Why don’t AAA studios take a turn at making smaller games every once in a while? I’d imagine with modern tools and techniques a team of “merely” a hundred or so people could make a game with the scope of something like a PS2 game in a few months to a year. It seems like the market between indies and massive ultra-budget titles underserved.


Publishers try this from time to time to varying degrees of success. Here are a few examples of some smaller budget games from AAA studios using modern tools and the like:

  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
  • Far Cry: Blood Dragon
  • Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light/Temple of Osiris
  • Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
  • Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, India, and Russia
  • Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite
  • Saints Row: Gat out of Hell

You’ve probably heard of some of these games. You may have even played some of them. Generally speaking, these games tend to get mediocre receptions at best. I suspect that a large part of that is the expectation level that players have going in - these games are built using the same tools and reusing assets from the big budget AAA titles, but don’t have the sort of scope to create all new high quality assets so the players actively feel the content reuse and smaller scope of the smaller-budget title within a much larger-budget franchise.


This isn’t to say we won’t continue to try, but the player expectations on games in this style set us at a disadvantageous position from the start, and with good reason. When they come from our big budget game to our lower-budget offering, they can see and feel that change quite keenly. Instead, publishers generally get more value from having the smaller teams create high quality paid DLC content instead of stand-alone games in part because DLC doesn’t have the kind of expectation and stigma associated with a stand-alone title built from reused tools and assets. Once we finish our DLC support of the title, the team can then transition over to the next full-sized AAA iteration of the next game in the franchise.

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