA game pushes are definitely sacrificing fundamentals of gameplay and design for the sake of Bay-esque production values. Graphic quality that may look great, but doesn't compensate for poorly designed/implemented mechanics and/or lack of driving story is slowly setting a standard that is agreeably dystopian.

Avatar image for AkhilAnilkumar

All i can say about this is that video games should be treated as works of art like a fine music and cinema. Every game should be made keeping in mind that someone must enjoy them and find them beautiful. It's not about the sheer scale of a game or the graphics it has but the entertainment value it provides that matters.

Avatar image for firehawk998

I find it really funny that these words are spoken by the same company that always tries to pursue AAA. The Assassin creed games from 1 and 2 were good, Ubisoft could have given the series a rest but no they decided to milk the series like Call of Duty. I really hope that AC3 is a complete new game with new combat mechanics.etc and does not contain recycled material from the last AC games.

Avatar image for AtheistPreacher

@nate1222 Exactly. I still own a PS2, and always will. There are still plenty of PS2 games I play, and they really look fine (hell, even some PS1 games, too). I'm talkin' Okami, Ninja Gaiden, Resident Evil 4, Tekken 5... if you want games that look better than that, you're just gettin' greedy. Those are all 6th gen and look friggin' awesome.

Avatar image for Hanif_shadow

If they hold the great and mysterious story they had in ACI and ACII it will be surely stay my most wanted game in 2012.

Avatar image for Angel_Grigorov

As a hardcore gamer I understand that there is a big casual gaming community and that these people don't find games with punishing difficulty and skill requirement very fun. They are annoyed with things I for example would find entertaining. Devising strategies and pushing equipment and mechanics to the maximum combined with a good story is the name of the game for me. The problem is that in the last decade AAA titles made to sell turned themselves more and more to casual gamers and as an effect they became either easy cackewalks or games that basically turn the player in a spectator instead of the leading man/woman. There are many exceptions of course but the market is just flooded with games that take you by the hand and lead you through without you breaking a sweat. A rollercoaster ride instead of a game.

Avatar image for Suikogaiden

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]