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Ninja Theory Boss: Current AAA-Driven Market Is Unhealthy

Many have noted that innovation and creativity is often found on smaller scales (i.e., digital offerings from modest studios), but many big-budget blockbusters tend to recycle tried-and-true formulas.

Ninja Theory creative boss Tameem Antoniades believes this is due to the current "dominant AAA retail model," which just so happens to be "stifling creativity." He also said that small-scale design can take more risks, simply because they don't have as much to lose.

These comments came in a recent GamesIndustry.biz interview, where Antoniades claims that "lower-risk digitally distributed titles" are absolutely essential for the progression of innovation.

"The high budget, high stakes retail model - the barriers to entry for that are so high, so difficult, that we seem to be getting, being offered, decent work in that area. It's hard to say no when you've got a team of 100 and you have to keep the payroll going. Another big project comes along, you tend to go for it.

There's always an opportunity between projects to explore things, a lot of team members are hobbyists, they create their own iPhone games and things like that so I can see us kind of taking a punt with that. It can't come soon enough. The whole digital revolution is happening now and it can't come soon enough. The model we're under, the big retail model, is creaking."

Furthermore, on the consumer side of things, Antoniades said that if you're going to spend $60, you don't want to take any chances, either. "You want everything to be there, all the feature sets," he said. "You want it to be a known experience, guaranteed fun. That's not healthy." In some ways, we have to agree with that.

But the implication that we always want something with which we're familiar grates a little, although it's certainly true that gamers select their new purchases carefully. It's quite the conundrum, isn't it?

Tags: ninja theory, game innovation, gaming industry, game creativity

9/6/2011 3:04:39 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (33 posts)

WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 3:20:54 PM
Reply

I agree with skinny Dante here. The fact is when it HAS to sell, it kind of gets stuck with a bunch of standards. New IPs are scary and cost too much to make these days.

Thankfully there are publishers like Sony and games like Heavy Rain and The Last Guardian for those who dare to dream.

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oldmike
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 @ 1:20:50 AM

he lost a lot of right to talk after walking out on sony

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Highlander
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 3:23:02 PM
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Perchance does Mr. Antoniades have any PSN titles in the works since they are much lower risk that typical retail AAA titles, and can be as biog or small as the dev wishes. Or is he simply waxing lyrical and opining on iOS devices?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 6:22:18 PM

He says his 100 man team fools around with little stuff like iphone between projects.

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___________
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 @ 4:31:37 AM

you dident bother reading the article did you?
he said he does not work on download only games because the revenue from them does not pay the bills for 100 employees!
hes right, until games become cheaper to make, and the only way thats going to happen is going digital games like heavy rain and LA Noire are only going to become rarer and rarer!

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Vivi_Gamer
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 3:32:13 PM
Reply

If they're striving for creativity why did they feel the need to take dMc and trash it. I'm sorry I like Enslaved, it was a day one purchase for me and one of my favourite titles of 2010, but I cannot accept what they've done to DMC.

I am happy for developers to explore lowwer budget gaming, But I don't want them to appear on my PS3, Just look at Amy, it's looking to be a very well polished downloadable title, which I hope sets an example for others. I did not buy a PS3 to play phone games.

At least they appreciate the view of the public. I for one have to make sure I am confident I will enjoy a game before I buy it for full retail price, it is just very expensive. I very rarely do that nowadays to be honest, only if a new Final Fantasy or big AAA title comes along that interests me. I cannot just take risks on a game otherwise I will get something I am dissapointed with like Army of Two or Resident Evil 5 Where I had to argue for a refund the next day.

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ryu
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 3:37:46 PM
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yea, that's why i don't buy them, AAA titles look fancy and all, they'r not even fun
same old gameplay mechanics like i've seen and play a thousand times already

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Ignitus
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 3:55:15 PM
Reply

We saw this one coming at the begining of the generation when the price of games was raised to $60. I was surprised to see that practically every developer thought they were going to make more money. For me, it was obvious they were going to sell fewer games and therefore even make less $$$.

They truth is not every game is worth the $60 asking price. Hell, I rarely buy games with that launch price, most games I buy cost 50% less.

If they want their games to sell better they should adjust their price, return to $50 or even better, sell them for $40 at launch. Though they will make less money per game sold, they will sell more copies of the game to more gamers and will make more $$$ down the road.

My two cents.

BTW I agree with Ultima, I didn't buy my game consoles to play cellphone games either.

