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.


Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist

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

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"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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