As the cost of developing video games continues to rise, big publishers like Ubisoft and Square-Enix have become increasingly conservative. The recent releases of BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, and Call of Duty all point to the continuation of sequelitis that's been happening for years now, and, to many, it's doubtful the PS4 and Xbox 720 can turn things around.
Even Sony's PS4 event, while extolling the virtue of unlimited creative potential, didn't exactly light the industry afire with innovative new gameplay concepts.
According to Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat, next-generation will likely mean more of the same.
"On one end of the spectrum you will have all the big, AAA blockbuster games that [offer] more and more production values, more value for the players, but there will be fewer of them taking a bigger chunk of the market," Mallat said to GamesIndustry International.
As with any industry, though, big budget blockbusters are important. But even as more artists break free, go indie, and publish their games digitally, or on tablets and mobile phones, games that could previously be developed using mid-size budgets will become rarer and rarer.
"The in-between, the belly of the market, is the one that just collapsed in a way and disappeared," Mallat added. "Meaning there is no room for B-games, if I should say so, which proves the point of quality. I think that companies that put quality and consumer value as a primary focus, as we've been doing at Ubisoft, will enjoy great success."
Even though development costs are expected to rise with the arrival of Xbox 720 and PS4, Mallat said that, for his company at least, money issues have become more manageable. Still, it looks like in order to make money as a mainstream, physical disc developer, you need to go big or not bother.
"It's a question of bringing quality content to the gamers and enjoying great success thanks to that," Mallat explained. "So it's OK to invest more when you get more in return."
Ultimately, this isn't really a surprise considering the market already. Most big-selling PS3 and Xbox 360 games are sequels, but the continuation of this development is still a shame. BioShock Infinite and Call of Duty are fine, and I'm sure Assassin's Creed 4 will delight, but many of the most memorable PS2/Xbox/GameCube games were B titles. In their absence we can only hope that the greater relevance of (and access to) indie games will make their disappearance less painful.