Last edited by Ignitus on 9/6/2011 3:57:07 PM

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BIGRED15
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 4:00:02 PM
Reply

Yes and no for this one.
Cod is sad but true a prime example because four installments in and nothing is really changing. I hate that activision wont take more risks, but look at some of the other well established franchises assassins, resistance, are great examples because none of them are about reinventing the wheel, but more about giving fans more of what they love. Is that really a bad thing, in essence no, but too much can send the wrong message which is what cod has done. Yes they found a formula, yes its popular, is it making any real evolution in its franchise no. And because it has grossed so much its merely looked at as a cash cow. Cod has pushed a working formula too much and it insults other games that work at evolving but don't get the praise

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BlinkBoy
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 4:14:48 PM
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I say it is room for both, but AAA projects could and look to indie devs for inspiration, even hire some fresh blood to their own teams.

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Snaaaake
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 4:44:54 PM
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Even the ones which are revolutionary is becoming an everyday thing such as Assassin's Creed.

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Crabba
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 5:17:35 PM
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Well of course coming from the studio that put out junk like Enslaved that's not surprising.

Maybe if they went back to their exclusive agreement with Sony they could create great AAA-games again like Heavenly Sword...

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NoSmokingBandit
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 5:27:58 PM

Lol, I agree so much with this.

Its possible to make an incredible game that is inventive and different, you just have to be *really* good at it.

The point is, get a better team of devs and you'll be able to make a great game that is fresh and new.

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Excelsior1
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 5:36:34 PM
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wait. these are same guys that whined about all the bad publicity surrounding the ps3's luanch hurting heavenly sword and then cried that 1.5 million copies sold for a new ip on a system with a low install base was not enough. come on.

if they think this digital revolution is going make it easier for them they are just wrong. it will still be a market dominated by triple a titles on the consoles becuase that's why most people bought their consoles for in the first place.

i mean if the stakes are too high for them why not make a psn game then before whining about the all in market model? it's no wonder nt would say this as they have yet to produce a triple a title.

Last edited by Excelsior1 on 9/6/2011 5:41:52 PM

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JackDillinger89
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 5:53:41 PM
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Whens the last time Ninja theory gave us a AAA title worth the $60? Heaveny sword was a good game but i beat in in one sitting, good thing i rented it. Saved me $53 if i bought the game new. Its perfectly normal for gamers to be afraid of dropping $60 +tax for a game thats a lot of money. I dont care how many millions it cost just to make a 5-10 hour single player only game. We deserve our moneys worth. Game Devs. should know this by now.

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Crabba
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 9:36:19 PM

It's not about how long the game is, it's how good and fun it is to play during the time it takes to play it!

Heavenly Sword was an excellent game, too bad the multiplat "sequel" Enslaved wasn't nearly at the same level of polish.

Last edited by Crabba on 9/6/2011 9:37:29 PM

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ZettaiSeigi
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 6:07:33 PM
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I find this odd given the success of games from indie developers and small studios. Sure, the ones that get the big sales are the AAA titles, but that's just to be expected of them (or at least most of the bunch).

I guess Tameem has not been keeping tack of the downloadable games on the PSN (or the XBL for that matter, just not really familiar with it). Hello Games made a huge and very successful splash with Joe Danger. Thatgamecompany has been wildly successful with Flower and I'm positive that Journey would just be as successful. As for the other smaller games that became successful this generation? He must have missed Braid, Limbo, Trine, and other downloadable games from the PSN and XBL.

If I were him, I'd rather make games that would be good. It's ridiculous that he complained about Heavenly Sword's "poor sales" given the PS3's install base at the time of its release. But then again, I guess he took quite a punch in the gut after Enslaved flopped big time even if it was multiplatform.

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gangan19
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 6:20:18 PM
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I'm very sorry for being off topic, but I really don't want to be the only one to read this article. so please enjoy!

http://www.gamezone.com/editorials/item/the_ps3_is_going_to_need_more_than_a_price_drop_to_compete_with_the_360_thi


And about that being unhealthy that's just being lazy.

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ZettaiSeigi
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 7:07:56 PM

That piece of internet drivel is not even worth reading. I just lost 5 minutes of my time that I'll never get back. Shame on you, gangan19! LOL

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gangan19
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 7:10:55 PM

sorry i didn't want to be the only one :)

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Excelsior1
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 7:16:20 PM

i just read the article. wow is one description i would use in response. what's sad is i know many gamers who reflect the attitude found in this article. they blow off uncharted and the blu ray and cite all their somewhat superior multiplats on 360 and the quality of xbox live. i would not be surprised if the prediction of this article comes true in na at least.

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thatguy6598
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 8:04:02 PM

make it stop make it stop make it stoooooop!!!!

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UbiEaActisuck
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 8:49:34 PM

Thanks gangan19 I haven't had a good laugh like that since COD Elite pricing was announced last week.It is utterly amazing the lengths people will go to just to be uber fanboys.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

UbiEaActisuck
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 8:49:34 PM

Thanks gangan19 I haven't had a good laugh like that since COD Elite pricing was announced last week.It is utterly amazing the lengths people will go to just to be uber fanboys.

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BikerSaint
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 9:30:04 PM

gangan19,
That isn't an article, that's some 20 something, going on 8 year old rabid fanboy, doing his usual 360 beats out PS3 tantrum. Shame he's not old enough to know how to use a fact-checker program yet.

And his mom's probably about to put him in "Time-out" on his naughty chair for the umpteenth time, for wasting everyone's bandwidth once again.

SuperNanny, triple-slap this lad on his knickers quick!

Last edited by BikerSaint on 9/6/2011 9:32:26 PM

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maxpontiac
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 @ 11:07:36 AM

Great post BikerSaint. Thanks for the laugh!

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NoSmokingBandit
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 8:33:49 PM
Reply

I think the industry should be B driven. If we all aim for and expect mediocrity we can't possibly be let down.

Last edited by NoSmokingBandit on 9/6/2011 8:33:56 PM

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___________
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 @ 4:35:06 AM
Reply

hes right the sky rocketed budget on games these days has strangled developers confidence to stray away from the norm and do things different.
perfect example of this would be LA Noire.
in a interview team bondis lead designer said the team wanted to have more cases, a larger city, but simply couldnt because of time restraints.
they wanted to have every case a screw up case as in your presented with several witnesses, several pieces of evidence and you have to decide which piece of evidence is correct and which others may not be.
and not only that, but actually live with it.
if you get it right you progress and get a promotion, if you dont your back to beat.
they did not do that though obviously because it would of been seriously harsh on the players and it would of pissed allot of people off thus loosing them sales.

thus proving how such high budgets are making developers reluctant to take games into a new area, into the unknown.
simply because they spent so much money on making it they cant afford to go into the unknown because 99% of the time that means limiting your sales.
if you spent 20p making the game then who cares, but when your spending upwards of 50M on a game you want to make sure your including as many people as you possibly can!
sad reality is until games do go digital there only going to be more expensive to make, thus strangling the creativity even more.
theres a reason why games like heavy rain and LA Noire release so rarely, and games like COD release almost every week!
there the mainstream, developers and publishers know they will make a good profit on those types of games.
games like heavy rain though its always a big gamble, and when its a 50M dollar gamble betting on the wrong horse can mean the closure of your studio!
hell, LA Noire sold extremely well and team bondi still went down the shitter!
depressing truth is until games go download only which will cause budgets to plummet games like heavy rain will only get rarer and rarer.
:(

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Ignitus
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 @ 10:00:49 AM

Yes, Team Bondi's fate was a disgrace after their game sold reasonably well.

I would like to know what their sales target was.

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Crabba
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 @ 2:27:30 PM

Um, yeah because LA Noire is such a low budget game, and clearly had too little time to make the game.... and I don't think the closure of Team Bondi had too much to do with poor sales. It was obviously a seriously mismanaged company by that moron/jerk Brendan Mcnamara.

While I agree with some of your other points, digital distribution would hardly have that much effect on dropping game budgets, the big bucks are spent on development, not whether the game comes in a box.

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___________
Thursday, September 08, 2011 @ 9:53:20 AM

dude you dont know what your talking about, going dl only would make a MASSIVE difference to costs!
plus LA Noire was not a cheap game, in fact R* said LA Noires budget was THE MOST they have ever spent on a game!
more then GTAIV, RDR, which were both rumoured to cost 50M!
they would of spent a arm and a leg developing the new motion tech alone!

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Crabba
Thursday, September 08, 2011 @ 1:31:17 PM

So.. the box, manual and disc are the most expensive parts of game development... not the years spent on development from 100+ people dev teams, yeah I buy that...

"plus LA Noire was not a cheap game, in fact R* said LA Noires budget was THE MOST they have ever spent on a game!"

Exactly. Thanks for making my point for me lol.

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BTNwarrior
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 @ 10:56:20 AM
Reply

is it me or did Catherine kinda prove this one wrong

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