Cliff Bleszinki calls the current triple-A gaming model unsustainable for many studios

3 min read


It’s often been said that video games ain’t cheap, but the same is true for the actual development process. Grabbing the hottest writers, technology and at least one hit track from the seventies to be used in a trailer all adds up to one costly price tag at the end of the crunch. Sometimes it’s worth it, as franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield can pull in enough cash on a bad day to make indie developers cry themselves to sleep at night.

Quite often, a gamble doesn’t pay out. Recent history is full of examples where a high budget didn’t translate into blockbuster sales or a warm reception. Games like Daikatana and Brutal Legend, whose hype failed to match financial reality. It’s only going to get riskier in the future, as Triple-A games throw more and more money at projects and create an unsustainable environment for the industry that is bound to collapse at some point.

Something that veteran developer Cliff Bleszinksi feels strongly about. He should know after all, as he had a hand in making Gears of War a blockbuster franchise for Microsoft and Epic. According to Bleszinksi though, top-level games are pretty much like a trip to an American restaurant. “AAA is starting to feel like the American restaurant scene. They’re not bad, they’re not great, they’re just there,” Bleszinski said to Games Industry of the increasing globalisation of the same stuff, in the same places.

$60 is still a lot of money to ask people for. And to ask them to make that bet multiple times per year? Gamers are picky, they’re smart. This is a nearly unsustainable model, unless you’re an Activision, 2K or a Sony.

So what’s the solution? What Bleszinksi refers to as “double-A” development. “Games that look and play great but pick their battles in terms of budget and marketing,” Bleszinski explained. It’s not as if there isn’t a precedent with such games already. Rocket League and Warframe have managed to stretch a dollar quite far, resulting in some massive fan love from their efforts.

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Bleszinksi will also be practising what he preaches with his next game, Lawbreakers. It won’t carry a premium price tag, but it looks set to give interested players as much bang for their buck as possible. In a world where the majority of triple-A efforts are beginning to bleed into one another because of familiarity, that might be a lesson worth learning. There’s plenty of room for highly specialised games which don’t cost an arm and a leg to own these days.

Last Updated: April 24, 2017

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia’s M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Too many chiefs and not enough indians in publishers driving up the costs as well – just take a look at all the presidents, vice-presidents, C-level execs, etc in the credits of a AAA game.

  • “unless you’re an Activision, 2K or a Sony.”


  • Admiral Chief

    Mandatory Warframe Comment

    • Mandatory kill Ubisoft first comment

      • Admiral Chief

        I need to play the Division again, see how the new update is

    • Hammersteyn

      That’s still a thing?

      • Admiral Chief

        I still play every day, just a little bit.

        Otto abandoned it totally.

        • Lu

          I started again for the first time in over a year. Sweet Christmas has it changed. Also, playing in 1080p on full vs 1360×768 on medium makes the world’s difference

        • They took the void away, I took my credit card away.

        • Hammersteyn

          Yeah, he came over to the console side 😛

  • Hammersteyn

    “$60 is still a lot of money to ask people for” No, that’s where it starts, at $60. Then comes the season passes and DLC

  • BakedBagel

    What did he mean by “current AAA gaming model is unsustainable”

    Could it be the milking of a franchise with a yearly release?
    Could it be asking for $60 for a game. with an extra $60 for a season pass, and 5-10 $5.99 DLC packages?
    Could it be constant AAA pricing increases with little to 0 decreases?

  • GooseZA

    dat header lol

  • Magoo

    More of a complaint than an observation. There are $60 games all over the place and all but a handful are published by well-established companies and are doing great.

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