That is a staggering figure whichever way you look at it but it got me thinking: do these astronomical development costs always translate into a must-have title that will guarantee a great gaming experience? Obviously the age old issue of personal preferences will ensure that there is no concrete answer but it's not hard to imagine that there are countless gamers out there who would dismiss MGS V as tosh but get hours and hours of enjoyment from an endless runner or Flappy Bird clone on mobile devices. So you can certainly ask yourself if Konami's logic was really all that crazy. After all, there are a lot of people who disliked MGS4 and openly slated the game and I'll bet that game cost quite a packet to produce also. Additionally, that $80 million wouldn't even account for marketing or distribution so will they even make any profit on the game? The point is that gaming is a business like any other and us old-school types gagging for a Contra 5 or new Mystical Ninja game are an increasingly extreme minority. Aside from the fact that there aren't enough of us to warrant green-lighting a multi-million dollar project with little chance to make a profit on, we are probably the savviest buyers used to waiting for a title to hit £15 before we actually buy it.
|Is there $80 million of enjoyment in this?|
But enough of business; what is the truth for us, the gamers? Well, from a personal viewpoint I would find it difficult to deny that I get just as much enjoyment from small projects and more modestly-produced games as I do from a 'big' release. I enjoyed Hotline Miami far more than any modern, shiny FPS for example and I'm currently enjoying Luminous Arc 2 for the DS - an RPG which was evidently developed on a much smaller scale than the last the last few PS3 JRPG's that I've (figuratively speaking) binned out of boredom or apathy. There is a certain 'something' that games need to turn them into an endearing experience and big budgets can't necessarily buy that 'something'. This is how smaller projects can take on established names and defeat them in the popularity ratings. Put it this way: you can dress up a really unattractive woman in the most expensive lingerie on the market but Holly Willoughby slipped inside a load of dirty bin bags would still be a billion times more attractive.
Looking into the past, you can argue that the games we still revere today were probably developed in budgets out of reach of bedroom coders or small studios but the fact is that there was a lot less riding on the industry as a whole in the 80's and early 90's. It feels that the videogame industry has grown too big for its own sustainability and we can see this when proflific studios such as Bizarre Creations get closed down for one 'failure' of a game following a string of hits or when the likes of Konami and EA don't dare to stray outside of their core franchises because taking the risk on something new or something old could tank the entire business. Perhaps this lack of creativity only stimulates more formulaic sequels that satisfy the senses but don't excite them.
If gaming is to survive in the long term, I believe we will see the end of the traditional home console and the end of big budget releases. If this is the only way to stablise what I see as a bloated industry on the verge of imploding and maybe tempt older franchises out of retirement with reduced development costs then so be it. Maybe we should think positively about Konami's recent announcements and hope that the smaller risks on ios and Android (and more importantly, smaller development costs!) might mean that we see some more side-scrolling shooters or platformers in the palms of our hands. I personally cannot stand mobile gaming but I would be happy to know that the names I knew and loved were still going strong.
But then again, we would complain about our beloved characters and games being watered down for digital and mobile releases wouldn't we? Gamers eh?