AAA games

Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Why AAA Games Still Matter

Last September, Sony released Spider-Man, the 35th video game based on the popular Marvel comic book superhero. The game, developed by Insomniac Games (Ratchet and Clank, Spyro the Dragon), retailed for $59.99 and was exclusive to the Sony Playstation 4. It took two years to develop the game and its production is estimated to have cost around 100 million dollars.

Triple-A (AAA) is the classification used for a video game that receives the highest budget from a publisher, both for production and for marketing. An AAA game is expected to be of the highest quality and to earn a high profit to justify its expensive costs. In short, an AAA game is the video game equivalent to a blockbuster film.

AAA games like Spider-Man are expensive and time consuming to make. Their premium retail price can be expensive for the consumer. You might ask, with the decline in console sales, why developers are even making AAA games at all? As it turns out, AAA games are still worth creating, for numerous reasons.

AAA games generate excitement for the industry

At 2018’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Spider-Man gained 37 awards from industry news outlets. It topped dozens of  “most anticipated games of 2018” lists. Despite there being hundreds of games released a year, only AAA games typically get this kind of attention. More media coverage means more gamers paying attention to a game, which leads to more excitement for a game – which can result in big sales on release day.

AAA titles are often used as a vehicle for launching a new intellectual property. When Tomb Raider debuted in 1996, Eidos went all in on their marketing and licensing for the action/adventure game, putting the character on everything from action figures to magazine covers to shower gel bottles.

With commercials that looked more like perfume ads than for video games, Tomb Raider demanded attention. Eidos even hired a real-life actress to play the character for media events. Thanks to Eidos’ media push, Lara Croft appeared all over the news. For a few years in the 90s, Lara was the face of video games. Launching a new IP is always a huge risk, but when it pays off, it pays off big.

Spider-Man Game

AAA games create jobs

As of 2018, there are 22 major publishers who make what can be considered AAA games — employing over 300,000 developers in the industry. The majority of working game developers in the United States are working on AAA games.

AAA games don’t just employ game developers, however. Think of all of the people related to the creation and release of these games – marketing, PR, legal, cutscenes, publicity material, advertising material, commercial directors, and more. There’s a reason why the credits on AAA games are so lengthy.

AAA games influence the public’s perception of gaming

The extraordinary marketing budget for AAA games allows their publishers to reach more consumers through a variety of advertisements. Consumers are bombarded by ads through television, internet, magazine, billboards, and even buses. Thanks to this constant stream of advertising, this means that the majority of games that consumers are exposed to are primarily advertised AAA games. Ask consumers and the media about which upcoming games and they will most likely respond with AAA titles.

Almost half of the top 10 games for 2018 were console exclusives. The truth is, AAA games are what sell consoles for the big three (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) and as long as consoles dominate store shelves such as Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy, these will be the games the consumers will be exposed to. While consumers can purchase smaller, independent titles elsewhere, learning about them and finding them in the store can sometimes be difficult.

Spider-Man Game

The AAA single player experience is still a thing

In 2017, EA cancelled their AAA Star Wars game, citing that a “linear adventure game” wasn’t relevant to today’s multiplayer audiences. However, if the success of games such as Spider-Man (3.3 million copies in opening weekend), Red Dead Redemption ($725 million opening weekend), and God of War (5 million copies sold to date) are any indication, the linear adventure game experience is far from dead. According to gamers and game designers alike, linear narrative games are still the best way for game designers to tell a story.

Single-player experiences allow gamers to live out the adventure of a character, which is one of the most exciting aspects in gaming. Have you ever wondered why so many shooters like Fortnite and PUBG display the player in first person? Because it is supposed to be you, the player. However, most story-based narratives will show its character using a third person camera, because it is the best way for the player to see what the character is doing on their adventure and how they carry themselves throughout.

Out of a 2017 survey, 9 out of 10 best known characters were in games that used a third person camera.

