Ubisoft has always been known for making brash statements. Whether you agree or don’t agree, they get people talking. Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat has been the source for many of them. In fact by my calculations this is the third or fourth time he has talked about the end of B level games. The middle of the market as it were.
I admit I was never really clear on what a B game even was. Apparently not good enough to be AAA and not quite crap. Either way this quote should tell you how Mr. Mallat sees the industry going from today forward.
“On one end of the spectrum you will have all the big, AAA blockbuster games that [offer] more and more production values, more value for the players, but there will be fewer of them taking a bigger chunk of the market,” Mallat said.
On the other end of the spectrum, the developer said mobile initiatives, tablets, and Facebook will continue to bring in new customers to the gaming industry. The problem is with what falls in the middle of the spectrum.
“The in-between, the belly of the market, is the one that just collapsed in a way and disappeared,” Mallat said. “Meaning there is no room for B-games, if I should say so, which proves the point of quality. I think that companies that put quality and consumer value as a primary focus, as we’ve been doing at Ubisoft, will enjoy great success.”
I wasn’t kidding when I stated that this has to be at least proclamation number three on the death of B level games from this one individual. He then goes on to talk about quality and big budgets insuring more quality and thus better returns. Yeah I would like a word with him about quality personally. AC3 had more than its share of glitches, wonky controls and whacky AI. Might want to stuff some more dollars in the QA department next time.
Back to how the market will shake out in the coming years. I think this gentleman has it backwards. The dirty Truth is AAA titles with massive budgets are in for a rougher time than any other section of the market. First and foremost lets talk about big budgets. When the game works they are easily justified and warranted. However when a AAA title tanks that budget can become a harbinger of doom. One or two tanking AAA games can easily sink a developer and or publisher. THQ immediately comes to mind to illustrate that point.
Next you have the tablet/mobile market. Mallat seems to think this is a tool to draw new consumers into the games market. While that statement is true, it also pulls money from established or core gamers pockets. Any gamer can get between 20-60 games for the cost of one AAA title in the mobile space. Even if half of them are crap your still doing pretty good dollar wise. I really hope that the industry as a whole doesn’t think that chunk of the market is simply a tool to pull in new gamers. They would be wise not to under estimate mobile/tablet gaming. Lets throw indy games in this arena as well. It tends to pull my money away from the AAA market now. I can usually get 3 or 4 solid indy titles for the cost of one AAA game
There is also the free to play market. It use to be predominately MMORPG games, but that is changing. We are seeing more shooters, RTS and action games joining this realm. Generally a player can get an decent to excellent experience without paying a dime. Don’t expect that particular model to disappear any time soon. All of the above examples eat into the AAA market share to a certain extent and I don’t see the trend reversing at all in the future. In face I expect FTP to gain market share and the others to gain market share.
In the end Yannis Mallat may finally be correct. The B level game on consoles etc could very well be dead. Personally I think the notion of levels is silly. B games might be dead, but there are some many different types of games and platforms popping up it’s hard to stick them all in a neat little box. In reality the more diverse the market gets, the more choice you give gamers and the harder it becomes for AAA titles to dominance. I think Mallat had better worry more about keeping AAA relevant and less about what may or may not be dead.