“I don’t think that, in the next generation, you can take those numbers and multiply them by two and think that you can grow,” he added. “I think the industry as a whole needs to sit back and go, ‘Alright, what are we building? What’s the audience expectation? What is the best way to get our story across, and say what we need to say?’
He pointed out how these budgets are unsustainable if retail prices cannot be elastic. “It’s been $59.99 since I started in this business, but the cost of games have gone up ten times. If you don’t have elasticity on the price-point, but you have huge volatility on the cost line, the model becomes more difficult. I think this generation is going to see those two imperatives collide.”
AAA is not going to get any less expensive with the advent of 4K art and the expectation of large game worlds. Layden points out that this could also shut different types of creators out of the AAA business.
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“It’s hard for every adventure game to shoot for the 50 to 60 hour gameplay milestone, because that’s gonna be so much more expensive to achieve,” he said. “And in the end you may close some interesting creators and their stories out of the market if that’s the kind of threshold they have to meet… We have to reevaluate that.”
Layden believes that developers need to consider spending three years on a 15 hour experience, rather than five years on an 80 hour game, which could not only help keep costs in control and maintain the standard retail price point, but also help craft “tighter, more compelling content”.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer.