Sales is vanity, profit is sanity
Slate reviens sur ce que l'on sait tous plus ou moins depuis déjà longtemps: à l'heure actuelle, les jeux AAA coutent trop chers à produire. Morceaux choisis:
So how can publishers lose money amid such incredible sales and record growth? The answer is simple: They're spending more than they're bringing in. Game development budgets have ballooned, and publishers are reeling because they can't keep the costs under control.
While industry leaders anticipated that budgets would creep higher, the shift to high-definition gaming with Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 has proved to be more expensive than estimated. At a conference in the spring of 2006, then-Midway developer Cyrus Lum sounded the warning, telling his audience that game development budgets could rise as high as $15 million to $25 million for a single title—previously unheard-of averages. "We need to rethink how we're financing games," Lum concluded.
When a newspaper quoted this frightening view, Lum found himself in hot water with his employer for making such sensationalist comments. It turned out that Lum's prediction was too low: Midway would go on to spend between $40 million and $50 million developing This Is Vegas, an action title set for release in late 2009.
The industry has long discussed going with this "Hollywood model," in which a few games/movies turn a profit, those hits more than covering the other losses. The analogy between the Hollywood blockbuster model and the games business falls apart, however, because of the huge difference in overhead costs.
Electronic Arts steadily employs 7,400 developers. The industry standard is a $10,000 man-month, meaning the company burns through more than $74 million for development each month.
The big Hollywood studios, by contrast, make movies by giving money to temporary production companies, which then hire temporary crews with one-project contracts. The temporary entity will make the film from start to finish. And once production is complete, the studio receives a finished product that it can distribute to theaters—without the continued overhead expenses that game publishers often face.
It's unrealistic for a company that employs many thousands of developers to abandon internal production immediately. In the short term, Electronic Arts should consider copying the old Hollywood "studio system."
During the Great Depression, a movie could be made in two weeks—and people would go to see a new movie each week. EA could make games that cost less. How? Change the scale and scope of the world. Make the story shorter. Use lower-quality graphics. Recycle proven tools and technology.
[ Slate ]