While some may complain that AAA games are ruining the industry, the truth is that big-budget titles like Spider-Man keep consumers excited for games, employ game developers, and make the video game industry the highest-earning entertainment industry in the world.

The 5 Types Of Video Games Every Designer Should Know

Back at the genesis of the video game industry, games used to be made by lone (and usually hobbyist) programmers at home in their spare time. Today, however, the video game industry is the biggest entertainment medium around – dwarfing cinema by a huge margin in terms of revenue – and employs huge amounts of professionals from numerous disciplines and skill sets.

Moreover, the market is now far more diverse and no longer caters only to dedicated gamers. Given how varied the modern video game industry has become, those seeking a career in video games may want to consider the more recent (and rapidly growing) video game markets.

Causal Video Games

In the last decade, a market has developed for those more likely to play solitaire on the computer than the latest epic role playing game or first-person shooter. Casual games have a simple premise and do not require significant time to play Bejeweled.

The iconic casual game is PopCap’s Bejeweled, a tile-matching puzzle game. Bejeweled is one of the first successful casual games and inspired a variety of clones. Another famous type of casual game is the hidden object game, in which a player must find various objects in a picture.

Given the ubiquitous nature of mobile gaming, casual video games (which have predominantly set up shop in the smart phone market) have attracted demographics of gamers who were previously deemed a non-target market, particularly amongst females and older gamers. Indeed, female gamers now account for nearly half of the game-playing population and the average age of gamers has risen to 30.

Casual gaming has been a big contributing factor in this trend, and the market as a whole continues to grow and turn substantial profits.

Online Browser Games

Blurring the distinction between casual and non-casual game, online browser games are played by casual and hardcore gamers.

Browser games have the potential to reach a broader audience because they can be played in any modern browser regardless of operating system. Moreover, they accommodate any genre of video game from strategy to role-playing.

RuneScape, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), is one of the most successful browser games, boasting 200 million accounts. A more recent (and decidedly quirky) successful browser game is Robot Unicorn Attack, a platform game in which the player guides a robot unicorn through obstacles and gaps in the platforms.RuneScape

Social Network Games

Another kind of online game uses social networking sites, namely Facebook, to reach players.

Unlike regular browser games, social network games have access to a user’s network profile and usage statistics. Thus, they often invite a user’s friends to play the game or to help the user finish a task or quest. And unlike traditional video games, social network games do not end with a winner, but offer infinite quests. These games make money by selling virtual items that help fulfill a quest more quickly. Farmville is a notoriously famous example of a social network game with millions of players.

AAA Games

A game created or funded by a big name studio and intended to appeal to hardcore gamers is known as an AAA game (pronounced ‘triple-A’).

These games have high budgets, often comparable to major motion picture budgets in scale, and are expected to make a large profit (although the flops can be equally as costly as a Hollywood bomb). AAA games often contain cinematic cut scenes, orchestral soundtracks, and employ famous actors to do voiceovers.

Mass Effect is the archetypal AAA game with cinematic graphics, deep character development, sweeping music, and professional voice acting. AAA games appeal to non-causal gamers looking for a time-intensive, immersive experience.

Indie Games

Finally, games made by independent studios – or even a single programmer – with small budgets have become more popular in the modern video game industry thanks to the increased number of platforms for self-release and funding.

Indie games tend to fill a niche between casual games and AAA games. They appeal to non-casual gamers, but they do not offer the same cinematic immersion as AAA games. Minecraft is one of the most successful indie games of all time, making millions even before its official release.

Because there is less pressure on indie developers to stick to formulae and create a blockbuster, indie games tend to be rather innovative and artistic. Braid, for example, is a platform game with a distinct visual style and play mechanic. The player may reverse time in order to solve a puzzle that is otherwise not solvable.

With the video game industry wide open for innovation and new talent, all that’s left for a budding creator to do is to figure out where their revolutionary idea will slot into the marketplace. Hard work and perseverance is key (and a little hands-on training can fast track any chosen career in video game creation), but the barriers to entry have never been so removed as they are currently.