Rising dev costs will kill innovation, says analyst

Increasing costs and complexity in videogame development is forcing developers to focus on franchise sequels and cross-platform releases, according to a games analyst.

Ed Barton, a Screen Digest Analyst, called it the "risk reduction strategy,"in a BBC article, which sees publishers maximizing profits by releasing games "on as many platforms as possible," outsourcing technology and "making sequels to popular titles and producing games based on popular movies."

Unfortunately for hardcore gamers that like brand new, platform-exclusive games, Barton explains that "wonderful, innovative titles are sometimes ignored [by consumers], while some repetitive titles with minor improvements in gameplay and graphics provide much better returns to the games publishers."

Above: Good for Madden -bad for Okami. So it goes

He draws comparisons between games and music publishers, saying that while the music industry invests in fresh talent, they also have Madonna or Elvis Presley "to keep the home fires burning."

In the same article, Gerhard Florin, executive vice president at EA, states that publishers have to build strong brands to steady revenues in the increasingly "volatile" market.

He also talks about the complexity of development on the high-spec consoles. "You only learn what you can do with these platforms over time," he says, estimating that the current run of PS3 games only use 30-40 percent of the console's power.

"We haven't even started to see PS3's power, it will take the longest to exploit in full," he adds, pointing out that porting across platform - something EA does a lot of - is harder in the current generation because of the vast difference between the consoles. "GameCube, the Xbox and PS2 were much more alike," he explained.

Is the concept of original games facing an end? Let's hope not.

April 12, 2007